Sunday, September 14, 2008

Efforts on to salvage Champions Trophy

Current international calendar for September-October 2009

  • England v Australia ODIs - ends September 20
  • Champions Twenty20 League - September 25-October 10
  • India-Australia ODIs - Seven-match series starting October 13
  • New Zealand in Sri Lanka - Three Tests and five ODIs in August-September

Chances of the Champions Trophy being held in 2009 appear to be brightening with intense discussions on the issue between ICC officials and those of its member boards over the last few days opening up "2-3 options". One of those options will be finalised when the governing body's executive board meets next month, Cricinfo has learnt.

Senior officials who were part of these discussions told Cricinfo they were positive the event would be held though many of the boards may have to adjust their FTP dates to ensure that. One official said a "possible solution" is to have the event in late September if major countries like England, Australia and India agree to be flexible with their dates by "a few days".

When contacted, Niranjan Shah, the secretary of BCCI - which had objected to the event being held in October as it clashes with the India-Australia ODI series - said "minor adjustments" from the Indian side were possible if all members involved and the ICC were flexible as well.

"There is no question that all the boards would like the Champions Trophy to happen," Shah told Cricinfo. "But you can't expect only India to adjust its dates for that. We are willing to look at an adjustment by a few days if everyone else involved is equally flexible."

The Indian board may be open to facilitating a window from around September 20-30 by pushing back the dates of the Champions Twenty20 League and the Australia one-day series by a few days. For that to happen, England and Australia will have to tweak the dates of their one-day series, the New Zealand-Sri Lanka engagement has to be looked at and, crucially, the ICC may have to compress the span of its tournament. But while Shah said that "even the ICC has to be flexible", there are no signs of an update from England, where the line of thought within the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) at the moment seems to be that it is a question for the ICC to answer and that "the ball appears to be with others".

What has helped ease the situation though, officials said, is that ESPN-Star Sports, the official broadcasters of the ICC event, now also hold the commercial rights for the Champions Twenty20 League (for US$ 975 million for 10 years).

According to the governing body, the "primacy of ICC events was restated" during its board meeting in Dubai on September 11 to discuss the dates, but sources said that an interesting sidelight of the discussions was that no board appeared keen to see the Champions Twenty20 League affected to accommodate the Champions Trophy. "No one came up with that suggestion at the board meeting simply because some of them hope to get 10-15 times more money from the league than from the ICC event," the sources said. From the next year, the Champions League will have 12 teams and will involve all the eight countries that will also take part in the Champions Trophy.

While the officials expect the ICC to raise US$ 60-65 million from the Champions Trophy, sources said Australia could get around US$ 15 million from the Champions League every year, and South Africa around US$ 12 million. However, a Champions League official denied these figures saying the organisers were "still to work on distribution, post expenses". India holds a 50% share in the league, and is hoping to raise a further US$ 100-120 million from the Australia one-day series that follows.

"Other boards participating in the Champions League hope to get significant sums too, besides another chunk of money for the domestic participants and the prize money of US$ 6 million," the sources. "Nobody wants to jeopardize these sums."

The ICC, meanwhile, is positive that Haroon Lorgat, its chief executive, will be able to present a solution before its board next month after he visits various member boards in a bid to try and get to them to adjust their bilateral events to accommodate the tournament.

"It's a tough task for Lorgat, but he has emerged as someone who has the ability to build a consensus. He has 2-3 options to work on and if the boards relent on the dates, as some of them promised in Dubai last week, the dates of the tournament will be finalised next month," sources said.

Pakistan remains the host for the Champions Trophy, pending a security review in February-March after the India tour, though the ICC decided to postpone the tournament from September 12-28 this year after at least five participating countries expressed security concerns about the country.