COLOMBO // Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) will push ahead with its inaugural Twenty20 tournament with Australian and Pakistani players, despite a no-show by the 12 Indian stars, the island's sports minister said today.
"We will lose a bit of money because Indian players are not coming but the tournament will be played as planned," Mahindananda Aluthgamage told AFP after failed talks to bring the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on board.
The fast bowlers Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel were among the dozen Indian players who were blocked by the BCCI from playing in the Sri Lankan Premier League from July 19 to August 4.
The minister said the Indian board's reluctance stemmed from media reports that the event was being organised by a Singapore-based company with alleged links to Lalit Modi, the sacked former boss of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
"Mr Modi is not involved in our tournament. But we have to accept India's decision. We remain friends with India," Aluthgamage said.
Modi, who is exiled in London, faces criminal charges, including false accounting, and accusations by the BCCI that more than US$106 million (Dh389.3m) was misappropriated during his three-year tenure as IPL chairman.
The Singapore-based Somerset Entertainment Ventures, who won the marketing rights for five years, has already paid an advance of US$300,000 to Sri Lanka Cricket, the local Sunday Times newspaper reported.
It said India's reluctance had led to broadcaster ESPN withdrawing support for the tournament, which will feature seven teams and will include a mix of local and international players.
The newspaper said top Sri Lanka Cricket officials met Somerset chairman Sandeep M Bhammer and chief executive Kunal Bhargava on Friday for talks, but details of the discussion remained unclear.
Meanwhile, Aluthgamage has revealed that Sri Lanka Cricket has slashed the budget for Australia's tour of the country — but stressed that security of the tourists will not be compromised.
Australia are due to play three Tests, five one-day internationals and two T20 games during their August 6 to September 20 tour.
"We are taking austerity measures because we can't even recover the monies we are spending," Aluthgamage said. "Lots of frills like distributing hundreds of free tickets and banquet meals for invitees will be cut."
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had budgeted US$2.8m but the projected income was a "dismal" $1.3m. Sri Lanka now hopes to spend about $900,000 instead on the tour, said the minister.