Melbourne: Cricket Australia was on Tuesday night given a blunt warning that its superstar players could soon walk away from the international game to share in Indian Premier League (IPL) riches.
The IPL's Australian-based agent, Neil Maxwell, said the cashed-up tournament, backed by the strong Indian board, was a temptation too great for some players to refuse.
"The cricket world is going to have to respond to the IPL, given the magnitude of it," the Daily Telegraph quoted Maxwell, as saying last night.
"I know (players' union boss) Paul Marsh made the logical suggestion that ultimately there needs to be a six-week window carved out of the playing itinerary, the Future Tours Program (FTP). Otherwise, players will be leaving. Players will be retiring. Unfortunately at the moment we have a conflict. If that is taken out, there won't be conflict."
Australia's top players are unlikely to play in the first IPL, beginning April 18, because of tours of Pakistan and the West Indies, but that could change if yesterday's rumours that the Pakistan series will be postponed prove correct.
Cricket Australia says that it does not have an issue with Adam Gilchrist's decision to retire and play in the IPL because he is 36, but it does have concerns that other established household names, especially those in their early 30s, could quit and make as much money, if not more, in 44 days work in the IPL than they would by playing for Australia.
There is a flimsy clause in IPL contracts which says players cannot take part in the tournament until two years after their international retirement, but Cricket Australia knows this would be deemed as a restraint of trade.
"I don't think players will be leaving international cricket but it's going to be a lure," one Cricket Australia official said last night.
World cricket is grappling with this worrying issue. The rebel Indian Cricket League is also causing great concern, with New Zealand's international stocks already heavily raided.
Maxwell said cricket needed to follow soccer's English Premier League (EPL) and suggested there would be a "club versus country" debate among players unless Cricket Australia provided its top 25 players with extended contracts.