Cricket entered a new paradigm on Thursday with the launch of an international Twenty20 competition that will feature teams and players from across the world. Called the Champions Twenty20 League, it will be run by the cricket boards of India, England, Australia and South Africa.
The inaugural tournament, announced at a high-powered function hosted by the Indian board in New Delhi, is scheduled to start in October 2008 and is planned over nine days with $5 million in prize money, including $2 million for the winners. It will feature the top two teams each from existing domestic Twenty20 competitions in England, Australia and South Africa, and from a new league planned in India.
Though no players were named as participants, several big names were present at the ceremony - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Glenn McGrath and Stephen Fleming.
That the tournament has official sanction, as opposed to the Indian Cricket League, was borne out by the presence on the dais - at a time when the ICC World Twenty20 is hitting its stride in South Africa - of some of cricket's most powerful men: ICC president Ray Mali, Indian board president Sharad Pawar, the Cricket South Africa CEO Gerald Majola, and Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland. The ECB was represented by its deputy chief executive, Hugh Morris.
Sutherland said the new league would boost interstate cricket in Australia, apart from giving the two state KFC Twenty20 finalists the chance to compete for the overall prize. "It gives our best interstate cricketers, and their equivalents in other competitions, a chance to pit their skills against champions from other countries and to equip a new generation of players with the skills needed to deal with the pressures of international cricket," Sutherland said.
The league has one revolutionary aspect, a system of franchises, which will apply first to India before being extended to other countries. The franchise market model announced by Lalit Modi, the Indian board vice-president who has been leading the work on this project, is similar to the American NFL, NBA and MLB. Each franchise will pay a fee to the BCCI, which will give it access to shared revenues and the right to exploit exclusive revenue.
"These franchisees will get marketing rights and also a share in the centralised revenue, which is yet to be decided," Modi said. "They will also be entitled to local revenue like ticket sales."
There will also be a draft, similar to the one used in the US, which will allow the buying and selling of players.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo