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Page last updated at 18:02 GMT, Thursday, 27 March 2008

Indian rivals alarm English cricket

By Matt Slater and Simon Austin

Indian threat to English cricket
With its huge population, India now calls the shots in world cricket
Cricket chiefs have warned that India's two new Twenty20 leagues could have a dramatic effect on the English game.

A BBC Sport survey of county bosses has revealed a range of concerns - from fears the game could split, to teams going bust, to rampant player-power.

And Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon thinks English cricket may have to form a rival league with franchise teams.

"There could be a franchise called Vodafone London - I think we should consider that possibility," he said.

"I have a completely open mind about Twenty20. It is a means of exploiting our commercial strengths and it is a very, very juicy opportunity.

"If that means re-naming counties or grouping them into franchises, then we must consider that."

Recent developments in India have cast long shadows over the time-honoured traditions of the English cricket calendar.

The rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) has already completed its first season and the officially-sanctioned Indian Premier League (IPL) opens for business in April.

Many in the English game think the challenge from India must be met head-on with radical counter-proposals or county cricket will start to unravel.

Only two of the 18 county bosses surveyed said the ICL/IPL was not a threat - eight said yes, eight said it was too early to tell
Two thirds said the IPL was here to stay; but there was far less confidence about the rebel ICL's long-term future
Two thirds said the English season should not move to suit the IPL, but a majority wanted more overseas players, particulary in Twenty20
A breakaway league is unlikely here, according to most bosses, but steps should be taken to remove any desire for such a move
And most want to play more Twenty20 here, but not at the expense of the championship

The irony for county chiefs is that Twenty20 cricket started here in 2003. An added irony is that India was initially wary of the speeded-up, fan-friendly format.

Sheldon, who runs England's richest county side, believes the new leagues in India are an "inevitable consequence" of Twenty20's now undisputed popularity.

He described the unofficial ICL as a challenge to the "whole world order of cricket" but sees the IPL as "an opportunity, not a threat".

Sheldon would like to see the English game develop a similar format to the franchise-based IPL. The competition would be played over a six-week period, with restrictions relaxed on the number of overseas players allowed.

But Sheldon's views on the threat from India, and how it might be met, are not shared by all. In fact, the BBC Sport survey exposed sharply contrasting opinions among the most senior voices in the English game.


One chairman described the cash-rich Indian leagues' impact as "potentially seismic", while others warned English cricket would no longer be able to meet the top players' wage demands.

But as is the case in other countries, there is little agreement in England on what the impact of Indian cricket's burgeoning financial muscle will be or how best to accommodate it.

As the following quotes from each county boss will demonstrate, domestic cricket must move on but nobody really knows where we are going.


Derbyshire chief executive Tom Sears: "The Indian leagues are a quite significant threat but it's a motivation to look at the structure of the game - there could be long-term benefits.

"But this could be the end of top overseas players staying for a whole season and I think there is one one-day competition too many at the moment."


Durham chief executive David Harker: "We must play more Twenty20. We are going to have to generate the income to persuade players not to take the Indian rupee.

"But there is a danger that Twenty20 could be so dominant that the County Championship is curtailed. There's a risk young players will be drawn to Twenty20."


Essex chief executive David East: "Twenty20 has been excellent for the English game.

"But the amount we play has to be carefully managed, and I'd like to think we can avoid any breakaway tournament here."


Glamorgan chairman Paul Russell: "I have a lot of sympathy with the IPL because they go head-to-head with an unauthorised league (the ICL), but the people running the IPL understand world cricket.

"Two changes I would like to see here are allowing more overseas players for Twenty20 and giving the green light to naming rights deals - we would seize that opportunity."


Gloucestershire chief executive Tom Richardson: "Both Indian leagues are a threat - the IPL is basically part of the BCCI and everybody is being bullied by them.

"I would like to see five overseas players per team in Twenty20 - there is a will for this."


Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove: "Twenty20 gives an opportunity for people to associate stars with counties and for us to compete on the world stage. We have to end restrictions on wages and overseas players.

"A breakaway league here will be inevitable if we don't do it centrally ourselves."


Kent chief executive Paul Millman: "I wouldn't want to make any changes to county cricket at the moment. We should sit tight and give the current changes a chance to bed in.

"And I think we have got the amount of Twenty20 about right."


Lancashire chief executive Jim Cumbes: "The County Championship is under threat from the Indian leagues and I only see it suffering as a result.

"And a breakaway Twenty20 could happen here if the ECB is slow in grasping the nettle."


Leicestershire chairman Neil Davidson: "This is a different league to Packer. The amounts of money thrown at the players is incredible.

"We need to encourage a development pathway. We should have a minimum number of English under-25 players on our books. We should also review the number of 40 and 50-over games."


Middlesex chairman Vinny Codrington: "The IPL forcing smaller counties to the wall is a real threat.

"Wage inflation means smaller counties cannot put together a fully professional and competitive squad. That means less sponsorship and smaller crowds."


Northants chief executive Mark Tagg: "We should go back to two overseas players per team, and I'd think about losing a couple of County Championship games - one from the beginning of the season and one from the end.

"I'm also in favour of floodlights. We could have a Friday night Twenty20 competition then."


Nottinghamshire chief executive Derek Brewer: "Before the ICL and IPL I thought the balance of Twenty20 was about right here.

"But now I'm not sure. There seems to be a great appetite for it. The County Championship is still the lifeblood of English cricket, though."


Somerset chief executive Peter Gould: "This is the first time we've had competition for world-class players in the domestic game. And population differences will ensure that the IPL is significantly richer than us.

"We must extend the Twenty20 season to fill the gap between football seasons. At present, we play 6,000 overs of championship cricket to crowds of 500, and 400 overs of Twenty20 that are sold out every day."


Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon: "We should play a bit more Twenty20 but it should not be all-consuming.

"It should be explosive and quick - that's its strength - so the maximum should be a six-week period."


Sussex chief executive Gus Mackay: "The ICL/IPL are already a threat. Quality overseas players could be a thing of the past here.

"We should play more Twenty20 but we must not forget about the championship - it feeds Test cricket and TV revenues."


Warwickshire chief executive Colin Povey: "The overseas-player issue is a sideshow. Can a county compete with the IPL for top stars? No.

"But the international season has made it very difficult for top stars to play a full season anyway. They've just been doing parts of seasons."


Worcestershire chief executive Mark Newton: "My gut feeling is the latest developments will have a fundamental change on all cricket - domestic and international - as salary expectations rise.

"But I don't think there will be a rebel league here. I could see an entrepreneur or fledgling TV company working with the counties to develop a bigger competition."


Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves: "I wouldn't change the one-overseas-player rule. We need to develop the national team.

"We are in danger of going down the route of player power, the football route. That would be very damaging for cricket."

see also
IPL chief targets England stars
27 Mar 08 |  Cricket
New Zealand reach IPL compromise
27 Mar 08 |  International Teams
ECB rejects player applications
20 Mar 08 |  England
Twenty20 causes confusion
14 Mar 08 |  Cricket
Mascarenhas joins Indian league
11 Mar 08 |  Cricket
Kiwis set for second IPL auction
10 Mar 08 |  New Zealand
Bond seeks Indian leagues clarity
06 Mar 08 |  New Zealand
Cricket's new order
29 Feb 08 |  Cricket
Pietersen rebuffs Indian offers
29 Feb 08 |  England
India cricket rebel series begins
30 Nov 07 |  South Asia

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