Sri Lanka Cricket chiefs have agreed to try and postpone or reschedule next year's England tour to allow its players to take part in the lucrative Indian Premier League, officials said Thursday.
The tour, hastily arranged earlier this month after England suspended bilateral cricket relations with Zimbabwe, includes two Tests, three one-dayers and four warm-up games and is scheduled to run from April 21 to May 30.
But Sri Lanka's players had objected to the timing of the tour because it clashes with the IPL, and had asked Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse to intervene to postpone the tour or change when it takes place.
"We will take up the matter with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) shortly to find what alternatives we can arrive at without upsetting both parties," cricket chief executive Duleep Mendis told reporters Thursday after a committee meeing.
Mendis said key players had already committed to play in next year's IPL, due to be played between April 10 and May 25.
But the players had assured the cricket board that they will give the 2011 tour of England priority ahead of the IPL.
"Taking these points into consideration we couldn't let them down. Therefore it was agreed that the players be allowed to play in the IPL next year," Mendis said.
The Sri Lankan players had met Rajapakse on Wednesday and urged him to help them, a source close to the team said.
One top Sri Lankan player, who declined to be named, told AFP the cricketers had handed the president a letter when they met him to celebrate their victory in the recent Asia Cup in Pakistan.
"We wrote a letter, signed by all of us, appealing to the president to either call off the tour or push back the dates," he said.
Rajapakse's spokesman said the president had instructed Sri Lanka's sports minister Gamini Lokuge to raise this issue when Sri Lanka Cricket's interim committee met late Thursday.
However, one of the problems the ECB would face in rescheduling Sri Lanka's tour is that the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup, which England are hosting, is due to start on June 5.
That leaves little room in the English calendar for altering the dates of Sri Lanka's visit, especially as England face Australia in a showpiece Ashes later in their season.
This is not the first time Sri Lankan players have demanded an international series be scrapped so they could play in the IPL.
Sri Lanka's limited-overs tour of Pakistan was cancelled in April-May this year because the dates clashed with the IPL's inaugural tournament.