India's cricket chiefs on Wednesday hardened their stance against a breakaway multi-million dollar series, asking players to decide their loyalities.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), whose top management met in New Delhi, issued a policy statement in the wake of the storm brewing over the upstart Indian Cricket League (ICL).
"Every individual has a right whether he wants to associate himself with the BCCI or any other organisation," the statement said.
"However, if he chooses to associate himself with any other organisation, he will not derive any benefit or be connected with any of BCCI's activities in any way."
The terse statement effectively rules out national selection for players who may sign up with the ICL and could even deprive past and current cricketers of monetary benefits from the BCCI.
"Such players should not have any expectations from us," BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla told reporters after the meeting at board president Sharad Pawar's residence.
Shukla, asked if it was an ultimatum to current players wanting to align with the ICL, said, "Anyone is free to pursue his interest, but the statement is very clear."
The ICL, which is bankrolled by the country's largest listed media house, Zee Telefilms, plans to hold Twenty20 matches between six city teams in October and November.
Each team is supposed to comprise four international players, two Indian stars and eight upcoming cricketers, according to an ICL announcement in May.
The BCCI's tough stance has already made it difficult for the rival series to recruit current cricketers from both within and outside the country.
So far, most of the players linked to the Twenty20 series -- regarded as a young man's game -- are retired, semi-retired, or those who can't hold their place in the national side.
Retired West Indian captain Brian Lara, Test cricket's highest run-getter, is the only marquee player to have confirmed his participation in the competition, which carries a winner's purse of one million dollars.
Ex-Australian stars Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have dismissed claims by the ICL that they had already signed up, but the duo continue to be linked to the series.
Warne's manager James Erskine was quoted by The Australian as saying on Wednesday that there was only a "reasonably slim" chance of the record-breaking leg-spinner joining the ICL.
"It's flying in the face of officialdom and I know he doesn't want to be part of anything that's not officially sanctioned," Erskine said.
Other big names reportedly in negotiations with the ICL are ageing veterans Inzamam-ul Haq of Pakistan, Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka and New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns.
Importantly, no Indian star currently touring England has been linked to the rebel series, prompting BCCI president Pawar to dismiss the ICL last week as a "veterans series no one will want to watch."