The Sunday Leader

Fears Of Split In World Cricket

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has launched an urgent investigation after Essel Group, the company behind the now-defunct Indian Cricket League, began registering companies with names that appear to be rival national cricket boards, raising fears of a future split in world cricket.

The mysterious registration of companies in Australia and other Test countries by the Indian business giant has left cricket authorities wary about what they believe could be plans for a new rebel league or even an extraordinary takeover bid for global cricket.

The ICC and national bodies are endeavouring to uncover the motives behind Essel, the conglomerate behind the ill-fated Indian Cricket League, setting up company names across the international playing landscape amid internal concerns of a potential Kerry Packer-like tilt at the game’s controls.

In Australia Essel have registered the company Australian Cricket Control Pty Ltd with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, in New Zealand they have attempted to register the name New Zealand Cricket Limited and in other full and associate member countries they are understood to have similarly established company names.
It is a development that has left cricket chiefs concerned about a potential move against the establishment, and intrigued about other figures who may be behind such a plot.

“We’re certainly aware of the registration,” a Cricket Australia spokesman said on Friday. “It is a concern but the ICC has been informed and the matter is being investigated. It’s difficult to say more until we have more information.”

Sources have told Fairfax Media that Essel, which is led by billionaire media baron Subhash Chandra, have contemplated attempting to make a re-entry to the cricket scene six years after the demise of the unofficial ICL, the rebel precursor to the Indian Premier League.

Whether that would constitute the creation of a new, ramped-up version of the ICL or a challenge to the establishment itself has been unclear, but the formation of companies has been enough to have cricket authorities on their toes.
ASIC records show that Australian Cricket Control Pty Ltd was registered on December 17 last year, but the subject is understood to have been discussed at a meeting of ICC member executives in Dubai last week.

Much like Kerry Packer’s revolutionary World Series Cricket nearly four decades ago, if any bid to unseat the game’s governing bodies was to eventuate it would have a lot to do with broadcast rights.

Essel owns Zee Entertainment Enterprises, whose subsidiary, Ten Sports, has international cricket broadcast rights in South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – five countries known to be dissatisfied with the control held by the ‘Big three’ – India, England and Australia.

Ten Sports, however, does not have a foothold in the Indian market, where Star Sports has the rights for international cricket and the Champions League, and Sony televises the IPL.

While there is disillusionment in many quarters with the financial structure of the ICC and the amount of power wielded by the Big three, Essel’s track record in cricket is controversial. The ICL wound up with players complaining of being out of pocket and later, like the IPL, was the subject of corruption headlines.

Former New Zealand captain Chris Cairns has pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice that surrounds allegations of match fixing against him while he was captaining Chandigarh Lions in the ICL in 2008. Cairns’ former teammate Lou Vincent admitted rigging games when he played for Chandigarh.

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