Potential row brews in Australia

A potential row is brewing in Australian cricket after the game’s ruling-body Cricket Australia wrote chastising letters to 11 players who have signed memos of understanding to play in the Indian Premier League, the highly lucrative Twenty20 tournament organised by the BCCI.

CA chief executive James Sutherland wrote the letters to the players – including Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke – after learning of the signatures.

He warned that they are in direct conflict with the terms and conditions of their central contracts having signed without consulting CA. Spokesman Peter Young confirmed: “It would be a breach of contract to play without our permission.”

The main problem seems to be the fact that the IPL could potentially clash with CA’s obligations in Pakistan, and if players make themselves unavailable they could potentially be overlooked for Australian selection and contracts in future.

The tone of Sutherland’s letter has, according to one player’s agent, been interpreted as a “declaration of war”, adding that the potential row “could divide the game”, and claiming that CA would be unlikely to come out on top.

“Cricket Australia doesn’t want to put the players in a position where they might have to decide between playing for them or in India,” said the agent. “If a player is money-oriented, the IPL will win them over. They seem prepared to offer long-term deals and can pay more money. This could be a battle they (CA) won’t win.”

It is understood players could earn up to AU$1,000,000 for a few weeks’ work. Ponting, whose annual earnings are believed to be around AU$4,000,000, told Australian Broadcasting Commission radio last month: “It’s a very lucrative thing . . . and a very attractive thing for four to six weeks out of your year.”

Sutherland, however, stated that: “A number of significant issues remain unresolved, particularly regarding Australian players’ participation and the terms of participation.” Uneasy comparisons are already being drawn to the World Series Cricket schism of 30 years ago, when Australian cricket was decimated by the signing of most of its top stars to a competition organised by Kerry Packer to provide cricket for his Nine network.

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