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New deal offers some leeway on IPL
England players could be set to play a larger role in the Indian Premier League after a new six-year agreement was struck on central contracts.
Eleven players have been awarded England and Wales Cricket Board contracts for the next year, with Joe Root promoted to the elite group in place of Eoin Morgan, while negotiations with the Professional Cricketers' Association have also successfully locked down improved financial terms until October 2019.
One of the key issues under debate was the vexed question of the IPL, the staggeringly well-paid Twenty20 league that English players have traditionally struggled to appear in due to a clash with the domestic season.
A handful of England players have earned deals in the IPL, notably Kevin Pietersen, but their limited availability has always been a stumbling block.
But it now seems that something of a compromise has been agreed - in good faith if not firm contractual commitment.
Angus Porter, chief executive of the PCA, said: "There have been a lot of discussions on the IPL but we are talking about a six-year period for contracts and the IPL is an event where we don't know the timings or the issues more than 12 months out.
"We will be handling that year by year but there is an understanding to try and minimise unnecessary overlap between our season and the IPL season.
"We have agreed that (with the ECB) in principle."
The words 'minimise' and 'unnecessary' leave the ECB a reasonable amount of leeway, but they have already taken steps towards compromise by shifting the first Tests of the 2014 season, against Sri Lanka, from May to June.
In the recent past the early summer Tests have been undermined by touring players arriving in England at the last minute from India.
There is no suggestion that a dedicated IPL window has been created, with England's schedules too fluid to make that a real possibility, but there is more than a hint that May Tests may soon be a rare breed, theoretically allowing English players a greater chance of IPL recognition providing the ECB granted them a no objection certificate.
"We'll take it year by year," said Porter.
"Switching the Tests and ODIs next season was better for some than others and every year is different, but we'll take every one as it comes.
"I don't think it (an IPL window) was possible this time...not unless the ECB had been able to strike an agreement with the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India)."
The timing of the announcement is also important, coming on the eve of the England squad's departure to Australia for the return Ashes series Down Under.
There was concern that the contract situation would be unresolved when the players departed but that has now passed, with all parties apparently content with the results.
Hugh Morris, the outgoing managing director of England Cricket, said: "We are delighted to have concluded a six-year deal and to have all contractual issues resolved in advance of what we all hope to be another successful Ashes tour.
"We thank the PCA, Team England player partnership and the ECB Board for reaching this agreement which now allows the players to focus solely on cricket, not just during this tour, but for a considerable period beyond."
Aside from Root, the other 10 players to be contracted for the next year have all been retained from the 2012-13 list.
They are Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott.
National selector Geoff Miller said: "Contracts are ongoing recognition for those players who have regularly been selected for England and have performed consistently, as well as those players we feel are likely to play an important role for England over the next year."