ACB~~s winter plans hinge on India

Published: Monday, May 14, 2001, 19:15 [IST]
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Sydney: While Indian plans to participate in a One-day International series in Australia are yet to be confirmed, such a series would be another move toward the hosting of cricket in Australia in the winter months.

The Australian Cricket Board (ACB) has still not revealed its programme for the winter. "We are waiting to hear from the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and till we get some definite answer from them we cannot announce anything," Brian Murgatroyd, ACB's media relations officer, told IANS.

While the Australians had organised a three-match Limited Overs series against South Africa in August last year in the newly constructed indoor Colonial Stadium in Melbourne, a possible series with India would involve holding an international cricket match at Brisbane in the winter months for the first time.

The hint about a match at Brisbane was dropped by none other than BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele while characteristically denying his own uttering that India had agreed to participate in the One-day series in Australia in September. Till now it was being believed that all three matches would be played in Melbourne's indoor stadium, which has a retractable roof, like the inaugural and highly successful series against the Proteas last year.

International cricket is usually played in the Australian summer from October-March. But the ACB decided to take advantage of the magnificent facilities available at Melbourne's indoor stadium, which is the first of its kind in the world.

The Colonial Stadium was originally built for Australian Football League (AFL) competitions, which are played in the winter Down Under. These games, played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) among other Melbournian venues, were frequently interrupted due to inclement weather, which often lashes AFL's home city. Hence the indoor stadium, which has also lightened the tight schedule the gigantic MCG had to persevere.

Now, if Indians give their much sough after consent, the Colonial Stadium would host two games of winter cricket, the third would be played further north at Brisbane's Gabba ground.

But, notwithstanding Lele's hint, the ACB has not made any announcement regarding organising a game at Brisbane. "At this stage it is purely a speculation and nothing can be said till we get some information from the Indian Board," Murgatroyd said.

The proposed series was not in the schedule earlier and the idea seems to have come to the Australian cricket administrators after experiencing the phenomenal success of the Indian tour a few months ago. It was a success not only because of the huge number of spectators thronging the cricket venues (and the hotels where cricketers were staying) but also because of the fact that it managed to attract the maximum number of pay television viewers for a sports event ever.

The ACB is at the moment sitting on a sizable pile of revenue earned in the past few seasons and it recognises the fact that this pile can be raised further if it plays its cards in a competent manner. And inviting the Indians, and not any other team, for the three-match series seems to be a sound strategy as the Australian cricket followers still have a craving for more encounters with the Indians.

The controversies, both on and off the field, during the Australian tour of the subcontinent have also helped to keep the hunger for more Indo-Australian encounters going.

Spectators here would definitely like to have another look at the cricketers who not only threw a spanner in the Australian juggernaut's wheel but also turned their winning spree around with a Test series victory. They would like to see how the much-maligned captain of the Indian team, Saurav Ganguly, behaves on Australian territory and how the new crop of the Indian cricketing heroes like Harbhajan "Turbunator" Singh and V V S Laxman perform under testing Australian conditions. It would also serve up the prospect of the highly motivated squad of sledgers in the shape of the Australian team waiting to conduct a "mental disintegration" of the Indians.

Undoubtedly, the proposed three-match series in Melbourne has all the ingredients to turn it into a huge success and add to the ACB's coffers.

The ACB would also have to organise more winter cricket in Australia from time to time in the next decade because of the International Cricket Council (ICC) 10-year schedule, which requires all the ICC members to play at least two Tests and three One-day International matches at home. "We would be assessing our schedule in light of the ICC schedule and if it requires to play more games in winters we would do that too," Murgatroyd said.

According to an ACB media release earlier in the week, the revenue for the last season was A$ 78 million. The board hopes to increase the figure to a whopping A$ 109 million in few years' time.

There has been some opposition from the Australian cricketers regarding playing in the "off-season", but it has been feeble and after the news that the ACB would be increasing the contract money of the players the opposition has mellowed down further.

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