London: Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said Monday he couldn't see how the likes of leading England cricketers such as Kevin Pietersen would be allowed to play in the 2009 Indian Premier League (IPL) and so risk injury ahead of the next Ashes series.
"For a centrally-contracted player, I can't see Peter Moores (England's coach) wishing to release them," Clarke told reporters at Lord's here Monday.
"The risks are very significant - we will be about to play Australia.
"Just what would you gentlemen (the media) write if Peter Moores released an England player to play in the IPL and couldn't play all summer?"
The inaugural IPL, a domestic Twenty20 competition featuring players from around the world, gets under way in India on April 18 and so clashes with the start of both England's domestic and home international seasons.
Star batsman Pietersen told the Times last week: "You want your best players playing both for their country and for the IPL.
"You don't want them choosing between the two. It's silly to think that you're losing up to a million (US dollars) over six weeks. The schedules have to be sorted because the England players are the only ones missing out."
At present the only England player involved in the IPL, a tournament sanctioned by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the national governing body, is all-rounder Dimitri Mascarenhas, a Hampshire colleague of Pietersen's, who has played in Twenty20 and one-day internationals but not Test matches.
England are touring the West Indies in February, earlier than they would normally visit the Caribbean.
The reason is to give their key players, most of whom are centrally contracted to the ECB, more of a break before the Australia series gets under way in June.
And Clarke wants England, thrashed 5-0 in Australia by their oldest foes in the 2006-07 Ashes, to do all they can to triumph in the series that matters most to their fans.
"The West Indies tour is earlier next year because we'd like to give the players a break before the Ashes series," Clarke said.
"We don't want them turning up for the Ashes series exhausted. The spectators of this country (England) want to know that our players are as fit, as sharp and as ready as we can ensure they are.
"The reason we have England central contracts is to enable the national head coach to determine how much cricket those players play.
"I don't think KP (Pietersen) is doing that badly. KP knows me quite well and he hasn't said anything (about the IPL) and he's not exactly shy."
Asked what might happen if someone like Pietersen opted out of a central contract so as to increase his availability to the IPL, Clarke said: "KP runs the risk, as anybody does of losing his place and getting injured.
"Cricket careers can come to ends as well as begin."
Clarke stressed how any player involved in the IPL could be withdrawn if required by his country for international duty.
"If England are playing a Test match, the IPL won't be expecting anybody who could be selected for England to be playing for them.
Clarke also reiterated his hostility to the rebel Indian Cricket League. Several ICL players who've agreed deals with counties this season are currently barred from playing in England as part of the worldwide show of solidarity with the BCCI by other national boards.
However, there are concerns that, as happened in the 1970s when counties were forced by the courts to drop bans against players who'd signed up for Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket on the grounds of restraint of trade, attempts to bar ICL players from England could be challenged legally.
"Unauthorised cricket is a fundamental threat to the management and economics of the game," Clarke said.
"The governing body has to look after all the interests of the game. Unauthorised cricket doesn't do that. I don't see this as being remotely the same as the Packer issue."