ICC grapples with India's T20 millions

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/i/icclogo.jpg' class='caption'> World cricket chiefs assemble in Dubai this weekend hoping to safeguard the game's future amid a lucrative Twenty20 revolution fuelled by India.

Updated: June 28, 2008 09:47 IST
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New Delhi:

World cricket chiefs assemble in Dubai this weekend hoping to safeguard the game's future amid a lucrative Twenty20 revolution fuelled by the sport's economic powerhouse India.

Zimbabwe's status is also set to be discussed after Cricket South Africa suspended ties with its African neighbour on Monday.

Security concerns in Pakistan, which hosts the Champions Trophy in September, and fears of diminishing interest in Test cricket and 50-over games will also dominate the International Cricket Council's annual week-long talks.

"There is a lot on the plate because these are exciting times for cricket," a senior Indian official who will attend the Dubai conference said.

The ICC will begin a new innings with David Morgan of England taking over as president, South African Haroon Lorgat as the CEO and Inderjit Bindra of India holding the newly-created post of principal advisor.

The growing influence of Twenty20 cricket, first played in England to attract young fans to grounds and perfected as a money-spinning art by India, is set to create a new world order in the once leisurely sport.

The success of both the officially-backed Indian Premier League (IPL) and the unauthorised Indian Cricket League (ICL) that was bankrolled by a media firm has opened the floodgates for cash-starved players.

In a sport where only a handful of top stars netted more than a million dollars a year in fees and endorsements for their respective countries, the Indian leagues showered riches like never before.

Six-figure salaries for a few weeks' work became the norm with Indian one-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni the highest earner with a 1.5 million dollar IPL contract in the first year.

Not surprisingly, surveys among English and Australian cricketers showed a majority of them would consider giving up international careers for a share of the T20 pie in India.

Sensing the prevalent mood, Texan billionaire Allen Stanford signed on England to play an annual Twenty20 fixture against his native West Indies for the next five years, offering a staggering one million dollars to each member of the winning team.

The first match will be played on Stanford's own ground in Antigua on November 1.

Now comes a 10-million dollar Champions League featuring the top two Twenty20 club teams from Australia, India, South Africa, England and possibly Pakistan to be played in India from September 30-October 8.

The millions on offer created its own problems.

The Indian board, determined to crush the unauthorised ICL, ruled it will bar any English county team from the Champions League that fielded players signed up with the rebel organisation.

England cried foul, saying any moves to ban ICL players will invite restraint of trade action from the cricketers and called for urgent discussion with India in Dubai.

India, which controls an estimated 70 percent of cricket's global earnings, managed to pressure all countries, except England, to ban ICL players from first-class cricket.

The Dubai conclave will determine if India's influence can be contained.

Pakistan said it will seek India's help to convince Australia, England and New Zealand to brush aside security fears and take part in the ICC Champions Trophy in September.

Australia, which cancelled a scheduled Test tour of Pakistan in March-April, said it will be guided by government advice as players expressed their apprehension of touring the strife-torn nation.

The ICC wants to jazz up traditional five-day Tests in the face of the Twenty20 onslaught with Bindra saying there was a proposal to organise a world Test championships.

The future of 50-overs-a-side internationals, seen as a bigger casualty of the Twenty20 revolution than Test matches, will also be discussed even though the format is used for the four-yearly World Cup.

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