Pietersen offered $4m to play in IPL
Kevin Pietersen and other top England stars have won their fight to be allowed to play in the Indian Premier League — but not until after next summer's Ashes series.
The IPL Twenty20 tournament, backed by half a billion US dollars worth of television money, starts on Friday in Bangalore, with England the only country still refusing to allow their centrally contracted players to cash in on the huge sums on offer for six weeks' work.
Pietersen, who is believed to have received a multi-season offer of $4m (£2m), is one of a number of England players who made it clear last week that they want the chance to make the kind of money on offer to stars from every other Test-playing nation, including New Zealand, whose board have even allowed for their IPL players to turn up late for next month's Test tour here.
England's star batsman said it was 'ridiculous' that he and other England players were barred from taking part.
His mood was reflected by Test colleagues Ryan Sidebottom and Alastair Cook, who both indicated their desire to board the gravy train.
Sidebottom, England's man-of-the-series against New Zealand, said: "If there is a window for the IPL then I would love to play in it, of course."
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke initially dismissed Pietersen's plea to let England players take part in 2009, flatly refusing to consider changing the schedule for next summer to create a window between England's tour to West Indies and the start of an Ashes summer and stating that ECB's position was non-negotiable not only for 2009 but also for the foreseeable future.
But the ECB appear to have accepted that they must soften their stance, with chief executive David Collier this week indicating the board have decided to adopt a more flexible approach once the 2009 Ashes series is over.
Collier said: "Our chairman Giles Clarke has made the ECB's position on England players playing in IPL very clear, but it is worth noting that all the statements that have been made refer only to 2009."
And, at a meeting of the ECB's main board last week, they finally resolved to allow stars like Pietersen to take part in future IPL tournaments from 2010 onwards, subject to the approval of England coach Peter Moores.
The ECB's new position, which will open the door for Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood and others to take advantage of what may be a once-in-a-career financial opportunity, represents a major shift in policy.
Clarke had previously made it clear any England player interested in signing up for IPL without the permission of the board would be puting their international careers in jeopardy.
Indeed, Pietersen's Hampshire colleague, Dimitri Mascarenhas, not bound by a central contract, is the only England player to sign up and, even though he received the blessing of his county and the board, he voiced his fears that by doing so he may have put his one-day international future at risk.
The key issues behind ECB's change of heart revolve around the realisation that negotiation rather than confrontation is the most sensible course of action.
Influential figures within the board, notably some county chairmen, concerned that a hardline stance may alienate their players, have come to accept that, while top stars like Pietersen may be committed to playing for England, they are determined not to let the chance of earning huge sums pass them by.
The fear is that, if forced to make a straight choice between IPL's millions and what ECB could offer, some may refuse to sign a central contract when they are up for renewal in October.
Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove said: "The approach is to consider how best the IPL can be accommodated so that the interests of all parties can be honoured."
There is also a growing awareness that if the IPL's salary cap — at just over $5m per season — is lifted, players will be targeted with offers the ECB would find impossible to match.