The Twenty20 craze shows no sign of abating. Indian television companies are clamouring to show the Champions League, – which, featuring club teams from five countries, will take place at yet to be decided venues from 3 to 10 December – and the extent of their commitment will be revealed this week when the result of the rights bids is announced.
"All the major players are already involved and there has been considerable interest," said Lalit Modi, the vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and driving force of the Champions League. "I confidently expect the winning bid to be far higher than that for the Indian Premier League.
"We didn't know how successful that was going to be, and in hindsight the fee for rights should have been larger."
The IPL rights went for $1.02 billion (£679m) to Sony TV and the World Sports Group. Rupert Murdoch's Star TV may be in the vanguard this time.
The figures are not quite as far into the stratosphere as Modi likes to imply. The minimum bid allowed in the tender document is $750m, but although the final figure will be substantially more than that, context is introduced by the fact that the England and Wales Cricket Board recently signed a deal of £300m – around $530m – for four years with Sky.
The Champions League deal also includes sponsorship, merchandising and title sponsorship rights. None of the money will be coming to the ECB because they are not founding members, having been out-manoeuvred by the boards of India, Australia and South Africa.
Middlesex will be England's sole representatives in the tournament, with two each from India, Australia and South Africa and one from Pakistan. From 2009 there will be 12 teams but still no cash for the ECB, who face further embarrassment. Sri Lanka, scheduled to visit England early next year to enable the ECB to fulfil their obligations to television after the Zimbabwetour was cancelled, are in dispute with senior players.
Many are miffed because they would prefer to play in the IPL, where they have contracts worth between $100,000 (£56,500) and $700,000 (£396,000), than venture to England for considerably less. If the players refuse to back down – and the Sri Lankan government has asked former captain Duleep Mendis to act as intermediary – then England could be hosting a B squad, thus further jeopardising Test cricket.Reuse content