IPL officials and franchise representatives have welcomed the ECB's revised 21-day window - announced yesterday - for its players to participate in this year's tournament but say several conditions must still be met before those cricketers turn out in the league. These include a two-year commitment from the players and a four-week window for non-Test players.
Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, told Cricinfo that the ECB's three-week window would satisfy the IPL's requirements but only if there were no strings attached. "England players will be considered if we get answers to the above [conditions] by Monday, along with the No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) for next two years."
The IPL's views, he said, have been conveyed to the ECB through N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary, mandated by the Indian board to negotiate on their behalf. "Most of the players listed for the first auction last time, including those from Australia and South Africa, were signed on three-year contracts backed by firm commitments of availability by those boards," Modi said. "We are only asking the ECB for a similar official commitment."
The IPL administration appears to have the backing of the franchises on this issue. While franchise officials admitted that heavyweight players like Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff would be the top draws at the auction - to be held in Goa on February 6 - they said any significant investment on the England stars would depend on their availability next year.
"If we are going to bid for an English player at the auction, we would need a commitment for at least two years," Tim Wright, chief executive of Deccan Chargers, said. "We are 100% with the IPL on this. Such a commitment is essential for a franchise because team-building and balance is a long-term exercise that requires a certain element of continuity."
Amrit Mathur, chief operating officer of Delhi Daredevils, said a two-year commitment was the sensible way forward. "I can understand the IPL asking for two-year commitment because now the contracts are of two years," he said.
A Rajasthan Royals official said that it didn't make business sense for franchises to sign players who came with just a one-year participation guarantee. "No one would want them for just a year," the official said. "We have to be assured of their availability for the period of the minimum contract period at least. It's difficult to run the business otherwise, especially because the IPL has prohibited the signing of temporary replacements."
There have been reports of English counties preparing to seek compensation for their players who turn out in the IPL - and so miss part of the county season - but Modi said it would not be agreeable to the IPL.