Major domestic tournaments to be telecast live
In a press conference at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, the BCCI, in association with Nimbus Communications Limited, announced that up to 70 days of live cricket will be shown on television, starting with the Challenger Series in Chennai on October 1. Other coverage includes the Irani Trophy, finals of the Duleep Trophy, select matches of the Elite division of the Ranji Trophy and the one-day knockout tournament, and all matches of the Deodhar Trophy.
Lalit Modi, the BCCI's vice-president, said that the initiatives will revolutionise the way cricket is followed in India, allowing fans to track the performances of fringe players. "It has been our long-awaited dream to bring domestic cricket to the fans," he said. "For the first time in India, we will have up to 70 days of live cricket in India. We intend to make domestic cricket events on par with other successful domestic brands in the world. We are on the brink of a revolution."
The Challenger Series, like last year's edition, will be telecast live in the UK through Sky Sports, Fox Sports in Australia, Super Sport in Africa, Astro in Malaysia and on the internet through Willow TV.
Most of the domestic schedules have been reconfigured - more than 80% of the one-day matches will be day/night fixtures to ensure greater participation of star players - while the main tournaments have been renamed.
The Challenger trophy has been renamed Challenger Series for the NKP Salve Trophy. The Elite division of the Ranji Trophy - the premier domestic tournament - will be known as Super League for the Ranji Trophy, while the Plate Division will be known as the Plate League. The Ranji Trophy one-day tournament - the inter-state knockout tournament - will be known as the Premier Cup, while the inter-zonal one-day Deodhar Trophy will be known as the All Star Series for the Deodhar Trophy. However, the plans for the proposed Twenty20 tournament next year will be discussed by the board later.
The marketing of the Challenger trophy held at Mohali in 2005 had set a precedent, and Harish Thawani, the chairman of Nimbus, highlighted its success, with viewer ratings high enough to rival international games and leading entertainment shows. IS Bindra, marketing committee member of the BCCI and the driving force behind the tournament, felt that it is imperative that domestic cricket in India gets the attention it deserves, similar to the massive spectator turn-outs in England.
"One of the failings of the board on previous occasions was that domestic cricket was not marketed at all," said Bindra. "We hope to make a fresh start this time. I see no reason why we can't replicate it the same way it happens in England, where tickets for competition finals are sold well in advance. With television exposure we should see more emerging stars."
Thawani concurred with Bindra, but cautioned against over-expectations. "We cannot expect overnight success," he said. "We will be a full season away from measuring the impact." Nimbus, which paid $612 million to secure the telecast rights of cricket in India till 2010, will begin its coverage with the launch of its new sports channel Neo Sports.
On the issue of foreign players participating in domestic cricket, Modi stated that a formal approval from the BCCI is awaited when the Working Committee meets. Jermaine Lawson, the West Indies fast bowler, has reportedly agreed to play for Maharashtra this season.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is editorial assistant of Cricinfo