ECB to hold crisis Twenty20 talks
The England and Wales Cricket Board is to hold emergency meetings with television representatives and sponsors to try to resolve its dilemma about the future of Twenty20 cricket in England.
Shaken by the advance of Indian Twenty20 cricket, both in the officially approved Indian Premier League and its unauthorised rival, the Indian Cricket League, it will ask Sky TV to outline its dream format before launching a rival English version next summer.
An ECB board meeting at Lord's yesterday rejected much-criticised proposals from the Domestic Structure Review Group, chaired by the Gloucestershire chairman, Paul Russell. The committee had proposed two separate competitions - the first, an early-season competition also involving the minor counties, universities, Ireland and Scotland; the second, the English Premier League, which would consist of 21 teams in three groups, specifically the 18 counties plus teams from India, Australia and South Africa.
An ECB spokesman said last night: "The board was very grateful to receive the report and has asked the committee to hold further discussions with TV and sponsors and report back to the next board meeting in six weeks' time."
Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, was piqued by the suggestion at Lord's on Monday that England might have invented Twenty20 but after five years had shown little ability in developing it. "Nonsense," he said. Nevertheless the ECB still has no clear idea of the best way forward.
One argument that could split the ECB will be whether a bolder, more innovative Twenty20 competition should involve the creation of city teams, on the grounds that they would be more identifiable to the public, or whether that would merely add to a hotch-potch fixture list and cause the certain decline of county cricket.
Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, has warned that the ECB must create a strong domestic Twenty20 tournament if it wishes to dissuade top England players from chasing the rewards on offer in the IPL. But to enable England players to take part is a challenging task in a crowded international summer.
The ECB will confirm today whether it will continue to block the county registrations of eight overseas cricketers who have played in the ICL. Jason Gillespie is the one player expected to get the go-ahead, to join Glamorgan.