Dean Kino October 23, 2009

'The Champions League will strengthen domestic and international cricket'

One of the main men behind the tournament talks about why it is not going to inspire players to go freelance, as has been claimed

Dean Kino, a 38-year-old lawyer, is general manager of legal and business affairs for Cricket Australia. But what not many know is that he is also one of the main drivers of the Champions League - as one of the main back-room organisers, a key member of the core management, director of business and legal affairs, and Governing Council member.

From the organisers' point of view, how has the tournament been?
The tournament's gone wonderfully well to date. From a pure cricket perspective, the standard of cricket and the standard of matches has been superb. But most pleasingly, the contributions that we most wanted Champions League Twenty20 to make to cricket have occurred.

For example, the impact it has had in the Caribbean has been spectacular. It has given West Indians the chance to see the true strength of West Indian cricket once again. I think what this is going to achieve is to inspire the next generation of cricketers in the West Indies with new and greater opportunities, and certainly more opportunities than those offered by one national team across numerous countries.

And those opportunities are numerous; apart from the obvious financial ones, this competition has given players opportunities to showcase their talent and capacity for international cricket, as well as opportunities to play for other domestic teams when their schedules allow, whether that occurs in India, Australia, South Africa or elsewhere.

There are already a number of players who have performed well during the Champions League who have been approached to play in the coming months in various domestic competitions, and for many players, this competition has been their first opportunity to play with and against the best cricketers around the world. That will improve their cricket and help them become more accomplished cricketers, and it would be surprising if a large number of domestic players participating in this competition without previous international experience weren't selected for their international teams in the near future.

What has also been pleasing is the competitiveness of all teams. There was a lot of confidence expressed about IPL teams being favourites, but as you can see the tournament has shown that there is a great deal of strength among all domestic teams throughout the world. The performances of Cape Cobras, Victoria and New South Wales have been a terrific example of just how strong domestic cricket is around the world, and just how overdue it has been to stage this type of event.

Are you happy with the crowd turnout for the tournament because it has been obvious that the numbers have not been able to match those of the two IPLs, even the one held in South Africa?
The crowds have been more than acceptable, particularly for IPL-team matches, certain non-IPL team matches, and all matches at the later stages of the tournament. For instance, the local support at Hyderabad for the Trinidad and Tobago team has been extremely pleasing. But yes, if we know anything about Indian crowds, it's their preference for watching Indian teams and internationally acclaimed Indian cricketers. So we knew from the start that crowds for non-Indian domestic teams or those without Indian international players were going to be down, particularly given the inevitable unfamiliarity of Indian crowds with new teams, new players and a new competition. But the crowds we have got have more or less exceeded our expectations.

"I suspect you will see changes in many domestic competitions in the coming years to bolster performances with a view of qualifying for the Champions League"

Again, this is the first year of a new competition and we are hopeful that in future years the Indian crowds, whenever the tournament is played in India, will become used to the competition and will develop allegiances to teams and start supporting them in much larger numbers. If we are to stage the event in India, I think it's important that we get more support from Indian crowds for non-Indian matches.

So are there any ideas or suggestions being worked on regarding increasing the Indian presence in the Champions League?
There are no solid plans right now for any wholesale changes to the structure of the tournament, but we are continually looking at ways to promote the event to increase response levels in India. But in terms of increased participation of Indian players, that's up to each individual national board and each individual participating team, as to the limits, if any, on recruitment of overseas players and which players those teams want to recruit for their competitions.

I would imagine that a lot of countries may follow in the footsteps of what Cricket Australia has done for the KFC Big Bash [Australia's domestic competition, which is the qualifier for the Champions League]. Cricket Australia has increased the number of overseas players per team from one to two, so you will find teams recruiting more international players, such as Dwayne Bravo, who has been recruited by the Victoria Bushrangers. Now whether the recruits are mostly Indian players or non-Indian players is a matter for individual teams, but I suspect you will see changes in many domestic competitions in the coming years to bolster performances with a view of qualifying for the Champions League. That really is a matter for each individual board.

There are fears in international cricket that the Champions League will encourage players to go freelance. You could see players opting to play for Twenty20 domestic leagues around the world to enhance their chances of playing in the Champions League. What is your opinion?
I think the concerns are misguided. On the contrary, the tournament will breed cricketers who are encouraged to remain in their national system and progress through that system. The Champions League will incentivise cricketers to play domestic cricket. It will give them a chance to shine at both the domestic and international level. It will provide them with great opportunities without necessitating them leaving their domestic club. I also don't think it is going to take cricketers away from international cricket; on the contrary, it will incentivise them to stay in the system because they now have additional revenue opportunities by doing so.

Also, bear in mind that there is a limit on the number of overseas players who can play in each team - a Champions League team can't play more than four foreign players in the XI. This certainly limits the playing opportunities for freelancers, as does the transfer fee payable to home teams in the event of players qualifying for multiple teams. For instance, if you look at this year's competition, there were approximately eight players who could have played for an IPL team after qualifying for their home team, but only one of them went across [Dirk Nannes opted for Delhi Daredevils instead of the Victoria Bushrangers, his home team]. So what this is saying to the world is, "Yes, there is an opportunity to play for multiple domestic teams but at the end of the day your best chance of playing in the Champions League is to play for your domestic team because there are no restrictions on playing for your domestic team." So my view is the Champions League will not create freelance cricketers, and if anything, it's going to strengthen domestic and international cricket.

How have the TV ratings been? Do you have the numbers?
I don't have the figures, but based on the feedback we are getting from the various official broadcasters, the local ratings for the preliminary matches - those involving Royal Challengers in Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils in Delhi and Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad - were excellent. The ratings for Indian matches across have been generally good, though the ratings in India for non-Indian matches have been a tad disappointing. But the ratings for non-Indian matches in countries whose teams are involved have been excellent. For example, in the West Indies, ratings have been excellent. The feedback I got from Trinidad and Tobago is that from 5am [their time], when they played their last game, people throughout the Caribbean were watching the game and then celebrating the great victory, so that gives you an idea of what the ratings are going to be like over there.

It has not been made very clear to the outside viewer what exactly the governing structure for the league is. It is known that BCCI, Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa are the founding partners, but who owns how much?
The founding members of the tournament are the BCCI, Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa and, as you know, its Governing Council is constituted on a 3:2:1 basis [Lalit Modi, Niranjan Shah and N Srinivasan from India, James Sutherland and Kino from Australia, and Gerald Majola from South Africa].

How are the three boards sharing the revenue from the tournament? What is the model?
That is a matter purely for internal consumption.

What are the lessons that you have learnt from the first tournament? What can you do better next time?
Well, we haven't got to a stage where we are having a review meeting yet. That will likely occur in early December. That is also when we are going to look at which is the most appropriate country to host the event next year, what are the best ways of promoting the tournament, and so on. But we are constantly reviewing the tournament operations.

For example, we are of the view that for this year event promotion started too late, and that's one area where we are probably going to review and look at a more appropriate timeline. We also need to review venues and locations and the logistical issues faced at each of this year's venues.

As far as structure is concerned, we are happy right now with the number of teams and the location of the teams. Basically, we are very pleased with everything related to the cricket, the players, the teams and the rules, though we will continually assess potential changes.

Where will the tournament be held next year?
The Governing Council will decide on that late this year or early next year, but it's fair to say that there is always one factor that we need to take into account when evaluating prospective host countries, and that is time zones. Ideally, it should be held in a location where it can be broadcast into prime-time Indian television, which is the most valuable market from a broadcast and sponsor perspective. That brings into the picture countries such as South Africa, England and the UAE. Obviously, the Indian ratings are very important for the competition. Again, it might be played in India as well. We are going to look at various options with that constraint in mind.

Ajay Shankar is a deputy editor at Cricinfo

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