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Champions League gets wide backing in cricket world, with provisos

Champions League gets wide backing in cricket world, with provisos

Growing excitement about Twenty20 aside, the unveiling of the US$5 million Champions League has triggered the oldest and most predictable reaction in cricket: concern over the ramifications for test matches.
For increasing throngs of converts to the most condensed form of the international game, though, it offers the enticing prospect of Shane Warne, a proud and vocal Victorian, leading India's Rajasthan Royals against his old Australian state side.
And that highlights the question of what happens to players who are contracted to more than one team in the 10-day, eight-team league that crosses international boundaries and seasons _ lawyers and not loyalty almost certainly will dictate the answers.
The advent of Twenty20 has revolutionized cricket, offering a result inside three hours that makes it more attractive to broadcasters and to time-poor fans than the 50-over one-day format that came into vogue three decades ago or the more traditional five-day test matches.
"My only fear is that it will become the ultimate competition because it's such a carrot at the end of the summer and counties might start developing the Twenty20 team as the ultimate importance rather than developing the four-day (county) team," England captain Michael Vaughan told reporters Sunday after the series win over New Zealand at Trent Bridge. "That's my only concern.
"There's a lot of money at stake for both players and authorities, but I just hope by doing these kind of events, that the ultimate team is not the Twenty20 team, but the four-day team because that's where you get your ultimate test."
The Champions League will involve the finalists of the domestic Twenty20 competitions in England, Australia, India and South Africa. The recently completed Indian Premier League, featuring multimillion dollar franchises loaded with international stars, is the only one not made up primarily of players eligible for their national teams.
IPL finalists Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings will join Pretoria's Titans and KwaZulu Natal from South Africa in the Champions League, along with Western Australia and Victoria and the two English competition finalists. The English Twenty20 competition starts Wednesday.
England coach Peter Moores said players needed to be aware of their international prospects with more Twenty20 cricket coming into the schedule.
"There's obviously different tournaments going on, there's more money in the game. You have to get that balance right," Moores said. "The players know they've got IPL coming up, there's a massive summer of English cricket after that, the 2009 (Twenty20) World Cup and the Ashes.
"It will be important to make sure we look after the players so they're not fatigued to play for England but also to give opportunity when opportunity allows for them to go out, one to earn money but also to play some exciting cricket."
New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori said a dedicated window for Twenty20 cricket would save players having to make the cash vs. career decisions.
"You're excited for the players and the fact that they can earn this much money," he said. "Balance (is) what everyone is crying out for.
"If we can find windows for all three forms of the game then hopefully it sorts itself out. Otherwise it's going to be hard for guys to turn down that opportunities."
He had no doubt, however, that test cricket would remain at the game's pinnacle.
"You never hurt as much from a one-day loss, or a Twenty20 loss and you're never as elated with the same," he said. "Test cricket for a lot of guys around the world is the most important, but we still have to acknowledge that (new) forms of the game are coming into it."
Australia's leading players are on central contracts, which means there's no debate if there's a clash of dates between a Twenty20 league starting late September and an international series.
"Leading into the test series which starts in the first week of October, I think it is unlikely any of our test players are able to play (the Champions League)," Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said.
Engineering an annual series between the leading teams from the various national Twenty20 leagues remained the aim, not the priority, Sutherland said, despite admitting the commercial spinoffs from Twenty20 would change the way the game is administered.
"To be honest there's a lot of things happening, a lot of different things happening in world cricket associated with Twenty20."
And despite the proven appetite for Twenty20 in India _ home to the lucrative IPL, backed by the Indian board, and the non-sanctioned Indian Cricket League _ Indian authorities have concerns about a new competition.
IPL chairman Lalit Modi told the Cricinfo Web site that the Champions League was "still a long way away" and is "only an in-principle agreement."
"The venues have not been decided, the dates are still open and we are trying to host the event this year," Modi said.
However, some issues have been resolved to save contract wrangles down the line, he said.
Royals captain Warne, who was the leading test wicket taker when he retired from international cricket last year, could potentially have been available for three teams but is no longer on contract with either Victoria in Australia or English county Hampshire.
Modi said the IPL franchises would get priority over players who are eligible for two teams in the Champions League, such as Mike Hussey, who is contracted to Chennai and Western Australia.
The IPL will pay "relieving fees" to Western Australia as a form of restitution, Modi said.
Coordination issues notwithstanding, organizers plan to launch the Champions League in India or the Middle East in September.
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AP Sports Writer Krystyna Rudzki in Nottingham, England contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-08-01 12:32 GMT+08:00