Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ECB confirms two-year IPL commitment

The ECB has confirmed that England players will be available for a three-week window in the IPL for the next two years. Eight centrally contracted players, including Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, and five with incremental deals have been granted No Obligation Certificates (NOCs) and can be put up for the player auction in Goa on February 6.

Last week an agreement was reached regarding the 2009 tournament but Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, said he wanted a two-year commitment from the players ahead of the auction.

Those players who earn deals next month will return to India for another stint in 2010. The ECB and BCCI also said they were working together to ensure next year's IPL is run at a "materially similar" time of the year to allow England players to participate. The calendar is again tight next year with a World Twenty20 scheduled for April in West Indies before England begin their home season in May.

Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, has welcomed the BCCI-ECB deal and called it "long overdue". "The final auction list will be out very soon now," Modi told Cricinfo.

Apart from Pietersen and Flintoff, the centrally contracted England players now certain to feature on that list are James Anderson, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Monty Panesar, Ryan Sidebottom, Stephen Harmison, while Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Owais Shah, Graeme Swann and Luke Wright are also set to be put forward.

Pietersen, who is being wooed by Bangalore, and Fintoff, who is expected to attract strong bids from Mumbai and Chennai, will be the prime picks at the auction. Franchise officials estimate that Pietersen, the top draw at the player auction on February 6 could fetch up to US$ 1.5 million dollars.

Representatives from both boards met during England's tour of India late last year and also recently in Singapore to iron out the details. The two boards have also agreed to schedule Test and ODI series over a four-year cycle commencing in 2011.

"The discussions held between our respective boards have been most productive and ECB is grateful to the president and honorary secretary of BCCI for the excellent relationship which has been developed with the BCCI on a wide ranging number of issues," David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said.

"Our agreement is good for the players, the respective boards, our counties and for cricket. We look forward to welcoming India, the reigning ICC World Twenty20 champions, to England for the ICC World Twenty20 this summer and for the tour of England and Wales in 2011."

Officials from BCCI and ECB will now lead discussions among various national boards to arrive at a consensus on a window for the IPL next year, possibly as soon as the ICC meeting in Perth this month-end - the current April-May window clashes with the World Twenty20 in the West Indies. "We are quite confident that we can work out mutually acceptable dates," Modi said.

The IPL franchises, meanwhile, have welcomed the ECB's two-year commitment and called it the right decision. "Teams, like companies, need continuity to succeed at the highest level," Tim Wright, chief executive of Deccan Chargers told Cricinfo. "This sets the auction up beautifully and the teams that win the bidding for Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen will be in for some thrills."

Symonds 'as ready as any player'

It is still not clear whether Andrew Symonds will be part of Australia's tour to South Africa.

Andrew Symonds' psychologist Deidre Anderson believes the allrounder is unlikely to be a disruption to his team-mates should he win the backing of Cricket Australia following his latest off-field incident. However, it is unclear whether that will be enough to save his immediate future, with reports that he might be left out of the squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

Symonds will face a code of behaviour hearing in Melbourne on Thursday and a fine of up to $5750 is the likely outcome as, despite his history of controversy, it is the first time he has been reported under Cricket Australia's code. But a report in the Australian said Cricket Australia would not let the issue end there and Symonds could face time out of the game after also being stood down in August following his Darwin fishing trip.

After the Darwin incident, Symonds was told to undertake a counselling programme and he later conceded that alcohol had played a part in his poor attitude in 2008. He had reportedly been drinking at a pub before the confused radio interview in which he called Brendon McCullum a "lump of s...", the remark that got him reported by Cricket Australia for detrimental public comment.

Cricket Australia will ask for Anderson's opinion on Symonds' frame of mind and Anderson said it was important to keep the radio interview in context. "If he gets through this and [Cricket Australia] back him, I think we are going to see two to three years of outstanding performances from a good cricketer and a good man," Anderson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"I think he is as ready as any other player in the team. If you dig deep enough we all have things to work through and this is his. We all have triggers that make us do things that in retrospect we would prefer not to have done.

"Alcohol may be a part of it but it's a case of assessing the person you are and the person you would like to be. Unfortunately, this mishap has come up, there is a lot of context to it and I hope a little bit of common sense prevails."

Symonds was this week preparing for a return to Queensland's Sheffield Shield side on Friday, following his recovery from knee surgery earlier this month. His manager Matt Fearon said Symonds was keen to attend Thursday's hearing before the retired judge, Gordon Lewis, in person if possible. "He's treating this very seriously because he's focused on getting back and playing his best cricket," Fearon told AAP.