Sixes Turned into Bouncers

The recent Mumbai terror attacks have had many repercussions, ranging from loss of life and property, to becoming a laughing stock in the snooty West. The terror attacks have also unleashed a wave of fear in the Cricket world. First it was England’s team, threatening to cancel its tour to India and then came the blow. The much awaited inaugural six million dollar Twenty20 Champions League was called off. The league has been postponed to October 2009.

The tournament which was conceived by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and Cricket South Africa (CSA), was scheduled to take place in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai earlier this month. The participating teams were the Titans and Dolphins from South Africa, Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings from India, Victoria Bushrangers and Western Warriors from Australia, and Sialkot Stallions from Pakistan.

The Champions League Tournament, which was to initially take place from December 3-10, 2008, has been facing obstacles since its conception. First, there were disagreements between the three founder members of the tournament- the cricket boards of India, England and Australia, over tournament’s revenue sharing agreement, and then over the participation of players who had allegiances with the rebel Indian Cricket League.

The postponement of the lucrative Twenty20 Champions League has added to the concerns of a financial slowdown in the heart of cricket. Adding to the woes is the pulling out of advertisements and sponsorships, which has resulted in heavy economic losses. Advertisements and sponsorship revenues stand close to a loss of about 200-250 crores.

ESPN Star Sports (ESS), the broadcaster of the tournament, was banking heavily upon the league. It had kicked off Rs.50 crore marketing exercise. Since the championship has not been cancelled but only postponed, ESS has not suffered any monetary losses as such, but its annual revenue targets have gone for a toss. They had targeted nearly Rs.200 crore from air revenues and ground rights.

West Australian Cricket could have also lost as much as $2 million, due to the postponement of the League. Moreover, West Australia and Victoria also stand to lose their chance to play in the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 tournament. They are being told by the Cricket Australia to requalify for the tournament. The postponement of the tournament has also disappointed England’s qualifiers for the event, Middlesex. Shaun Udal, the Middlesex captain, quoted that the decision had come as a “bolt from the blue.” It is a big blow to the qualifiers for this year’s tournament as they will have to do so again, to be a part of the next year’s event. Organizing of the event next year will prove to be a cumbersome task again, as the players featuring in the event will have to reschedule their domestic and international calendars.

The postponement of the tournament, due to fears of regional security concerns, has raised eyebrows among the cricket officials. This blow came with less than three years remaining until the 2011 World Cup, which is to be staged in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. While India is already facing security concerns after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan is not far behind.

The political relationship between the two countries has become sour again, as an aftermath of the attacks and the bilateral tour of India to Pakistan in January has been scrapped. Questions are being raised if the World Cup will also be shifted. But, in India, where cricket is just not a sport, but a religion, and all the sponsorships that comes into international cricket comes through India, the grey clouds over shadowing the game are expected to be soon cleared.

Whether it is the terror attacks, or security issues, financial losses or postponement of a much sought after tournament, India has a frenzied cricket base and is the hub of the global cricket. Recently, in the first test match against England, Sachin Tendulkar dedicated his ton to all those people who had gone through terrible times in the attacks. The crowded stadium cheered at India’s victory. Such is the spirit of this country, where cricket fans have a never-say-die enthusiasm. In a cricket crazy nation where nobody has disturbed cricket ever, this temporary setback is also expected to soon revert back.

Shikha Tandon

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