England and India set for more matches

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:England are set to play India as often as they do arch-rivals Australia after agreeing in principle to face the Asian powerhouse every other year.

Inderjit Singh Bindra, a key figure in the new-look Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) came to England last week and met David Morgan, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to discuss a schedule that would replicate the Ashes programme.

Michael Vaughan's team, who travel to India next month for a nine-week tour, are scheduled to face the Indians on home soil in 2007, five years after their last visit to England.

However, Morgan made clear he was keen on more frequent encounters.

"We've always wanted to develop closer ties with India," he explained.

"This was on our wish list that we gave to the ICC (International Cricket Council). They have a middle class which us as big as the entire population of the United States. Bindra was pushing at an open door," Morgan also told the Daily Telegraph.

Television revenues from India now account for some 60 percent of world cricket's income and matches between England and India are economically beneficial for both countries.

England's large travelling support, including the 'Barmy Army', helps ensures good attendances at grounds while hotels, restaurants and other ancillary businesses also benefit.

Meanwhile, such is the large expatriate Asian community in Britain that some Tests in England can seem like 'home' matches for India when they come to cricket's birthplace.

India is the sport's economic powerhouse, generating some 60 percent of the cricket's global income through television rights.

Recently, the national team signed a shirt deal with US-based sportswear manufacturer Nike which will generate 40 million pounds in four years just for space on the 'non-leading shirt arm' (the 'leading' arm is already sponsored.) This dwarfs the shirt deal struck by English soccer champions Chelsea.

And while cricket administration at world level has traditionally been dominated by the Anglo-Australian alliance, there are increasing signs that India wants its financial strength to be matched by influence in the corridors of cricket power.

Recently it suggested it would withdraw from future 'uneconomic' Champions Trophy tournaments after staging the ICC's 'mini World Cup' event later this year and also talking about the prospect of more frequent matches against Australia.

This led a concerned ICC to warn the BCCI on Tuesday not to depart from agreed tour and match programmes.

These are currently governed by the global governing body's Future Tours Programme (FTP). But the present five-year cycle, which sees all Test nations playing each other home and away, has been strongly criticised because of the weakness of countries such as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

But with Zimbabwe deciding to suspend its own Test status on Thursday a six-year programme, enabling India to play both England and Australia more often, looks increasingly likely to be agreed upon at next month's ICC chief executives meeting.

"The Indians don't have to re-invent the wheel," said Ehsan Mani, the ICC president. "We're moving to a six-year cycle for our Future Tours Programme and, within that, countries can play each other more frequently."

Morgan stressed nothing he was proposing would contravene ICC policy. "All cricket boards have to honour their ICC commitments," he said. "As for the Champions Trophy, we proposed a tight tournament of two-and-a-half weeks but the India and Australia boards rejected that.

"My feeling is that it will evolve into a Twenty20 international tournament."

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