London, Apr 8: Putting international commitments ahead of the IPL, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) today rejected the possiblity of allowing English players to feature in the lucrative Twenty20 competition.
''The reason we established central contracts was to enable the head coach to determine the amount of cricket played by England players. We have no reasons to change that structure. I can't see Peter Moores releasing a centrally-contracted England player just before the Ashes series,'' ECB chairman Giles Clarke was quoted as saying by the local media. ''What if a player got injured in the IPL and couldn't play all summer. I am pretty sure that Moores will want them to rest and the country will want them to rest, too.'' ''We aren't changing our season under any circumstances - there's no possibility of us doing it,'' he added. ''Our centrally contracted players have very heavy workloads, so we need to be realistic here.'' The ECB chairman asserted that England had a right to impose rest periods on their top players, and suggested that there would be a national outcry if they did not commit themselves entirely to preparing for next summer's Ashes series. It was not so long ago, he recalled, that Pietersen had been complaining of burnout.
''The West Indies tour will be earlier for the very simple reason that we would like to give the England players a break before the Ashes series,'' Clarke said. ''The spectators in this country want to know that our players are fit, sharp and ready for the Ashes series. They want the England team in the best possible shape. That is what they are concerned about.'' This could have serious implications for English cricket with top players like Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff rejecting a new central contract unless their involvement in the IPL is sanctioned.
Clarke was, however, undaunted by the prospect saying such an eventuality will allow younger players to cement their places in the national squad.
''It would free (Pietersen) up, and it's a risk he would take,'' he remarked. ''KP runs the risk as anybody does of losing his place. Employment contracts are not compulsory, but if you are not employed you run the risks. Cricket careers can come to an end as well as a beginning. Kevin Pietersen receives not insignificant rewards. We are putting on board significant rewards for winning series.'' ''People who turn up exhausted from the IPL not necessarily going to be in a position to help their fellows earn those rewards.
Cricket is a team game,'' he added. ''Thirty years ago, Tony Greig thought it was important to play in World Series Cricket and Ian Botham appeared to replace him from pretty much nowhere.'' Dmitri Mascarenhas, who has joined the Jaipur Royals, urged Clarke to soften his stance.
''I came to a compromise with Hampshire,'' he said. ''It took me 11 years to play for England and I would never miss an England one-day international. The IPL is a huge tournament and it's not going to go away. Everybody else in the world is there. I think the ECB will have to reconsider.'' The inaugural IPL runs from 18 April to 1 June with top earner Mahendra Singh Dhoni being paid 1.5 million dollars for six weeks' work.