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Page last updated at 19:10 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 20:10 UK

Sri Lanka's England tour in doubt

Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chamara Silva
Muralitharan (centre) is one of the players with an IPL contract

Sri Lanka's 2009 tour of England looks to be under increasing threat of being postponed, BBC Sport understands.

The tour clashes with the Indian Premier League (IPL) in which a host of top Sri Lankan players have contracts.

"It's a precedent people wondered how long it'd take to happen, one country choosing Twenty20 rather than Tests," BBC Sport's Jonathan Agnew told 5 Live.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said it had heard nothing from the Sri Lankan authorities.

Big names such as Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan are among 13 Sri Lankan players with IPL contracts.

Previously, the Sri Lankan sports minister said they should be excused Test duty to honour those deals.

Two Tests are scheduled in England between 7 and 19 May, while a three-match one-day series begins on 27 May, two days after the six-week IPL finishes.

"I told Sri Lanka Cricket to release the IPL-contracted Sri Lanka players to play the IPL tournament and select a team with the remaining group of players, who are also equally talented, for the England tour," said Gamini Lokuge.

"But I understand that (the England and Wales Cricket Board's) television rights and income for the proposed tournament could be jeopardised if you do not send the star players."

The Sri Lankan tour was arranged after Zimbabwe's visit was cancelled and it is believed the West Indies are now being sounded out as alternative opposition for England, but Agnew said it looked like player power had won the day.

"The players have these very lucrative deals with the IPL and don't want to give them up," he said.

"The senior players saw the window in April and May when they could go to India and earn lots.

"The board - which is cash-strapped - pushed them into touring England, and the players have rebelled.

"It hasn't helped that Sri Lankan cricket was bailed out by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to the tune of about $70m, so that tied them into the BCCI so they've had to accept IPL and other Indian tournaments ahead of other international cricket."

No-one from the International Cricket Council was available for comment, but Agnew said the situation was bound to be a major cause for concern.

"Alarm bells will be ringing in Dubai at ICC headquarters and elsewhere where Test cricket is held dear," he said.

"It exposes once and for all the overriding interests of Indian cricket, which has said Tests are paramount, but this reveals that it is the IPL which, in that part of the world, is paramount."

Proposed Sri Lankan tour itinerary:

21-23 April v Leicestershire, Leicester

25-27 April v Essex, Chelmsford

29 April-3 May v England Lions, Derby

7-11 May First Test, Lord's

15-19 May Second Test, Chester-le-Street

21 May v Somerset, Taunton

24 May First one-day international, Bristol

27 May Second one-day international, Edgbaston

30 May Third one-day international, Headingley

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see also
Sri Lanka lift ICL domestic ban
19 Sep 08 |  Sri Lanka
Jayawardene wants Twenty20 review
10 Sep 08 |  Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka still plan England tour
05 Sep 08 |  Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka put IPL above England
10 Jul 08 |  Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka agree to tour England
08 Jul 08 |  England
Sri Lanka in England 2009
08 Jul 08 |  Cricket

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