ICL: Indian Cricket League

Clarke fires warning to England stars


Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board, has risked incurring the wrath of England’s centrally contracted players by effectively vetoing their participation in either of the first two editions of the IPL.

The 2008 tournament, which gets underway next week, may have been off-limits for logistical reasons, but several members of the team had been hopeful of signing lucrative contracts in time for 2009. Not least among these was Kevin Pietersen, who would be a prize signing for any franchise, and who this week told The Times it was “silly” to make players choose between an international career and the riches of the IPL.

Clarke, however, will not be moved on the issue, and warned that the 2009 Ashes, which is looming large on the horizon, will be considered the ultimate priority for any player who signs up for an annual ECB contract in September.

“The England team is the critical part of the economics of our game,” said Clarke, “and having the best players available is critical to that. The reason we have England central contracts is to enable the head coach to determine how much cricket those who were centrally contracted played. That was the original basis of it, and I’ve not seen any evidence or heard any requests to change that.”

Following their 5-0 thrashing in the 2006-07 Ashes, the ECB is understandably keen to prepare the England team as professionally as possible for the return series next July, when they no doubt hope to replicate the euphoric scenes that greeted England’s victory in 2005. However, Clarke’s unsympathetic attitude at a time of great change in world cricket could well have the opposite effect.

For instance, a window appeared to have been formed in England’s international schedule when their tour of West Indies next spring was brought forward by a month to February. However, Clarke insisted that that had not been done to enable English participation in the IPL, but to allow the players to rest up ahead of the Ashes.

“What about player burnout?” asked Clarke. “Perhaps it’s not the worry that some thought it was. As I’ve said, for any centrally contracted player, I can’t see Peter Moores releasing them to play. The risks are very significant. We’re about to face Australia. What would you people [the media] write?

“I don’t see it remotely as a rigid stance,” added Clarke. “When someone signs an employment contract, you honour it and he honours it. There would be a few acres of newsprint if the players weren’t fresh and alert at the start of the Ashes tour. The people of this country want to know that our players are as fit, and as sharp, and as ready as we can ensure that they can be.”

Clarke’s attitude raises the very real possibility that some of England’s biggest names will choose not to accept their ECB contracts when they come up for renewal in September, and opt instead to go freelance, with the risks and rewards that such a move would entail. Though no names have been named, Pietersen and the injured Andrew Flintoff are the two England cricketers with the talent and global profile to have their cakes and eat them.

Clarke issued a veiled threat against such an approach. “It would free him up, and it’s a risk he would take,” he admitted. “But he runs the risk as anyone does of losing his place and getting injured. Employment contracts are a matter between an employer and an employee. If you don’t want to be employed by someone you don’t have to be, but in turn you run the risk of not being employed by that person.

“Cricket careers can come to ends as well as beginnings,” he warned. “Cricket is a team game, and we have some very significant incentive programmes for winning series. Those who turn up exhausted after flying around India and participating in the IPL are not going to be in a position to help their fellow players earn those significant rewards.”

The message from the chairman is pretty stark, and to underline it, he called upon an historical parallel from 1977. “Tony Greig thought it was appropriate to play in World Series Cricket,” he said, “and Ian Botham appeared out of pretty much nowhere.”

Clarke wasn’t so keen to recall WSC where the thorny issue of the rebel Indian Cricket League was concerned, however. Several players, including Gloucestershire’s Hamish Marshall and Yorkshire’s Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, are currently barred from playing in county cricket as part of a worldwide clampdown on “unauthorised cricket”, with a hearing due tomorrow.

There are fears that the ECB could end up in court on the grounds of restraint of trade, precisely as happened when Kerry Packer took the TCCB to the cleaners in the 1970s. Publicly, however, Clarke shares none of those concerns. “Unauthorised cricket is a fundamental threat to the management and economics of the game,” he said. “The governing body has to look after all the interests of the game. Unauthorised cricket doesn’t do that. I don’t see this as being remotely the same as the Packer issue.”

Source:Cricket News

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