The Afro-Asia Cup cricket series, already shorn of its sheen with top names keeping away, has just saved itself from disaster on the TV broadcast front. First came the deep embarrassment when telecast rights-holder Nimbus walked out of the deal with the Asian Cricket Council (ACC).
But ACC was bailed out at the eleventh hour when ESPN STAR Sports (ESS) agreed to pick up the rights. In a desperate bid to salvage to tournament, the Asian Cricket Council finalised a face-saving, last-minute deal with ESS.
"We will not be part of the event in anyway. We will not be telecasting the event. Neither will we be producing nor bringing sponsorship for the matches," Nimbus CEO Harish Thawani said.
Nimbus' decision came less than a week from the scheduled opening of the tournament from June 6 to 10 in Bangalore and Chennai. But Thadani said, "This is not a sudden decision. There have been developments over the last few months."
Thawani refused to mention specific reasons for the pullout, merely saying, "It is all there for everyone to see and form an opinion."
However, according to industry sources, the absence of several big stars in the Asian XI is the reason for Nimbus pulling the plug. Among the names missing are Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Muttiah Muralithran, Chaminda Vaas, Kumar Sangakkara, Shoaib Akhtar and Lasith Malinga.
Nimbus Sports bought the rights for three editions of the tournament, which was first played in 2005 in South Africa, for $12 million.
The total prize-money for the three 2007 Afro-Asia Cup ODI matches is $ 100,000. The winning team in each match will receive $ 25,000, the Man of the Match $ 5,000 and the Man of the Tournament $ 10,000. All participating players will be paid $ 5000 for each match, says a ESS press statement.