Melbourne: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is preparing to auction off Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and other elite Australian players to private franchises within weeks, but Cricket Australia (CA) might still derail the process by exercising a right of veto over the contracted cricketers.
The Australian has learnt that the billion-dollar Indian Premier League has almost completed a long-form contract that is acceptable to international players, but still faces a hurdle with CA, which is anxious to protect its sponsors and does not want to see contracted players in a team bearing competitors' branding.
Gilchrist could also find himself in a difficult position, even though he will be finished with international commitments at the end of this summer's one-day series.
He is contracted to Cricket Australia until June and is also rumoured to be in discussion about an ongoing role with the organisation. Players need a non-objection certificate from their home board to compete in the IPL.
Gilchrist has made no plans to play in the IPL, despite signing an expression of interest, but expressed his enthusiasm for the game's new form on announcing his retirement.
Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer are among ex-players who have signed with the Twenty20 competition and who should be available for the inaugural season.
There is an outside chance, however, that all the CA-contracted players could be playing in the tournament by mid-April.
Players are still annoyed that Cricket Australia encouraged them to accept a conciliatory position in the Harbhajan case, but that they find themselves aligned with the BCCI over the IPL.
CA was anxious to appease the BCCI in the racism clash, but it is trying to leverage its control of players to get India to establish a second-tier Indian Champions League, which was planned to include domestic teams playing for a multi-million-dollar Twenty20 prize. The BCCI is maintaining silence on the second-tier proposal.
Up to 11 Australian and 60 internationally-contracted players signed memos of understanding with the IPL and are supposed to sign completed contracts before the BCCI meets the eight private owners who bought teams at a recent auction. The owners expect to be able to bid for a pool of international stars at an auction in a few weeks, but the Federation of International Cricketers Association has instructed players not to negotiate until they see a proper contract.
The Australian players may not be available for the first two seasons, but the owners will be offered a chance to include them on a long-term contract.
The project stalled when the BCCI refused to deal with any player associations, but ironically began to move when David Ligertwood, a UK lawyer-player agent who was raised in Australia, was appointed as a third party go-between for negotiations.
The Australian Cricketers Association has told The Australian that it is confident that acceptable contracts would be ready soon, although perhaps not in time for the cut-off date, which is Friday.