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Pietersen on ECB collision course

The next steps towards the creation of English cricket's answer to the Indian Premier League will be taken today, but leading players are already eyeing the possibility of a brief but lucrative appearance in next year's IPL.

While the ECB board meets today to discuss proposals on the restructuring of the county game, the emergence of a window in the international schedule next April has alerted players to the chance of playing in the second IPL season, running from April 10 to May 29.

England's tour to the West Indies ends on April 3, a month before their next international commitments, against Zimbabwe. Although the ECB would prefer players to rest during this period, which comes at the start of an Ashes summer, players such as Kevin Pietersen are likely to ask Peter Moores, the head coach, to release them from their central contracts.

Adam Wheatley, Pietersen's agent, said: “Ultimately it will be up to Peter Moores, but I think the ECB wants to appease the players. The 20-over game is not too demanding and in terms of longevity over the season, I don't think there's much danger of them being exhausted by two or three games.

“There is at least a window now, albeit a short one, so I think Kevin will be able to play in the IPL. He might only play two or three games next year, then maybe a bit more the year after.”

Even such a brief appearance would enable Pietersen to earn money from promotion and image rights as well as appearance fees. As a proven crowd-puller, he could expect to earn a similar amount to Andrew Symonds, the IPL's highest-paid overseas player, earning at least £1.5million over three years. Symonds played only four matches in this year's tournament before leaving for Australia's tour to the West Indies, but he will play a fuller part over the next two seasons.

The ECB board will today discuss proposals for a Twenty20 English Premier League (EPL) as it prepares to invite a revised tender from broadcasters from the 2010 season. Proposals are thought to centre on a 21-team competition, featuring the 18 counties and three overseas teams, but the governing body is being urged not to abandon the idea of city-based franchises.

After the ECB's annual meeting last month, Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, suggested that franchises would not work in English cricket. But Jim Cumbes, the Lancashire chief executive, believes that the creation of an EPL would be an ideal opportunity for counties to rebrand themselves. Lancashire, for example, could consider a link with Manchester United, their neighbours at Old Trafford.

“I was surprised Giles Clarke said that about franchises, because if we had a Manchester franchise here at Old Trafford, I think people would have an affinity for that,” Cumbes said. “If it was really successful, somebody like Manchester United might become interested. We have good relations with them and there have historically been links. Whether we'd call the team Manchester United, I'm not sure, because that might alienate City supporters. Maybe it would have to be Manchester Reds.”

Several United directors were guests of Lancashire last weekend during the Old Trafford Test match, including David Gill, the chief executive. Maurice Watkins, another United director, who was influential in the formation of football's Premier League, has offered his assistance to Lancashire in the development of an EPL competition.

“I always thought city cricket was the future,” Cumbes said. “It's more identifiable, it's new and it gives an opportunity in the future for there to be other city franchises.”

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