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Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Friday, 14 March 2008

Twenty20 causes confusion

Graphic

By David Ornstein

Barely a month remains before the start of the 2008 County Championship season and English domestic cricket finds itself in a state of uncertainty.

The reason lies overseas, namely two rival Twenty20 competitions - the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) and the "official" Indian Premier League (IPL).

Late last week the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced plans to give one-year county bans to any player who takes part in the unsanctioned ICL.

With several counties facing the possibility of losing some of their star names this coming season, BBC Sport analyses how Twenty20 cricket has come back to bite its creator.

COUNTY CONFUSION

English players registered with both the ECB and ICL before the announcement was made will escape punishment on this occasion.

But a major problem for the counties arises in that while they may have had ICL players signed up on contracts, those players might not yet have been formally registered by the ECB.

If this is the case, then those players could receive one-year bans.

606: DEBATE

Apart from Kolpak players, EU or UK citizens or UK passport holders, non-English players require a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their national boards to compete in English first-class cricket.

But every Test-playing nation opposes the ICL and so could refuse to provide NOCs for ICL participants.

As we have seen with Shane Bond, who had his contract with New Zealand Cricket terminated when he joined the ICL, many players who require a NOC might not be granted one because they are no longer associated with their national boards.

Some reports claim Kolpak players are exempt from punishment but Kent, who have just signed Justin Kemp, fear the South African may be banned, suggesting this is not the case.

And what about cricketers such as Stuart Law and Saqlain Mushtaq, both now UK citizens, and Nic Pothas, an EU passport holder? Would banning them be an illegal restraint of trade?

HEADING FOR THE COURTS?

BBC Sport spoke to a number of county chief executives and chairmen, as well as the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) and it would appear very few people have any idea whether or not any players will be disqualified from county cricket this season.

With the county season starting on 16 April, clubs have been frantically attempting to clarify the situation but with minimal success.

Historically, they submit squad lists as late as possible to minimise the amount they have to pay their players.

Shane Bond
Bond's move to Hampshire looks dead after he joined the ICL

But this time round they are attempting to get the lists in to the ECB as soon as possible so that if players are refused registration they can attempt to sign replacements.

Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon told BBC Sport his club will seek substantial compensation if Saqlain is banned while Bond, whose move to Hampshire is in serious doubt, has suggested players might take legal action against the ECB or their national boards.

After receiving a one-year ban from domestic competition for joining the ICL, Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar and Shabbir Ahmed took the Pakistan Cricket Board to court but the country's attorney general backed the PCB.

Bond says that from talking to his lawyers in New Zealand, it is better a case is brought in England "with all the precedents that it sets there."

That can only suggest English cricket, and perhaps the world game, is hurtling headlong into the courtroom.

PLAYERS IN THE DOCK

Although there are no English players participating in the second ICL season, the PCA told BBC Sport it is dealing with the cases of about 20 players who could be facing bans from county cricket.

These might include players who signed long-term deals with the ICL and, after taking stock of the ECB announcements and deciding against returning to the rebel league, are now being sued for breach of contract.

Jason Gillespie
Jason Gillespie is one player who could be banned from county action

But it is more likely the PCA is dealing with players who signed up for the current ICL season or have contracts for future seasons.

Players who we know are facing potential bans having signed with both a county and the ICL include Jason Gillespie (Glamorgan), Bond (Hampshire), Wavell Hinds (Derbyshire), Nicky Boje, Hall and Johan van der Wath (all Northants) and Saqlain (Surrey).

Even those on continuing county contracts, such as Law (Lancashire), Dale Benkenstein (Durham), Lance Klusener (Northants), Mushtaq Ahmed (Sussex) and Pothas (Hampshire) may be disqualified.

So long as the ECB refuse to expand upon their short and carefully worded news release, the counties and players will remain in a state of flux.

ENTER THE IPL

When the breakaway ICL was formed in April 2007, the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) reacted with dismay.

The BCCI is world cricket's financial powerhouse and, in response, set up its own Indian Premier League (IPL) but also reportedly threatened to exclude any international teams who pick ICL players from the Champions Twenty20 League in October.

There have even been suggestions that India could refuse to compete against any dissenting nation.

BBC Sport has learned that the BCCI came to a private agreement with the ECB stating that so long as the it prevented any English players from joining the rebel ICL, no English players would be approached to participate in the IPL.

But that agreement was abolished by the BCCI when Chris Read, Paul Nixon, Vikram Solanki and Darren Maddy participated in the first ICL season.

Dimitri Mascarenhas
Mascarenhas will not be punished for joining the "official" IPL

Despite rumours of approaches for several England players and Kevin Pietersen confirming he had rejected an offer, no English players featured in the IPL's first, staggeringly lucrative player auction in February.

And none were on the second list of players that went up for auction on 11 March.

But, out of the blue, news emerged that Dimitri Mascarenhas had been recruited by Jaipur for 50,000 on a three-year contract.

The Hampshire all-rounder will represent the 'Rajasthan Royals' for only two weeks out of six this year, before fulfilling the entirety of his IPL contract in 2009 and 2010.

Mascarenhas, who joins Hampshire team-mate Shane Warne at Jaipur, will miss his county's opening six matches of the new season.

The deal is possible because Mascarenhas, a one-day and Twenty20 specialist, is not centrally contracted by the ECB and so only needs Hampshire's permission to take part, but his move could potentially cause other English players to chase contratcs in India.

The ECB is encouraging counties to provide 12-month contracts for players, which is already the case at Lancashire.

But whether that staves off the lure of a cash bounty on offer for playing Twenty20 in India remains to be seen.

And the irony of it all is that the factor placing the future of the county game in doubt, Twenty20 cricket, was a concept brought to fruition in England.




see also
Derbyshire expect block on Hinds
13 Mar 08 |  Derbyshire
Bond seeks Indian leagues clarity
06 Mar 08 |  New Zealand
Pothas decision disappoints Hants
05 Mar 08 |  Hampshire
Gillespie doubt on Glamorgan move
03 Mar 08 |  Glamorgan
Croft rejects rebel competition
03 Mar 08 |  Glamorgan
Cricket's new order
29 Feb 08 |  Cricket
Kapil Dev claims 'victimisation'
13 Feb 08 |  South Asia
Court upholds Pakistan rebels ban
09 Feb 08 |  Pakistan
Maddy unworried by India threats
18 Nov 07 |  Cricket


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