Reality bites for India after Champions League T20 setback

The postponement of a lucrative Twenty20 Champions League in India has added to fears regional security concerns and the financial slowdown could strike into the heart of the global cricket hub.

The inaugural $6 million prizemoney league was shifted to October 2009 on Friday, the eight-team, five-nation event having originally been postponed due to security worries after last month’s attacks in Mumbai. The organisers said scheduling was a big concern. Top players from Australia, India, South Africa, England and Pakistan were to have featured in the event originally planned from December 3 to 10.

The postponement will only increase tension among cricket officials with less than three years left until the 2011 World Cup is staged in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Pakistan have already been hit by domestic security concerns and the Mumbai attacks have strained political ties with India, who seem to have all but scrapped a bilateral tour from January. Experts feel economic woes are also beginning to hammer sponsorship and advertisement in India, cricket’s global hub.

A senior Indian cricket official admitted the situation would impact the game but was confident of a turnaround. “These things do happen, like national emergencies, all these happen in a nation’s history,” Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) treasurer Mohinder Pandove said.

“This is a temporary setback, but things will improve.” He said commercial expectations may have to be toned down. “For the conduct of the game there is no problem, only the scales might slow down a bit for sometime.”

The International Cricket Council (ICC) allayed fears soon after the Mumbai attacks on whether the World Cup might be shifted. Pandove felt two elements would aid recovery in India, where cricket has a frenzied fan base since the 1983 World Cup win.

“Whatever the scenario is, everything like sponsorships that comes into international cricket, is through India. The second good aspect, historically nobody has disturbed cricket even during the worst days this country has faced. We are very hopeful and positive the World Cup will be as successful as the previous ones.”

However, Indian media predict a sharp downturn in Indian sports endorsement, which in recent years has reflected the pace of growth in Asia’s third largest economy. The Economic Times daily reported on Saturday that an over 20 per cent growth in a 15 billion rupee ($309 million) cricket dominated, sports-led advertising was a thing of the past and projections for 2009 were well under double digits.

The chief of Rajasthan Royals, who won the multi-million dollar Twenty20 Indian Premier League launched this year, said after the initial league postponement that they were braced for security and financial challenges.

“The reality is that the IPL and all franchises have always made security a priority, and this will need to continue to be the case,” Royals chairman Manoj Badale said. “The postponement of the Champions League is indeed unfortunate and like any other team we are having to delay projected revenues.”

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