New problem for Champions Trophy
Having already threatened to pull out of the ICC Champions Trophy from 2008 onwards, the Indian cricket board is on a collision course with the ICC over the 2006 event, which they are scheduled to be hosting in October.
At the heart of the matter, as ever, is the thorny issue of advertising revenue. Under a multi-million dollar agreement between the ICC and the Global Cricket Corporation (GCC), all ICC-owned events - such as the Champions Trophy and the World Cup - have to be contested at "clean" venues where no trace of unofficial sponsorship can be permitted.
However, two of the three proposed venues - Mumbai and Delhi - have their own agreements with various corporates. "The grounds must be free of any ad signages so that we can maximise the revenue for our sponsors," said Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive during a meeting with Sharad Pawar, the president of the BCCI in New Delhi.
The two boards are putting up a united front at present, with both sides showing willingness to resolve the impasse well in advance of the event. "The BCCI and the ICC now have a clear understanding of each other's point of view," said Pawar. "We hope to solve the issues as soon as possible so that we can concentrate on the preparation for the 2006 Champions Trophy."
Delhi has had a long-standing contract with ITC, a cigarette and manufacturing company who have been supporting Indian cricket for several years. Similarly, Mumbai has a lucrative agreement with the Tata Group, although Speed said such problems had been overcome during past events.
"We had similar problems in 2002 [Champions Trophy] in Sri Lanka and the 2003 World Cup [in South Africa] as well. If we cannot resolve the issues, we look at a different venue. That is why last time in England [in 2004 Champions Trophy] there were no matches at Lord's. We had it at The Oval."
He, however, refused to speculate on whether the matches could be moved out of Mumbai and Delhi. Asked how the ICC had decided on the three venues, Kolkata being the third, Speed said: "we made a decision based on the recommendations of the previous [BCCI] administration. Obviously, new issues have cropped up."
Speed said the ICC was open to the option of using more than three venues "without increasing the production cost", but Pawar distanced himself from comments by IS Bindra, the BCCI's former president, that the event had become a burden on the host nation. "That is his personal view," said the BCCI chief. "Our whole approach has been to find a way as to how organise the event efficiently."
Ian Fiykverg, director of GCC, said his company was happy with the association with the ICC. "There have been issues. Obviously it would be fine if there was none, but life is life, we hope to sort it out."