Afro-Asian ODIs a TV turn-off
The forthcoming Afro-Asia one-day series risks hitting the buffers before it has even started with the news that, so far, there has been a distinct lack of enthusiasm regarding the TV rights.
ESPN/Star, who would usually be considered among the front-runners for such a contest, are committed to showing the Zimbabwe-New Zealand Test series (which clashes with the first game) and then English Premier League football (which clashes with the second and third matches). Additionally, the three ODIs fall in the middle of their Ashes coverage.
Ten Sports, another likely bidder, are covering the Rabobank hockey tournament, featuring the leading nations including India and Pakistan. And although South Africa's Supersport has expressed interest, they have also said that they are not willing to pay for the rights.
The appeal of the event has not been helped by the questionable availability of leading players. The entire Zimbabwe squad are effectively ruled out by their national commitments, while a number of the South African side have county contracts which they are reported to be unwilling to break to play in matches which have questionable value, despite them having the official backing of the ICC.
Pakistan announced today that none of their players would be forced to take part, with a senior official quoted as saying that "if any player wants to skip the event it's all right with us".
The only guaranteed big-name participants appear to be India, although Sachin Tendulkar, their main draw, is out injured. Given that the tournament is the brainchild Jagmohan Dalmiya, there is likely to be intense pressure on the Indians to agree to take part.
When the event was first touted - to a decidedly mixed response - it was hoped that TV rights could be worth more than $10 million over a three-year period, but with less than three weeks to go until the opening match, it seems that the organisers might have to take whatever they can get.