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Shorter games, long-running concerns for English cricket

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Mihir Bose | 19:03 UK time, Friday, 14 November 2008

It is tempting to see the meeting in India on Saturday between Giles Clarke, Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and Lalit Modi, the Indian Cricket Board Vice-President and the man who runs the Indian Premier League, as a summit that will determine who runs world cricket.

That would be over-blowing it. The fact is Indians and particularly Indian money run world cricket, and there is nothing anybody can do to alter it.

Clarke's ambition is to make sure the ECB gets on the Indian cricket gravy train - in the same way that Australia and South Africa have.

Giles Clarke in 2004

Having rebuffed the Indians in the summer, hoping Arab financiers would come in, he and the English board are under no illusion of the need to do a deal with the Indians.

Earlier this year when the IPL began, the hierarchy of the ECB was quite confident that it would not work. Indeed, I am told ECB board meetings heard presentations from ECB chief executive David Collier to that effect.

IPL has worked and is here to stay. The only question for Saturday is what sort of deal Clarke can get out of Modi.

I am told Clarke would like a share of the Champions League. Its inaugural tournament is due to be held in India next month.

As I have already reported, Clarke was offered a share by the Indians but rejected it in the summer, thinking he could outsmart the Indians with Arab money.

That failed and the Stanford experiment has hardly been a success, leaving England stranded while the Twenty20 train, driven by the Indians, is pulling away. The mission now is to get on board before it leaves the station.

Modi, in turn, would quite like to have Clarke inside his big tent rather than outside.

But, while Clarke may come back with a Modi deal, there are local difficulties he has to contend with here in England.

One of the most crucial is the role the MCC will have in the ECB. Will they want to be represented on the ECB Board as they are now?

I am told this matter is being discussed by the MCC committee.

MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw is ready to quit as a director of the ECB as the two roles are understood to create a conflict of interest for him.

As director of the ECB, he cannot voice his opinion as to how cricket is run and this has an impact on his principal role of running the MCC.

When elements of this story first appeared earlier this week, both the MCC and ECB declared how well they got on. It is known that Bradshaw is battling cancer and will have some time off for treatment.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Bradshaw and Clarke have often clashed at ECB Board meetings. They did so over the new television deal the ECB negotiated in the summer.

Sir Allen Stanford and the Stanford Superstars

The differences centered on how the various television packages were marketed and whether terrestrial outlets were given much of a choice.

But, in many ways, their principal differences have been over Twenty20 cricket and the Indian plans.

In the summer Modi had done a deal with Lord's and the Oval to hold the first IPL Champions League in this country this September. But this did not meet with ECB approval as Clarke was then working on his own plans.

Then there was the idea Bradshaw and David Stewart of Surrey had for an English Twenty20 tournament modelled on the IPL, with city franchises instead of counties.

The paper circulated to the ECB board was leaked. Clarke was not at all happy that, as an ECB director, Bradshaw was involved in this proposal.

The paper was quashed and the plans for city franchises abandoned.

Bradshaw, who had financers including Americans and Indians lined up, was not amused.
An ECB working party is looking at an English version of the IPL scheduled for 2010. But there is no word of how their plans are working.

There is doubt that a Twenty20 tournament involving all the counties would work. I am told there is a strong possibility a Stanford XI may be part of any such tournament.

Stanford provides another problem area for Clarke. The Stanford series comes to Lord's next summer. Besides England and the Stanford Superstars, it will involve Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

The three days of matches at Lord's will see the Stanford Superstars play one of the two visiting countries, England will play the other, with the winners meeting in the third and final match to decide which of their players win a million dollars each.

After his return from Antigua, Clarke assured the MCC that the matches at Lord's would avoid the embarrassing incidents seen in Antigua and the MCC would have total control.

But, for the Lord's edition of this bonanza, will it be called an England XI?

In Antigua, taken aback by the furore caused by the goings on, Clarke did suggest there might be a name change. However, some in Lord's are not comfortable with that.

If a new entity is created, how will it work? How will it help Lord's market a team which is not called England? And will it mean that in time Twenty20 will become detached from the England team?

Earlier this week Clarke had a meeting with the MCC committee. Clearly there is a lot of talking to do.

The power structure of world cricket has changed and Twenty20 could also change the way English cricket works. Twenty20 cricket and the gale that it has blown through the game in the last year is not yet spent.

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