England and India agree on two-year Indian Premier League (IPL) deal

England’s players will be available to play in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) both this year and next year, it was announced Tuesday.

A joint statement issued by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said England players would be available to participate in the IPL auction on February 6 and to play in the IPL “for a minimum of a three week period in 2009 and 2010”.

The boards added they would be working together to try to create a similar ‘window’ for the IPL in 2010 within the confines of the current international fixture schedule.

That had threatened to stop the likes of England stars Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff from playing any part at all in this year’s edition of the cash-rich Twenty20 tournament, where wealthy owners of franchise teams bid to have some of the world’s best players in their sides.

The BCCI and ECB added they’d also agreed to schedule Test match and One-Day International series over a four-year period starting in 2011.

ECB chief executive David Collier said in a statement: “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 (northern) summer and for the tour of England and Wales in 2011.”

Last week, England players signed their national central contracts just as the Test side began its tour of the West Indies after protracted talks had stalled over how long they would be allowed to play in the IPL.

The ECB had said it would only allow players to compete in the competition for two weeks – a period which IPL chief Lalit Modi said was too short to be of any use.

But the ECB susbsequently agreed their Test players could play in the IPL for a three-week period beginning in April, soon after the conclusion of the West Indies tour, and this also proved acceptable to IPL officials.

However, the new deal means England players selected for IPL duty this year will go into the first Test against the West Indies at Lord’s on May 7 without recent first-class match practice as the preceding round of County Championship matches ends on May 1 and May 2.

But England captain Andrew Strauss, speaking before England flew to the Caribbean, said appearing in a Championship fixture was not the only way to get ready for a Test.

“I believe the players who will be involved in the IPL are experienced campaigners,” Strauss said: “They didn’t just turn up yesterday. They know what Test cricket is about and know what preparation they need.”

BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan welcomed the new arrangements Tuesday by saying: “We are very pleased with the outcome of the discussions.

“BCCI looks forward to building upon our warm relationship with the senior officers of ECB.”

His comments come at a sensitive time for English cricket, with ECB chairman Giles Clarke, in post since September 2007, facing a challenge to his position from businessman/politician Jonathan Marland.

Chairmen of the 18 first class counties and the MCC will vote on who gets the job next month.

Clarke has been criticised for sanctioning England’s ill-fated participation in last year’s winner-takes-all Stanford Twenty20 tournament in Antigua – which was seen by many as a sop to the players to prevent them from taking part in the inaugural IPL.

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