Monday, May 25, 2009

Threat of 202wenty cricket on ECB

The British and Irish Lions moved into the five star Johannesburg hotel yesterday morning which 24-hours earlier had been the domain of Indian Premier League rulers, players and hangers on.

Kevin Pietersen

As they packed up their party and headed back to Bombay the organisers of the second IPL were setting their logistical minds on making a success of the Twenty20 Champions League tournament, which they will throw on for the first time this October.

That competition, due to last little more than two weeks, has been quietly slipped into the international calendar and already will be etched into the packed diaries of the three England players whose IPL franchises have qualified for the tournament.

If Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah were hoping for a break between the Champions Trophy and England’s tour to South Africa then they were almost as mistaken as their counties, who will soon discover that IPL teams have first pick in the Champions League.

The Champions League will soon be one of four major Twenty20 tournaments. The England & Wales Cricket Board next year launch their answer to the IPL, the P20, while Australia, New Zealand and South Africa form plans for a Southern Premier League due to begin in 2011.

The demands on time and bodies will take their toll and it appears the English players union are the latest to predict a string of retirements from Test cricket.

“If a player can take $1.5m out of the IPL and then about half again out of the SPL then he can make serious money for just three or four months work and that is a very attractive option for them as well as a massive problem for the game,” Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers Association, told the Daily Telegraph.

“We have a lot of young emerging players, particularly in India, who will be able to play, say, three T20 tournaments a year. They don’t need to get on the international treadmill. They will have three global events a year and they will say 'that will do me'.

“Yes players will retire and players around the world will tell you that. I would not be surprised if an England player went down that road soon.

“That is when it starts to get pretty dangerous for everyone. But it keeps coming back to schedules. We have to work out what the May Test matches are fulfilling. Is it Test cricket scheduled for the sake of it?

"It is common knowledge that the Schofield report said that if you want to improve the quality of the product, which is what we are aiming for, then we have to find a way of limiting the amount of cricket they play. But they are doing the exact opposite. Playing for your country is still the number one priority for players.

"But soon we will have four domestic tournaments squeezed into the schedule over the next three years. At the moment we have real problem just fitting in one tournament (the IPL). Something will have to give.”

Lalit Modi, the commissioner of the IPL, has seemingly given up hope of a window for his tournament. The International Cricket Council know it would set a precedent and could lead to similar demands from other members countries. His vision now is for tournaments to run concurrently and for Test cricket to adapt to survive.

“We get mixed up in the fact,” he said. “Where is the audience? If an England and West Indies series is going, who is watching? People in England and people in the West Indies. Not a global audience. IPL is going on concurrently with the series at the moment and that is fine. We carry on.

“There is a Test schedule and people will want to watch it. In India when there is a Test or one day series going on then we will not run our league but that does not mean that a league cannot be running in Australia and have their players playing in their city based league. That is where the model has not been talked through. When they are talking about the FTP (future tours programme) they are saying everyone should be free at the same time. Why?”

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