Five years ago when the Twenty20 Cup was born few could have foreseen what challenges the format would provide today.
As if the success of the Indian Premier League was not evidence enough, news of a $5 million Champions League surely is. The riches offered by Sir Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire, puts even the ‘generosity’ of the IPL franchise owners in the shade. By comparison, the winners of the county championship receive £100,000.
Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes, whose side’s Twenty20 challenge gets under way tomorrow against Gloucestershire, said: “I can understand some people’s concerns. The more money you play for, the more the pressure is on the players and small mistakes will become massive errors - but I don’t think we should moan too much. We have been crying out for some time to get decent money into professional cricket and now it is happening. I think that’s a good thing.
“To me, Test cricket is fantastic. It is a great game of chess and tactics, and the way the match ebbs and flows is wonderful. I don’t think it will be lost and, as long as we have Test cricket, we will need a nursery to produce Test cricketers which is our natural four-day game. We have never been to Finals’ Day and, obviously, the rewards for getting there are now greater - but I don’t think the money focuses the mind more acutely.”
Rhodes added: “We will take a Twenty20 mentality into the New Zealand game today [even though it’s a 50-over match] so we hit the ground running on Thursday against Gloucestershire.”
Lawyers representing the Indian Cricket League have meanwhile threatened to sue the International Cricket Council for restraint of trade after the Board of Control for Cricket in India threatened to ban players from the Champions League who had featured in the rebel competition.
For Warwickshire and Worcestershire, that would mean their respective captains, Darren Maddy and Vikram Solanki, not being allowed to play should either team reach the Champions League final. Rhodes said: “That’s not totally the information I have been given. I may be wrong in saying this - but I was of the understanding that the Indian authorities may well be excusing the English players who played in first roundmatches of the ICL.”
The Post was unable to gain confirmation that such a ruling stands – yet.
As things stand, the Indian board is refusing to allow any county which has employed any player who has taken part in the ICL to participate in the Champions League.