The England and Wales Cricket Board has taken another step towards the inevitability of court action by rejecting the registration applications of five players who are involved with the 'rebel' Indian Cricket League.
As a result Wavell Hinds (Derbyshire), Johannes van der Wath (Northamptonshire), Andrew Hall (Northamptonshire), Hamish Marshall (Gloucestershire) and Justin Kemp (Kent) will not be able to play county cricket this season.
Initial responses suggest that Derby and Northants will accept the decision. Yet the ECB's approach is certainly open to accusations of being inconsistent. The likes of Dale Benkenstein (Durham) and Nicky Boje (Northamptonshire), who are both involved in the ICL, are expected to be able to play county cricket as they have not represented their country (or a foreign domestic team) in the last 12 months. Stuart Law and Azhar Mahmood, who are both English citizens, are also expected to be able to take part in the ICL without further sanction.
The ECB's decision could also have implications for the ECB-accredited Birmingham League. League officials have asked the ECB for clarification over the registration of international players who have taken part in the recent ICL tournament and are likely to decline registration requests. TP Singh, who has signed for Himley, is one player who would be affected.
Meanwhile, and unlikely though it sounds, The Post understands that the Indian Premier League is considering approaching the Birmingham League in an attempt to widen the appeal of their competition.
IPL officials make no secret of their desire to develop their competition as a global brand and are in the early stages of exploring methods to achieve that goal. While the obvious solution would be to stage games at Test grounds, The Post understands that the IPL is also considering club grounds; possibly as training bases for its players.
Manoj Badale, a key mover in the IPL and chairman of Rajasthan Royals, told Spin magazine: "We have very clear ambitions to make it [the IPL and Rajasthan Royals in particular] an international brand.
"One has to be realistic. Soccer is a truly global sport, but I don't think cricket is: it's an international sport, played in a number of countries. But our aspiration would be that the Rajasthan Royals becomes a well-known brand in those countries and particularly those where the Asian diaspora is present: the Middle East, the UK, the Far East, the US."
Asked whether he already had plans to promote the team in those areas, Badale replied: "Yes, absolutely. It would be nice if the Rajasthan Royals could come and play a game here in England at some stage."
Badale already has links with Leicestershire he was involved in the Indian TV equivalent of Pop Idol that involved picking a youngster to spend a year at Grace Road and is keen to appeal to the large Asian population in the Midlands.
No official contact has yet been made with the League officials, however, and the prospect of Rajasthan Royals a side containing Shane Warne and Dimitri Mascarenhas playing at a Birmingham League ground remain distant. The IPL is worth $2 billion, however, and such figures make the unlikely quite possible.
* Wolverhampton have signed Indian legspinner Sairaj Bahutule for the 2008 season. With more than 5,000 runs and nearly 600 wickets in first-class cricket, Bahutule is a high-profile signing and testament to Wolverhampton's ambition. He has played eight ODIs, two Tests and, crucially, no ICL games.