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England receptive to Indian proposals

The England & Wales Cricket Board are emerging as key players in the gradual restructuring of cricket's world order

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller

Inderjit Singh Bindra: shaking up the game © Getty Images
The England & Wales Cricket Board are emerging as key players in the gradual restructuring of cricket's world order, after talks between David Morgan, the ECB chairman, and Inderjit Singh Bindra of the BCCI resulted in an agreement in principle for the two countries to play each other every alternate year.
As two of the biggest drawcards in the world game, it would be an itinerary that replicates the Ashes scenario of a home-and-away cycle over four years, and India are keen to increase the frequency of their clashes with Australia as well. The situation is being closely monitored by the ICC, who last week went out of their way to remind India of their commitment to the Future Tours Programme, which requires all countries to play one another over the course of a five-year cycle.
England, for their part, are keen to forge closer links with India, the new powerbrokers of the world game who are responsible for 60% of the game's global income. "We've had exploratory discussions and are very interested," a spokesman for the ECB told Cricinfo. "We believe [such a situation] would be mutually beneficial."
But equally, the ECB remain keen to stay on the right side of the ICC, who are in danger of being marginalised by India's increasingly confrontational attitude to the FTP. They have threatened to withdraw from future Champions Trophy tournaments, and are increasingly adverse to hosting unprofitable series against the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Last week Bindra told a press conference in Mumbai that Bangladesh would be afforded "meal allowance only" if they were ever to take part in a Test series in India. After five years of Test status, India is the only country they have yet to tour.
"All cricket boards have to honour their ICC commitments," Morgan emphasised to The Daily Telegraph, although with an ICC Board meeting looming next month, the prospect of a rejigging of the FTP is very much on the cards. "We're moving to a six-year cycle for our Future Tour Programme and, within that, countries can play each other more frequently," Ehsan Mani, the president of the ICC, told The Daily Telegraph. "The Indians don't have to re-invent the wheel."
Under the ICC ten-year plan, England had originally been pencilled in for a Test tour to Bangladesh in February next year - a short stop-over between the Ashes and the World Cup. But such is the fixture congestion of the modern-day tour, this was simply not a realistic option. "The first match of the World Cup begins on March 5, and our tour of Australia could finish as late as February 13," explained an ECB spokesman. "There's simply no time."
It is little wonder then, given the fixture overload that will require England's cricketers to be on international duty for more than 300 days in the coming 12 months, that the ECB are proving receptive to these new proposals. "We've always wanted to develop closer ties with India," Morgan concluded. "This was on our wish list that we gave to the ICC. They have a middle class which is as big as the entire population of the United States. Bindra was pushing at an open door."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo