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IPL sets their sights on London

Lord's and the Brit Oval are considering offers to stage games involving an Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise this season as the IPL looks to go global.

MCC and Surrey have been approached by organisers of the new competition, as all 18 counties come to terms with the significant impact that it could have on the game this season.

Having secured the most lucrative television deal in cricket history, worth $1billion (about £501million) over ten years, the IPL is understandably keen to expand beyond the inaugural tournament, which runs from April 18 to June 1. Those games have been allocated venues in India, but they are hopeful of staging what would be closer to exhibition matches in London.

Paul Sheldon, the Surrey chief executive, declined to confirm that Surrey have been targeted by the IPL, while a spokesman for MCC said: “We are not making any comment on this story at the moment.”

A suggestion that Hampshire have been contacted was denied by the club last night, although they would be interested in playing hosts.

A spokesman for the ECB said that the board was “working tirelessly” to review the options available for the Twenty20 Cup in 2008 and a proposal emanating from Giles Clarke, the chairman, to allow counties to field three overseas players solely for the event may be passed as early as the second week of April, in time for the summer.

With a BBC survey this week revealing that only two counties envisage no potential threat from the IPL or the “rebel” India Cricket League (ICL), the belief is growing that, having been slow to build on the momentum of the first seasons from 2003, the English game must now act quickly to reinvigorate the format.

Sheldon, speaking in general terms, said. “We are at a pivotal moment in the history of cricket. It is inevitable that the franchise system will explode internationally sooner rather than later and we want to be in pole position to exploit the potential of that with our wonderful ground and geographical location.

“We do not want a breakaway situation. We will see what the ECB come up with in rescheduling our own Twenty20 and we hope it will involve franchises. That would be the biggest commercial opportunity that we might be able to exploit. We are open-minded about discussions with people who are potentially going to push this forward.”

Dimitri Mascarenhas revealed that the IPL was a hot topic in the England dressing-room during at least the

one-day leg of the recent New Zealand tour while Lalit Modi, one of the leading architects of the competition, has said that some of the senior players in the squad would be keen to follow Mascarenhas if the timings suit.

Sean Morris, the new chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, has been in regular contact with the ECB over what he described as the “totally unique” opportunities presented to top players. He warned that, without understanding, the England team could be “decimated of its star players.”

The ECB was given another headache yesterday when Niranjan Shah, the secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said that a complaint will be lodged after Mushtaq Ahmed, of Sussex, and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, of Yorkshire, were given permission to play for their counties this year, despite their appearances in the ICL.

Both players received clearance from Pakistan via No Objection Certificates, leaving the ECB on dangerous legal territory if it sought to extend bans already imposed on five ICL players.

Shah said: “We will take up the issue since the two counties are under the jurisdiction of the England board.”

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