Cricket: Clarke seeks to rein in Indian influence as ICC meets

ECB chairman Giles Clarke is to fight for the pre-eminence of Test cricket which risks being marginalised by the IPL

England will press the International Cricket Council to prove today that it retains credibility as the game's governing body by curbing the excesses of the Indian Premier League and imposing the official policy that Test cricket remains of paramount importance.

It has not been a good month for naked capitalism but it continues unchecked as far as Indian cricket is concerned, as the IPL increasingly enforces divisive deals that could have huge repercussions for the game.

Giles Clarke, the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, is expected to use the ICC board meeting in Dubai to condemn Indian behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings which have left England's officially sanctioned Test series against Sri Lanka next May on the point of collapse and could force the total abandonment of May international cricket in England.

The feeling in England is that if the ICC does not regain control of the game by enforcing an international calendar to suit all then, rather than make an impending move into luxurious new offices in Dubai's sports city, it might as well just turn out the lights.

The ambition of Lalit Modi, the chairman of the IPL, has been underlined by confidential negotiations with Sri Lanka's sports ministry which, if confirmed, would virtually give the IPL a controlling stake in Sri Lanka cricket affairs. Discussions have centred upon a $70m (£40m) guarantee to Sri Lanka Cricket over the next 10 years if they offer unconditional support for India's Twenty20 plans for the next decade - whatever they may be.

That would make inevitable the growing likelihood that Sri Lanka's tour of England will be scrapped - even though Sri Lanka have signed a tour agreement and the ECB has received no official admission from Sri Lanka Cricket that the tour is off. Compensation is the least that the ECB would expect, but that does not address the issue of who runs the international game.

England - for reasons not just of their own financial health, but the future integrity of the game - have refused to bow to India's every unpredictable whim, seemingly unlike Australia who have abandoned their oft-stated suspicion of Twenty20 and are now waving begging bowls with much enthusiasm. For the ECB it is a principled but lonely position.

That leaves David Morgan, the ICC president and a former ECB chairman, facing the most daunting test of his administrative career today. For once, he has abandoned his emollient tone and condemned the IPL's proposed deal with Sri Lanka Cricket as "quite unacceptable behaviour against the background of Sri Lanka's signed agreement with the ECB."

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, has insisted upon "Test cricket's primacy". To date, however, both have been unable to exert control.

One problem for the ECB is that it is not only the 13 Sri Lankan players who want to play IPL. Privately, several England players will be hoping that next summer's Sri Lanka tour collapses. Modi's aggressive scheduling of the IPL to clash with England's May Test series has also prevented sought-after England cricketers such as the captain, Kevin Pietersen, from maximising their IPL earnings.

Although some England players expect to play in the IPL next spring, they will be allowed a fortnight at best in a competition that runs from April 10 to May 25. Tests against Sri Lanka are theoretically scheduled for May 7-11 at Lord's and May 15-19 at Chester-le-Street, followed by a three-match ODI series from May 24-30.

Such is the financial glut in Indian cricket that there are no signs so far that the global crisis is about to affect them. The deal being discussed with Sri Lanka could soon be offered to Pakistan. The likely outcome therefore is that the ICC's Future Tours programme will be designed around whatever extravaganzas that India wants. If they are denied an official window in the international calendar they will just build a house of their own.

Indian talk of ICC irrelevance is often followed by assertions that English cricket no longer matters. The way to change that perception is for England to soundly beat India this autumn and create a few superstars in the process. Never has success been more sorely needed.

• This article was amended on Tuesday October 14 2008. Homophone corner: 'Clarke seeks to reign in Indian influence as ICC meets'. That should have been 'rein'. This has been changed.


David Hopps

The GuardianTramp

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