Allen Stanford showers gifts on ECB. Like Santa Claus on Christman Duty.
By Gulu Ezekiel - DreamCricket Correspondent
Last week Antigua and St. Croix based Texan oil billionaire Sir Allen Stanford arrived like Santa Claus on early Christmas duty. But instead of a reindeer-borne sled, he landed on the hallowed turf of Lord's in his private helicopter (a privilege denied even to the Queen of England) to dole out his goodies to the waiting hungry hordes of English cricket.
Who would have believed it? India's mega-rich cricketers have suddenly been reduced to second-class citizens by two teams that are way below them in the ICC rankings and by players with not a fraction of their drawing power!
Suddenly all the riches on display in the Indian Premier League and the forthcoming Champions League and MS Dhoni's millons have been upstaged by the massive sums being handed out to English and West Indian cricketers.
Last week Antigua (or is it St. Croix?) based Texan oil billionaire Sir Allen Stanford arrived like Santa Claus on early Christmas duty. But instead of a reindeer-borne sled, he landed on the hallowed turf of Lord's in his private helicopter (a privilege denied even to the Queen of England) to dole out his goodies to the waiting hungry hordes of English cricket.
And England - one of the most colourless ODI sides in the world - was not even Stanford's primary choice. First the South African board and then the BCCI (afraid he would put their shiny new toy in the shade) refused his winner-takes-it-all offer of a $5 million match against his West Indian 'All-Stars'.
That has now been upped to an astonishing $20 million per match for a series of five matches - reportedly the highest prize money ever paid out in a team sport.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) can scarcely believe their good fortune. Just two months back they were holding their players back on a tight leash as English cricketers were champing at the bit for a taste of the IPL pie. But with the tournament schedule clashing with the start of the county season, only Dimitri Mascarenhas got a nibble.
Now they can merrily gorge themselves thanks to Stanford's startling largesse, even though the matches will be reduced to the status of exhibition games as the ICC does not approve of the playing conditions.
That is of no bother whatsoever to either England's players or the administrators who have now found a handy way to stop their players from straying to the small peanuts of the IPL and the rival Indian Cricket League.
And to think 'poor' multi-millionaire batsman Kevin Peitersen was only last month whining over the ticklish matter of who would pay the school fees for his (yet-to-be-born) children!
Whoever wins the inaugural match to be held in Antigua in November, each of the playing XI will bag a cool one million bucks - enough for Pietersen to buy a school for his future progeny. The rest will be shared by the substitutes and playing staff with $7 million allotted to the parent body of the winning team.
Compare that to the IPL where the winning team got 'only' $1.2 million and the richest player was Dhoni who earned $1.5 million for 45 days hard slog.
The winner-takes-it all concept has a deeply divisive potential and has already caused considerable disquiet among the ranks of England's cricketers.
Who knows who will follow Stanford? If 20/20 takes off in the United States as is Stanford's dream and ultimate goal, perhaps we will see the 'Donald Trump 20/20'?
The IPL has already signed up some of the biggest names in Indian cricket to trumpet their cause (Dilip Vengsarkar is the latest) while Stanford at Lord's had four out of six of cricket's living Knights handsomely paid to play the role of Santa's little helpers - Sir Ian Botham, Sir Viv Richards, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Garfield Sobers.
Their look of awe and delight while touching the giant transparent case holding $20 million which Stanford put on gleeful display was something only his money could buy.
As we have seen with the IPL, money and good taste rarely go together. But then whatever happened to Sir Viv, symbol of Black pride of the Caribbean?
The Champions Trophy planned for September meanwhile has the potential to drive a wedge in the world of cricket. The decision to ban all foreign teams which may field ICL players reveals the event for what it is - a petty and vindictive attempt to crush all opposition to the IPL's grand party. It is already being challenged in the courts.
The ICC - world cricket's putative parent body - though have washed their hands off the whole enterprise. When I approached them for a reaction to the proposed event, the response was: "Any Champions League involving domestic teams would not be organized by the ICC and so we would not have jurisdiction over who plays in it. The ICC's remit, in terms of regulations, is Member-versus-Member cricket rather than teams from within those members."
So what about the banning of ICL players? "If its Mr. Modi's tournament then I guess Mr. Modi can invite whoever he wants to play in it" was the answer.
Next year marks the ICC's centenary. If these private 20/20 leagues mushroom all over the world, it is anybody's guess how much longer ICC will survive.