England could block players playing in restarted IPL, Ashley Giles confirms

England cricketers will not be permitted to take part in what remains of the 2021 Indian Premier League season if it clashes with international commitments, Ashley Giles has confirmed.

Speaking on Monday, the ECB managing director of men’s cricket confirmed the stance as the BCCI work out where and when the tournament’s remaining 31 matches will be played after the IPL was suspended indefinitely last week due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in India.

Amid the rising case numbers, the IPL’s bubble suffered numerous breaches with positive tests to staff and players, causing the temporary shutdown of the franchise competition. All 11 English cricketers left the tournament in the 48 hours after the postponement, with nine returning to the UK where they are currently seeing our their quarantine periods in airport hotels.

Head of the BCCI Sourav Ganguly admitted a restart in India was not on the cards, as the country reported 366,161 new cases on Monday, taking their total to 22.66 million.

The United Arab Emirates, which held the entire 2020 IPL, and even England have emerged as possible hosts. But finding time in an already packed schedule is another logistical headache with no clear remedy.

India’s Test players led by Virat Kohli are due to leave for the UK in early June for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and will stay on to play five Tests against England. That series is due to finish on 14 September, and there is talk of holding the remainder of the competition on these shores, with Warwickshire, Surrey and the MCC putting themselves forward as hosts.

However, there is little respite for England, who are due to tour Bangladesh and Pakistan in October ahead of the T20 World Cup. And after originally letting Test players to miss the New Zealand Test series which begins on 2 June because of a clash with the tournament, no such allowance will be made for contracted players required for national duty.

“We’ve got a full FTP (Future Tours Programme) if those tours are going ahead I’d expect them to be there,” said Giles. “A rearranged IPL, none of us knows what that looks like at the moment: where it’s going to be, or when.”

“From when we start this summer against New Zealand, our programme the FTP is, is incredibly busy. And, you know, within that we’re going to have to look after our players. But we’ve got a lot of important high profile cricket including T20 World Cup and Ashes. So for us, we’re planning on the involvement of England players in England matches.”

Giles was keen to stress the situation with the New Zealand series was governed by when the tour was finally ratified. It was only in January that they were formalised, by which time players had signed contracts with franchises, along with no-objection certificates from the ECB which guaranteed their full involvement in the IPL.

An offshoot of this was that at no point did the ECB think of taking an executive decision to pull their players out of the IPL as the coronavirus situation escalated. Though they kept tabs with their 11 players, assessing the situation in India from afar while also informing those on the ground of the necessary measures that needed to be taken if they wanted to depart early.

The government placed India on the red list while the IPL was going on, meaning only British nationals or those with residency rights were able to arrive into the country and then must quarantine for 10 days. When the indefinite postponement was called, franchises sorted flights for their own players rather than the ECB.

It led to criticism the governing body should have been more active in getting their players to return given the inevitable collapsing of protocols under the weight of the pandemic. Giles reiterated there was no emergency measure to take English players home but stated dialogue and advice was constant and any action to be undertaken was at the behest of the individuals.

“I don’t mean that we weren’t talking about it or thinking about it on a daily basis almost every hour that we were awake because that situation was changing a lot,” explained Giles when he confirmed there were no plans to step in. “I thought our position was to advise and keep communicating with the guys and give them the latest information that was available to us, which they probably had on the ground as well.

“But these guys are, you know, they’re all grown-ups and they signed these contracts. Their relationships were with the franchises. But, of course underlying that, absolutely their welfare and their health is very important to us but we didn’t really feel it was for us to pull them out of that scenario, that situation and probably they were the best judge on the ground. They were in it. And in the end that situation moved really quickly and then we advised on what we thought the best route was and that was to get back to the UK as quick as we can.

“I’m glad that while the majority took our advice and they’re back in the country and although they’re serving a quarantine period, at least they are back here, and can’t be affected by changes to red, the green listing countries around the world. And once they’ve done their quarantine and they can get back to their families and get on with life.”

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