Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff are likely to lead the English influx into the Indian Premier League with its cash-rich franchises lining up six-figure offers for them.
It is believed that Pietersen is the subject of bids from all eight IPL franchises, while reports suggest Flintoff is close to a deal with the Kolkata Knight Riders, the glamorous team owned by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. Flintoffs agent, Neil Fairbrother, has denied a deal was imminent.
[A Knight Riders spokesman admitted that they had spoken to Flintoff, says A Staff Reporter in Calcutta. We have spoken to quite a few players, including Flintoff, but nothing is finalised yet. Given the rules, no team is in a position to sign anyone
The problem is the $5m cap on the teams, and until the IPL comes out clean on this we cannot proceed.]
Both would command fees of more than $1.5 million per year and are set to lead an English invasion of the IPL.
England one-day captain Paul Collingwood is expected to sign an IPL deal, too, with Owais Shah, Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara also the subjects of lucrative bids believed to be in the region of $300,000.
The IPL bids are on the table at a time when the ECB are thrashing out new central contracts with the England players. It had been hoped they would be signed by Monday but the players union, the Professional Cricketers Association, failed to agree terms with the ECB.
Until the new central contracts are signed, the ECB will not issue the non-objection certificate a player needs before joining an IPL team. It is a stance that has led to fears in the England dressing room that the IPL franchises will lose patience and take their offers elsewhere.
It is a stumbling block, one IPL source said.
The ECB this week agreed to hold a Test series against Sri Lanka next May, which leaves a window of only 10-12 days for England players to play the IPL.
IPL contracts are paid on a pro-rata basis and returning early from the tournament would cost a player up to $300,000 per week. It is on this basis that the players will demand a pay rise when the new central contracts kick in this September.