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Afro-Asia Cup survives with new TV deal

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2007, 19:37 [IST]
 
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NEW DELHI (AFP):The Afro-Asia series in India will go ahead as scheduled next week after the ESPN-Star network stepped in to save the beleaguered event, the Asian Cricket Council said.

The series, featuring three one-dayers and a Twenty20 match between Asia and Africa from June 5-10, was in jeopardy after the original rights holder pulled out citing lack of public interest.

But ACC chief executive Ashraful Haq told the Cricinfo website that the pan-Asian ESPN-Star network had agreed to telecast the series for an undisclosed fee.

"The circumstances were such that the tournament could not be cancelled, considering that the matches were designated as official one-dayers," the Kuala Lumpur-based Haq was quoted as saying by Cricinfo.

"We're happy that ESPN-Star have agreed to telecast the event."

While ESPN-Star was not willing to reveal the financial details, Cricinfo said "it is understood the deal will be significantly lower than the original sum."

The series begins with a Twenty20 match on June 5 in Bangalore, which will also host the first one-dayer on June 6.

The remaining two one-dayers will be played in Chennai on June 9 and 10.

Mumbai-based Nimbus Sports, which held the marketing and TV rights for the event, withdrew late Wednesday, saying the absence of top stars was making it difficult to find sponsors.

Top Asian stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid of India, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka, as well as Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar, have all declined to play.

The African side will also be missing their nominated captain, Graeme Smith of South Africa, and team-mate Jacques Kallis.

The Asia v Africa series, the brainchild of former world cricket chief Jagmohan Dalmiya of India, was sold to Nimbus for 12 million dollars for a three-year period in 2005.

The first edition was held in Johannesburg in August, 2005, but it was not played last year due to a lack of suitable dates in a crowded international cricket calendar.

The decision by Nimbus came a day after India's Zee network withdrew from televising a three-match series between India and South Africa in Northern Ireland in June-July.

The matches were part of the Indian Cricket Board's plan to play 25 one-day internationals at offshore venues over a five-year period, for which Zee had bought the rights for 219 million dollars.

The first event was held in September last year when India took on world champions Australia and the West Indies in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Zee said it had scrapped the entire five-year deal because the Indian board was not willing to negotiate a revised price after a government directive to share the TV feed for all India matches with state-run broadcaster Doordarshan.

The Indian board may be forced to cancel the series against South Africa -- scheduled for June 26, 29 and July 1 in Belfast -- if it fails to find an alternative broadcaster.

"The series cannot be held if there is no television coverage," said Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah.

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