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January 3, 2006
Reports in the London-based Observer newspaper claim they have already had meetings with Cricket Australia (CA). This has been denied by CA but the reality is that this is a situation the ICC can't take lightly given the influence that India wields in the international game. The FTP, which outlines the playing commitments for each country over the next five years, has been heavily criticised for creating too many one-sided matches against the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
However, in a statement to Cricinfo the ICC said they are working to develop a FTP that suits the needs of all Test countries. "This is a speculative story. There are a number of discussions with all countries at present regarding the future structure of the FTP program.
"All countries, including India and Australia, have been provided with a number of options on the FTP and the ICC Executive Board instructed ICC management to continue to develop a six year program as an alternative to the current 5 year program and the six year program has been the focus of these discussions.
"In addition to any FTP committments, countries have the capacity to arrange bi-lateral tours between themselves where they identify an opportunity in the calendar. ICC will continue to work with all Boards in seeking to develop the six year FTP that all members wish to see implemented."
But India are believed to be keen on playing Australia on a more frequent basis following the huge success of their recent clashes since 2001. England are also another target with their large travelling support and big-name players. Meanwhile, Bangladesh, who played their inaugural Test against India in Dhaka and gained huge backing from them in their search for Test status, are still awaiting their first tour to India after continued postponements.
Estimates say that Indian cricket brings in $90m a year and they have recently signed a series of high-profile, big-money deals on the subcontinent. Air Sahara are now sponsoring the team to the tune of $70m over four years and the India kit deal with Nike brings in $43 million, more than even the Brazilian football team.
James Sutherland, the chief executive of CA, denied there was a split but added: "It is a well documented fact that more than half of international cricket's revenue has its source out of India."
The new governing regime that has taken over in India are keen to extract every last dollar out of the earning potential of the side. A leading voice behind this is the new vice-president of the BCCI, Lalit Modi. He told the Observer: "We have already had bilateral meetings with Australia and will be making an announcement shortly. There is no threat to the ICC Trophy here next year. We are just fine-tuning the calendar and there will be an equal number of games for India and the other main countries. There will be reciprocity between all of them.
"We are meeting England on the ninth [of January], ahead of the ICC executive board meeting on the eleventh. We have had a positive response from member countries we have spoken to. This is not a challenge to the ICC. This is just a fine-tuning."
Modi has also said that the Observer story does not give the whole picture but despite that reassurance the game can ill-afford a split involving the major countries when it relies on the income generated from India, Australia and England.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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