Aussie stars insist they remain loyal to country

Published: Sunday, December 2, 2007, 15:13 [IST]
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Australia's elite cricketers insist they will remain loyal to their country after being reminded Sunday by Cricket Australia of their priorities in the face of the lucrative Indian Premier League.

Cricket Australia (CA), the players' union, a leading agent and national vice-captain Adam Gilchrist all said players would not compromise their international commitments despite most of the country's best players signing non-binding contracts with the IPL.

The parties denied there was a rift caused by a strongly worded letter sent to players by CA chief executive James Sutherland about their contractual obligations.

Sutherland confirmed Sunday he had written to CA's contracted players urging them to inform their employer before they signed with the IPL Twenty20 competition, scheduled to start in April.

The CA chief said he was disappointed some players had not informed CA they had signed, and reminded them to keep the organisation in the loop in future.

A newspaper report Sunday said the letter had caused a stand-off between the players and CA.

But the players insist they will play for Australia first and will only represent franchise sides from Indian cities when their schedules allow.

Australia's best are unlikely to play in the IPL in the next two years because of scheduled tours of Pakistan (2008) and South Africa (2009).

Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive Paul Marsh dismissed speculation India's financial lure would test players' loyalty.

"I had a discussion with the players before the Hobart Test (last month) and their commitment is to play for Australia and as the calendar stands none of them will be able to play in the IPL for the next two years," Marsh said.

"The players have signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the BCCI (Indian board) with the understanding there is a longer-term contract. This is currently being worked on to come later."

CA is unsure how many players have signed with the IPL, but maintains they must get a clearance to play overseas.

Test vice-captain Gilchrist confirmed no one would play in India without CA's consent.

"We're not trying to be rebels here. It's a new opportunity for cricketers and it's a very exciting one that I know Cricket Australia are endorsing and encouraging," Gilchrist said.

"We're not looking for a moment to bend the rules or our contracts with Cricket Australia. They are our employer, as simple as that.

"We'll abide by their rules at all times and we're not trying to bend those rules whatsoever.

"If the opportunity comes up to play IPL, which a lot of us have signed a MOU to allow us to do, (we will play) but that will always be secondary to international cricket and playing for our country.

"I don't see (the letter) as a stand-off or a threat. It's simply them (CA) stating exactly what their position is, and making sure that everyone is fully aware of it."

Agent Neil Maxwell, who represents Test stars Brett Lee and Mike Hussey, said it was "absolute rubbish" to believe the players would revolt.

He said players and their agents were beholden to inform CA of their intentions.

The IPL is part of an International Cricket Council-endorsed plan of having the best domestic sides in India, Australia, England and South Africa play off in a lucrative Twenty20 championship, based on European football's Champions League model.

It was developed in response to the breakaway Indian Cricket League, which has just begun.

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