Champions League April 19, 2008

Inaugural Champions League set for October


Ricky Ponting: Kolkata Knight Riders or Tasmanian Tigers? © Getty Images
 

Following the spectacular start to the Indian Premier League, its organisers have chalked out plans for an inaugural Champions League featuring top domestic Twenty20 sides from several countries.

Cricinfo has learnt England have been offered the chance to host the tournament, which is likely to be held between the ICC Champions Trophy - which ends on September 28 - and the first Test between India and Australia, starting October 9. However, that is not traditional cricket season in England and given the weather at that time - the end of summer, with shorter days and falling temperatures - a prominent cricket centre in North India will be the back-up venue. That will also help in terms of travel, as the ICC Champions Trophy final will be in Lahore, a short hop away.

Details of the Champions League have been informally firmed up over the last few weeks during discussions between top BCCI officials and those from Cricket Australia, Cricket South Africa, Pakistan Cricket Board and crucially, the England and Wales Cricket Board, a senior official who is close to the negotiations, said.

Considering the time constraints and the urgency to get the event off the ground this year itself, the officials were apparently keen that the event be wrapped up in nine days with eight matches and a final, ideally, at Lord's.

"There have been a lot of ideas and lots of discussions surrounding the Champions League," Keith Bradshaw, the MCC chief executive, told PA Sport. "MCC has had an input into those talks. From a MCC point of view we are very keen to host the big matches at Lord's, and would always want to be considered for these kind of games."

The common line that has emerged from the elaborate talks is that the Champions League, to start with, could be a short, single-leg league involving the top two domestic Twenty20 teams from the five countries.

Lalit Modi, who presided over the opening day of the domestic Indian Premier League (IPL) in Bangalore on Friday as its chairman and commissioner, is expected to "get cracking" on the Champions League very soon.

"Informally, a lot of discussions and decisions have happened on the Champions League," an official said. "Everyone wants to be on board and the level of interest has been very high. There was a joint call on how many countries need to participate, the window that is available at that point of time and so on."

However, officials are aware of the potential complications on the way, especially involving Indian teams whose overseas players may have appeared for their home sides in the domestic Twenty20 tournaments. For example, Kolkata Knight Riders, who won the inaugural match, have Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, and Chris Gayle of West Indies.

"Cricket Australia is one of the keenest supporters of the Champions League," the official said, "and could make a few adjustments if their players need to be released for the event."

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore

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