IPL aim for November Champions League
The Twenty20 Champions' League is likely to be played in India in November.
The England and Wales Cricket Board, who have been asked to organise the tournament, have yet to work out the details but they are increasingly confident that the competition will take place with a top prize of £1m.
With burgeoning expectation among players that there will be dramatic changes to the domestic programme, the Champions' League could quickly become the competition to aim for. The prize money will dwarf anything before seen by non-international players. The County Championship, for instance, is worth only £100,000 to the winners after a long season of 16 four-day matches.
There had been fears that the advent of the Indian Premier League and its associated razzmatazz would kill off the Champions' League format for at least this season. Informed speculation suggested it would generate insufficient income or fan interest to be worth organising. But the ECB have become convinced that they can makeit work and that there will be enough interest (and cash) from television companies on four continents to make it work.
With England at the helm, it had been hinted that an eight-team tournament might take place here in August but there is no sufficient gap in the schedule and with Indian enthusiasm apparently reignited by IPL's perceived success, they are willing to host it in November.
It will be a tight fit because India's four-match Test series against Australia does not finish until 9 November with the one-day series of seven matches and two Tests against England starting within days.
An alternative (perhaps more fitting) venue might have been Dubai where the ICC have their headquarters but the new international arena being built there will not be finished.
Matters will have to move swiftly now and it will be highly embarrassing – again – for world cricket if the tournament does not go ahead. Last week, much was made in South Africa that the winners and runners-up of their T20 Cup, the Titans from Gauteng and Dolphins from Kwa-Zulu Natal, will go to the Champions' League.
The details have yet to be worked out and may be difficult. The format will be eight teams, the winners and runners-up of the IPL and domestic competitions in England, South Africa and Australia. It is unlikely to be a straight knockout because no team will wish to travel to India for one match.
Regulations over personnel may be far from straightforward with some players potentially representing two different qualifiers. David Hussey, for instance, played for Victoria and represents Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. The home board will have first call but it could make for some ridiculous contests.
It will lend still more urgency to the English T20, with growing anticipation that the tournament will be restructured in time for 2010. While the idea of city franchises seems unworkable and financially unsustainable – with the ECB chairman Giles Clarke making a trenchant, well-argued case against them last week – there will be change.
Within the game there is an obvious mood that now is the time to grasp the nettle and that a County Championship much reduced from 16 games is more possible than ever before.