The Board of Control for Cricket in India on Monday said it has re-branded some long-running domestic tournaments, including the national cricket championship for the Ranji Trophy, and has stuck a deal with Nimbus Communications to telecast 32 matches 'live' during the forthcoming season.
"We will have 70 days of domestic cricket live [32 matches] on television and we have re-branded the major domestic cricket events," said BCCI vice president and marketing committee convener Lalit Modi at a press conference in Mumbai.
Former Board chief I S Bindra admitted that the BCCI had in the past failed to market the domestic cricket as well as its international cricket programme and this initiative is a means to right the wrong.
"I will be the first to admit we have failed to market domestic cricket properly in the past as compared to international cricket," the Punjab Cricket Association president said.
The Board officials said that efforts have been taken to see that the domestic matches that are set to be telecast do not clash with India's international commitments. "Next year it will be 90 per cent," said Modi.
As per the re-branding initiative the three teams to play in the Challenger Series for the NKP Salve Trophy season-opening event in Chennai from October 1-4 will be called India Blue (formerly seniors), India Green and India Reds (formerly A and B).
The other tournaments that are to be telecast live are Elite division of the Ranji Trophy (9 matches including semi-finals and final), Irani Cup (Ranji champions Uttar Pradesh vs the Rest of India to be held in Nagpur from October 9-13), Duleep Trophy final in Kolkata (November 12-16), and the re-branded Deodhar Trophy (All Star Series for the Deodhar Trophy, 10 matches in all) and the one-day domestic knock-out tournament re-named as the Premier Cup (four preliminary ties, plus two semi-finals and final) to be held from March 15-25.
Modi admitted that the All Star Series in March, 2007 would be bereft of the top stars of Indian cricket who would be busy in the World Cup in the West Indies.
"But from next season onwards the situation will be different. In fact there is a clamour from all the state associations that the stars should play in more domestic tournaments and we are moving towards this," said Modi.
"The new marketing initiatives in domestic cricket would be discussed at the marketing committee meeting here tomorrow," he added.
Nimbus chairman Harish Thawani said that the telecast would be available for viewers in England, South Africa and Australia while efforts were on to make it available in the US too.
Bindra said that the aim of the BCCI was in making 300 players the stars of Indian cricket by paying all of them handsomely and marketing the domestic game instead of leaving the superstardom the preserve of a chosen 15 or so players who regularly play for the national team.
"BCCI is looking at these initiatives as steps towards encouraging interest in domestic cricket. It will also bring an unprecedented amount of high-quality excitement to Indian and international audiences," Modi said.
"We intend to make domestic cricket events on par with other successful domestic sports brands in the world [like football and baseball] and the initiatives announced today are the first of a number of exciting plans that we have in store," he added.
The BCCI also said it is yet to approve participation of foreign players in domestic cricket like the Ranji Trophy and this has to be discussed at the next working committee meeting of the BCCI after its AGM here on September 27 and 28.
"The board has yet to take a call on the matter. This is yet to be discussed and it will be done at the next working committee," said Bindra.
"Overseas players have played in Indian domestic cricket in the 1960s before it was discontinued. It was basically done because we did not have any fast bowlers during that time. We are aware of the problems faced by England when it allowed two overseas signings per team in the English county cricket," Bindra said.