London: England's cricketers are set for a cash bonanza after plans for them to play in a series of lucrative matches in the Caribbean took a significant step closer on Tuesday.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced it would be holding a news conference with Allen Stanford, the Texan-born billionaire backer of the West Indies domestic Twenty20 competition, at Lord's here Wednesday.
Stanford has been holding talks with the ECB about the prospect of his Caribbean all-star side playing England in a series of one-off games at his own ground in Antigua worth a reported 10 million pounds (20 million dollars) to the winners - a staggering sum by cricketing standards.
His proposals also include plans for an annual quadrangular T20 event in London at Lord's.
Wednesday's news conference, which takes place on the same day that England's domestic Twenty20 Cup starts, follows last weekend's announcement of a new Champions League Twenty20 event involving domestic sides from England, Australia, India and South Africa worth five million dollars to the winners.
The winners and runners-up in the final of England's Twenty20 Cup on July 20 will join Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings from India, South Africa's Titans and KwaZulu Natal Dolphins and Western Australia and Victoria from Australia in the Champions League, due to be played in India or the Middle East in late September.
But former England captain Nasser Hussain said the Twenty20 Cup semi-finals were now of greater financial importance than the final.
"The winners of the cup get something like 40,000 pounds ($80,000)," Hussain wrote in Tuesday's edition of Britain's Daily Mail tabloid.
"But the two counties who reach the final will have the chance to earn 2.4 million pounds (five million dollars) from the Champions League, so can you imagine the atmosphere if a team need four from the last ball in one of those semi-finals?
"What we will see is the cricketing equivalent of the football play-off final, with the winners going to the Premier League."
But those English counties fielding players who have appeared in the 'rebel' Indian Cricket League (ICL) could miss out on their chance for a massive cash boost if Lalit Modi has his way.
Modi, the vice-chairman of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI.), is determined to protect the country's official domestic Twenty20 event and has warned that "any ICL player playing for any team categorically disqualifies that team from playing in the Champions League.
"No exceptions will be made under any circumstances."
But with Australian officials charged with drawing up the rules for the new event, several counties seem set to call Modi's bluff and play their ICL players regardless.
Twenty20, which was pioneered as a professional sport in English county cricket and last justs three hours, compared to a whole day for a 50-overs per side match or the five days of a Test match, has quickly become quickly popular around the world.
It led to the creation of a World Twenty20 and the lucrative event in India.