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Champions League venues named


It had all the ingredients of a press conference, and more.

Besides the bustling sports scribes and clamour of photographers, there were also business journalists trying to have their share of the pie.

As one rightly put it, "Cricket is now the biggest business in India and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) the biggest conglomerate."

The occasion was the launch of the logo of what is so far the biggest product from the behemoth - the Champions League Twenty20, coming on the heels of the hugely successfully inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The evening palpably belonged to the chairman, Lalit Modi, and he began by thanking the media.

"I want to thank the media for the coverage of the IPL. It is because of the media and the fans that the IPL became such a huge success," he said, before going on to explain that the Champions League T20 will be bigger -- with a purse of $6 million (with the winner alone taking home $3 million).

The inaugural edition -- palpably modeled on the UEFA Champions League -- was scheduled to be held at Chandigarh, Delhi and Jaipur, but will now be held in a completely different set of venues.

"Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai will host the matches, with Mumbai hosting the final on December 10," said Modi.

But what prompted the change of venues?

"Weather was a crucial factor. The tournament is in December and it is usually very cold in North India at that time. Also, with most matches being played at night, the dew factor will also have to be taken into consideration," he explained. Now that Mumbai has been finalised to host the final, where will it be staged? "DY Patil is an option; so is CCI. We will take a decision on the venue soon," said Modi.

The inaugural edition will feature eight teams -- Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings, Western Australia Warriors, Victoria Bushrangers, Titans, Dolphins, Middlesex and the reigning T20 champions from Pakistan - and 15 matches. But in the second edition the number of teams will be increased to 12 and the number of matches to 23.

As regard the participation of players, they will be bound by their contractual obligations even though there's a provision for them to choose.

"I'll give the example of Morne Morkel. He belonged to Royals but played for Titans instead. So, he will play for the latter," explained Modi.

"Similarly, for players like Hayden it is a matter of choice. What we want to ensure though is that the competition is of the highest standard."

With the inaugural IPL being such a success, the winners Rajasthan Royals are intending to go public.

"Yes, the owners have expressed to me their desire to go public and it is great," said Modi. "I would encourage all other teams to follow suit."

Now that most questions pertaining to the Champions League T20 and the IPL had been answered, the topic veered towards the touring Australians.

There is a lot of criticism about the Aussies coming early and being provided top class facilities to train when India hardly has time for the same when it tours Down Under.

"It is not as if the Australians have a problem with us going early," explained Modi, trying to be defensive. "It is because of our packed commitments that we don't get the time to go there early.

"This year, thanks to the cancellation of the Champions Trophy, the Aussies had the spare time and they asked me about this possibility and I welcomed them. We're a fledgling academy and if one of the best teams comes to train with us, it is great thing for our young players."

The precision with which the chairman answered all questions, it seemed he had done his homework well. And even if some answers were not as convincing, at least he has to be given the credit for being able to come up with an answer.

As the noted commentator Harsha Bhogle, the emcee for the show, put it, "Meet the man who dons three hats, the chairman of the IPL, the chairman of the Champions League and the chairman of the Rajasthan Cricket Academy (RCA)."

Indeed, it would be an understatement to say that Mr Modi is successfully performing all the roles.

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