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Global plan for domestic cricket

LOCAL cricketers could find themselves playing for privately owned teams in an international Twenty20 competition, if a revolutionary proposal is accepted by Cricket Australia.

With the Test and one-day international teams facing a full schedule, Cricket Australia is exploring options to develop and exploit the popular Twenty20 format at state level.

Under a proposal from the IMG sports management group, sides would play a domestic competition before the top teams would move on to an international play-off in a similar structure to the European Champions League soccer tournament.

India, England, South Africa and Australia are said to be considering the idea. However, a Cricket Australia spokesman said the organisation was “not in a position to talk about anything at the moment”.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland is believed to have had initial discussions with BCCI (the Indian board) vice-president Lalit Modi, who is due here next week to examine training facilities.

“I can’t confirm or deny it,” Modi said. “It’s too early. We’ve been working on something for two years but we can’t say what. It’s too premature for me to talk.”

IMG is said to favour privately owned teams with salary caps and player trading as part of a concept that has the working title Professionals Cricket League.

Cricket Australia sources suggested the organisation wanted the states to be involved and did not favour the profits from cricket leaving the game.

Modi proposed a similar concept a decade ago for the ESPN broadcast group but was rejected by the Indian cricket board.

The BCCI has been shaken by the initial success of the rebel Indian Cricket League, which is based on a similar idea and has attracted a number of international players. The ICL will start this year and is being run by Zee television, which missed out on the rights to India’s Test and one-day international matches.

Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf are among the players who have signed up for the ICL tournament.

Australia is leaving for the first ICC Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa next week, but world cricket has been slow to adapt to the abbreviated form of the game.

In England, Twenty20 has worked well at county level where it has attracted youthful crowds, injecting much-needed funds into the grass roots of the game.

Cricket Australia tried a similar approach at state level last summer. The Indian cricket board has long held out against the notion of Twenty20, worried that the short-form game, which attracts less advertising dollars because of its length, could eat into the lucrative 50-over market.

With the cashed up ICL stalking the world’s best cricketers and gaining access to major grounds, including Calcutta’s Eden Gardens, the BCCI has been stung into action.

Cricket Australia has been approached by a number of people with ideas about promoting the Twenty20 concept in past years, but the IMG proposal is believed to have gained more attention than most.

Texan billionaire Allen Stanford bankrolls a $40million domestic competition in the West Indies and has been in talks with other cricket boards and the International Cricket Council about extending the Stanford League.

The latest proposal has not been discussed with the ICC as it falls under the domain of the local cricket boards, and it is believed IMG will make a presentation to these boards in Singapore next week.

West Australian coach Tom Moody is one of many in world cricket who has consistently argued that there is too much cricket being played for the good of the players.

Moody argued in The Weekend Australian recently that in future, countries would have to look at having separate teams for the three major forms of the game.

While the Test and one-day sides seem closely bound, a move to establish a domestic Twenty20 competition would mean the international players would not have to play more cricket.

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