Australian cricketers' participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well the Indian cricket board's request that its Test players can't quarantine separately from the Indian limited-overs squad has come into focus after Channel 7, who hold the free-to-air TV rights for India-Australia Tests and the Big Bash League (BBL), filed an affidavit against Cricket Australia (CA) asking for proof of correspondence between the two boards over rescheduling of the current international season.
Channel 7 took exception to CA's decision to hold the India-Australia three-match T20 International series between December 4 and 8, saying that it went against the original 'Published International Schedule' in the Media Rights Agreement (MRA) that promised that the men's Big Bash would start on December 3 and would coincide with the start of the first India-Australia Test.
Channel 7 has now filed an affidavit filed in the Victoria district registry of the Federal Court of Australia, seeking communication record between CA and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The channel's ultimate aim is to get compensation for breach of contract between it and CA.
It appears to me that CA scheduling decisions may have been motivated by CA broader interests in relation to the BCCI, Foxtel and also a positive incentive given to CA by the State of Tasmania, wrote Lewis Martin, who is the managing director of the Seven Network Limited.
"If my belief is well founded I expect that Seven's damages claim may be for many millions of dollars given the significance of cricket coverage to Seven's advertising revenue and the magnitude of the scheduling changes made by CA, he said.
The initial plan was made to get a 'fast start' to launch the BBL alongside India-Australia first Test to get broadcast momentum as the tournament's (TV) ratings had declined over the last five years, claims Channel 7.
The Published International Schedule promised three Test matches prior to Christmas --- Australia vs Afghanistan (Perth, November 21-25), Australia vs India (Brisbane, December 3-7), and Australia vs India (Adelaide, December 11-15). The original schedule had the BBL starting with India's first Test in Brisbane on December 3.
However, after the ICC cancelled the T20 World Cup in early August, CA revised the schedule and sent Channel 7 six revised schedule options, says the Chennel 7 affidavit.
The common thing in revised schedules was that both white-ball series were advanced to November end-December start prior to Tests, with the T20 International series taking place when the first India-Australia Test and initial Big Bash League games were planned. Also, only one Test was to take place prior to Christmas.
"I very quickly formed the view that any of the six options presented by CA would be much worse for the quality of the BBL and its consequent ratings performance than the to-then anticipated scheduling pursuant to the Published International Schedule and the Published BBL Schedule. I was shocked how drastic the changes were," wrote Martin.
He added in his affidavit: "I considered these changes to be materially detrimental to Seven's interests and constituted the dismantling of many strategic initiatives we had worked with CA over several months..."
Martin mentioned a telephone conversation with two CA officials who he asked about why CA put the white ball matches before the first Test and the BBL season's start.
One of the officials, named Peter Roach, replied: "The Indians won't quarantine twice. They want their test players and white ball players to quarantine together at the same time, and then after the white ball matches are played the white ball players can go home and the Test players will stay in Australia."
Martin also said that Channel 7 suspect that the Afghanistan Test was postponed to January probably to ensure Aussie players' participation in the IPL.
He said that he understands Australian players require CA's permission to play in the IPL which, he points out, was rescheduled to begin from September 19 and end on November 10.
The Afghanistan day-night Test was scheduled to be played between November 21 and 25.
"...I am concerned that CA may have agreed to depart from initial contractual terms with the BCCI having regards to the commercial interests of CA or of Australian cricket players beyond those simply engaged by the organisation of the matches CA is required to organise and conduct under the MRA, including facilitating the continued potentially lucrative participation of Australian players in the IPL... and in that sense preferred those commercial interests rather than complying with CA's 'all-reasonable endeavours' obligations under clause 6.9(b) of the MRA."
In response to Channel 7's allegations, Nick Hockley, the interim CEO of Cricket Australia said: "With so much positivity around Australian cricket, it is disappointing that Seven West Media has again chosen to use the media to talk our wonderful game down. CA has maintained all along our commitment to delivering a thrilling summer of cricket and on behalf of all involved, be that governments, partners, players and staff, I'm proud to say we are doing just that. We remain confident in our contractual position."