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Twenty20 leagues a major challenge for Imtiaz Patel

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

New Delhi : Imtiaz Patel, designated CEO of the International Cricket Council, is known for his business acumen and a sharp brain – attributes that the world governing body desperately needs as the game enters an era of commercialisation.

Patel, 43, is a South African of Indian origin, and chief executive at the SuperSport International in South Africa since 2005. He will replace Australian Malcolm Speed, a lawyer, when he retires after an eventful seven-year tenure at the ICC headquarters, first in London and now permanently based in Dubai.

Patel, who was chosen in a worldwide search, however, is still to accept the offer. If and when he does so he will be taking over the ICC reins at a time when the game is increasingly threatened by money power.

The commercial growth of Twenty20 tournaments – both official and unofficial – with corporate houses in India and another business tycoon in the Caribbean investing heavily in the shortest and latest version of the game has rattled the governing body of cricket.

The vastly experienced Patel, who has held prime positions as director of professional cricket with the United Cricket Board of South Africa, the CEO of SuperSport United Football Club, director of the Premier Soccer League, has his work cut out.

Patel, who has had his education at the University of the Witwatersand, University of Cape Town Business School and Harvard Business School, was first shortlisted among the 15 chosen by the ICC consultants Egon Zehnder International, a global recruitment firm. Then he made it to the top six.

An ICC sub-committee, which comprised ICC president Ray Mali, ICC president-elect David Morgan, Indian board president Sharad Pawar and his Australian counterpart Creagh O’Connor, besides the non-voting observer Nasim Ashraf from Pakistan, then picked Patel as its “favoured candidate”.

One of the first tasks of Patel, a former teacher, will be to help strike a fine balance between traditional Test match cricket, which is losing popularity, and the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) on the one hand and the increasingly popular slam-bang Twenty20 version on the other.

If Speed tackled the highly complicated issue of players’ personal endorsements that rocked the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka and threatened the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Patel will have to regulate the growth of breakaway Twenty20 leagues around the world.