Titans Welcome T20 Championship

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The chief executive officer of South African franchise Nashua Titans has welcomed the announcement of a proposed Twenty20 cricket Champions League, but warned too much of the game's shortest version could be dangerous.

Members of the England and Wales Cricket Board met last weekend with their international counterparts to discuss plans for the competition that could see two teams each from Australia, South Africa, England and India compete in the inaugural tournament for a prize of US 5 million.

Original proposals put the prize fund for the winners at US 2 million, but that figure has been more than doubled following the recent success of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Speaking to PA Sport, Titans chief executive officer Elise Lombard admitted the franchise would be thrilled to be part of such a competition.

"We're very pleased with the announcement," she said. "Twenty20 cricket is certainly here to stay as we saw with the recent IPL. We're especially pleased obviously because the Titans will be participating.

"I think the money is astounding. One doesn't quite know how things will pan out in the future and what the real impact will be because with the sort of money being so big, you must skew your whole business towards this whole Twenty20 business."

The Champions League could take place in either India or the Middle East after the conclusion of the Champions Trophy in Pakistan on September 28.

But Lombard warned organisers should be careful not to place too much emphasis on the 20-over form of the game.

She added: "We have to be very careful, and I know Standard Bank, the South Africa sponsor, has been very cautious not to just make it a double round which everybody was thinking because it really is the money spinner for cricket at the moment.

"You've really got to maintain that supply and demand situation so that it remains a property that's going to remain popular. Also cricketers I don't think can continue playing too much of it, as you can see the calendar just doesn't allow for it."

There are 15 matches scheduled to take place over 10 days under the proposed guidelines, with the Titans and Dolphins spearheading the South African challenge.

The other participating sides will be Shane Warne's IPL champions Rajasthan Royals and runners-up Chennai Super Kings, the top two English teams and Victoria and Western Australia.

With Titans all-rounder Albie Morkel one of Chennai's star performers at the IPL, Lombard acknowledged the South African franchise were on a collision course with the Indian outfit and the problem would have to be resolved by Cricket South Africa (CSA).

She said: "It is a bit of a tricky one and Cricket South Africa will have to issue a directive in this regard.

"Originally when the IPL was launched and it was explained to us, it was said that Albie (Morkel) for instance, playing for the Chennai Super Kings, we've got to decide now which team he plays for.

"We were quite firm at the time that we retain our three players for the conclusion of the domestic competition and we didn't release them for the start of the IPL.

"Look, I think it will be negotiated and we'll do hopefully what's best for cricket. In this situation, Cricket South Africa will need to take the lead."

Meanwhile, the manager of playing affairs for the Dolphins, Jay Naidoo, believes a proposed 10-day tournament rather than the six weeks the IPL lasted will work in organisers' favour.

He said: "Too much of something good in terms of the way the Indian Premier League went on for 45 days may not be ideal.

"But this new tournament is good in a sense that it's like an international competition where the top two teams from the four countries will compete. I'm certain that this will generate a greater interest worldwide."

However, with players like Johann Louw (Northamptonshire), HD Ackerman (Leicestershire) and Shaun Pollock (Durham) also turning out in England's Twenty20 competition as well as for the Dolphins, there could well be another club versus club row.

"We'll have to negotiate these things with the players and their various clubs," continued Naidoo.

"When I spoke to Johann Louw he said he'll definitely play for us. With someone like HD, we'll have to speak to him closer to the time.

"Then we also have Shaun Pollock, who is still part of the Dolphins set-up. We were happy that his IPL team the Mumbai Indians didn't qualify, but now he's going to play for Durham in the Twenty20 competition in England, so things can get a little complicated."
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