England chairman faces resignation call over ‘undesirable’ Stanford series

October 30th, 2008 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 30 (IANS) The England cricket board has announced a review of a $20 million cricket match between England and West Indies set up to rival the Indian Premier League (IPL) as it faces calls for the resignation of its chairman.The review was ordered as criticism grew Wednesday of the winner-takes-all series over poor pitches, sub-standard matches, faulty lighting and the behaviour of Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire who is bankrolling the event in Antigua.

Rod Bransgrove, who heads the body responsible for cricket in Hampshire county, said the position of England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke was in doubt.

“I asked the ECB to do a lot more checking on Stanford and this competition. We made it very clear we that we should not enter into this agreement without proper checks but he [Clarke] had already done the deal. The board should resign collectively,” he told the Daily Telegraph in comments published Thursday.

The Stanford Series culminates Saturday with the Twenty20 match between a West Indies and England XI - essentially the national sides - and follows a five-year contract signed between the ECB and Stanford.

However, following controversies on and off the pitch, calls have grown for England to review the contract, which has the effect of keeping star England players such as Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff away from the IPL.

“I’m hearing there are serious concerns from the ECB at the manner in which the tournament has been staged,” said BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew.

“There are lessons to be learned for us all from the events of this week,” an ECB spokesman said.

“That was always going to be the case because it is new territory for all of us, the ECB and Sir Allen. With four years of the agreement still to run there may be things we can do differently.”

The cricket website Cricinfo reported that England players were consulting with their union, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, over the whole event.

The British press has criticised Stanford’s off-field behaviour - the billionaire apologised after being filmed during a game Monday with his arms around the girlfriend of an England cricketer and the wife of another seated on his lap.

“The tournament has become less and less desirable by the day,” The Independent newspaper said Thursday, adding the ECB “might have made a catastrophic error of judgement”.

“The cricket has largely been of poor quality, the pitch and the floodlights have been criticised, the backer himself was forced to apologise to England for his faintly curious behaviour with some of the players’ wives and the players themselves are fed up with being asked about the loot.”

Even England players have voiced criticism - although muted in their tone.

England fast bowler Stephen Harmison said Wednesday although the tournament will benefit the game as well as the players, “but at the minute with the squeeze on credit and what’s happening in England and the world people will criticise the players”.

Batsman Ian Bell said: “In a way, this week probably has come a little bit at the wrong time before we go and play a really good team in India.”

The Guardian’s cricket writer Mike Selvey said the Antigua matches were “little more than a joint effort to try to keep players sweet when deprived of the opportunity to play in the IPL while hoping to maintain a sufficiently good relationship with the West Indies Cricket Board that it can rely on its vote at ICC level”.

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