• England in India 2012-13

Sky commentators may miss India v England series

ESPNcricinfo staff
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Mike Atherton is one of Sky's commentators © Getty Images
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Sky TV may not send its team of commentators to cover England's tour of India, which begins in November, unless a dispute with the BCCI over access for their commentary team to the Test venues is resolved.

Sky hold the UK rights for the series, but the Sunday Times in London reported the broadcaster had received an unexpected demand from the Indian board for additional fees totalling more than £500,000 ($800,000) for their commentary team to have facilities at the grounds.

ESPNcricinfo understands the figure being quoted to Sky is the BCCI's estimate of realistic costs related to Sky's wish to have independent and unilateral coverage of the India-England series. The cost includes, among other things, studio space for Sky's own panel of commentators and satellite uplinking from the venues for 30 days of cricket.

Sky warned their bank of commentators, including former England captains Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Ian Botham, that they regard the BCCI's demands as brinkmanship, and that they may not travel unless a solution can be found. If the dispute is not settled, Sky would be forced to accept commentary from the host broadcaster or set up a studio outside the grounds.

Problems for UK broadcasters have been a common feature of England games in India. During a one-day series last year, televison audiences in India and England were deprived of the first three overs of a match in Hyderabad because of a dispute between the host broadcaster of the time, Neo Sports, and Prasar Bharati, the government agency responsible for uplinking live telecasts out of India.

There was also an issue about Sky TV's own commentators awaiting what one Sky commentator told ESPNcricinfo were "government clearances", before being able to broadcast live out of India. As a result, the Sky TV producers made use of the Neo Cricket commentary team, which included Matthew Hoggard and Dermot Reeve.

The Indian board has since terminated its deal with Nimbus because of alleged payment defaults and announced a more lucrative deal with Star TV.

Last-minute arrangements are not uncommon in India, but bring endless frustration in England, where expectations are for arrangements to be planned well in advance. There were also problems for Sky before England's 2006 tour of India, when they agreed terms with Nimbus, who had just bought the rights to India's home matches, only a few days before the series began.

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