Weather could wreck England IPL bid
England last night went from frontrunners to outsiders to host the Indian Premier League after South Africa emerged as the new favourites to stage the money-spinning Twenty20 competition.
On a typically confused day in the weird and wonderful world of international cricket, reports initially suggested England would be chosen to host the event after it was moved from India due to security concerns.
But IPL chairman Lalit Modi last night admitted the weather could dampen England's prospects of staging a tournament that takes place from April 10-May 24 – not usually a time of year to be venturing to the likes of Headingley Carnegie without an umbrella, a cagoule and a hip flask.
"We need to take the weather pattern into consideration," admitted Modi, who is meeting South African officials before flying to England for talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board.
"England has easy connectivity, with a number of flights operating from India, and the country is also well prepared because it will be hosting the Twenty20 World Cup and the County Championship is about to start.
"But weather could be a problem, and there could be a problem finding hotel rooms for some days because of the London Marathon. There's also the Test series between West Indies and England to take into account.
"We will have to evaluate clearly and carefully before coming to a decision about the venue."
The ECB still hope to convince Modi they have the capacity to host the event, with chief executive David Collier having yesterday cut short his trip to the Caribbean to watch England's one-day series against the West Indies in readiness for talks with Modi in London tomorrow.
"We have opened up discussions with the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and the IPL within the last 36 hours and we'll be continuing those discussions in the middle of this week," said Collier. "We'll then be reporting back to our board at the back end of the week.
"Clearly, with only three weeks to go to the start of the competition, I think all parties recognise an early decision has to be made."
Yorkshire and a number of first-class counties have expressed serious concerns about the wisdom of cramming the IPL into an already chock-a-block domestic calendar.
Yorkshire's chief executive Stewart Regan told the Yorkshire Post earlier this week it would be logistically problematic to stage matches at Headingley, where work is ongoing to construct a new £21m pavilion and to relay the outfield.
But the ECB have already started making detailed scheduling plans and are confident of staging IPL games without any disruption to county, Test or one-day fixtures.
They have also been in discussions with Sky television about the prospect of staging an IPL event that may clash with Sky's coverage of the forthcoming West Indies tour.
Setanta Sports have the rights to IPL, but it is understood Sky would be willing to compromise owing to the special circumstances.
In a further twist to the saga, Manoj Badale, co-owner of inaugural IPL champions Rajasthan Royals, last night insisted he thought India could still host the tournament after all.
That was deemed impossible on Sunday when the Indian government said they could not guarantee sufficient security due to the forthcoming general election. Security fears are currently top of world cricket's agenda following the recent terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan.
"I'm still hoping a rapprochement is achieved and we see the tournament back in India," said Badale.
"I'm amazed the Indian government is prepared to walk away from such a large event at a time when it is election season, and £100m is a lot of money for any economy."
Badale agreed that moving the tournament to England would be a risk due to the weather.
"April is the start of the cricket season – it's cold and it's not a prime-time cricket-watching part of the season," he said.
"Children are still at school, people aren't yet on holiday and people haven't really tuned into the cricket mentality."
International Cricket Council president David Morgan also cast doubt on England's credentials.
"It's the beginning of the season in England and Wales and there is a lot of Twenty20 cricket being played – including the ICC World Twenty20," he said.
"I do think there would be great difficulties in relocating to England."