Irani Cup has a melodramatic backdrop

Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Chandigarh:As ever, the Irani Cup, the country's premier cricket event pitting the Ranji Trophy champions - Mumbai this year - against the Rest of India, starts in Chandigarh on Thursday in the backdrop of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) election eve controversies.

It was destined to be that way since the two events were fixed for the start of the cricketing season in the country.

Only this time, the concoction that is election of the head of the richest sporting body in the country has been made a heady mix with the NCP supremo and Mumbai Cricket Association chief Sharad Pawar reportedly throwing his hat in the ring even as the incumbent, Jagmohan Dalmiya, has been appointed the patron-in-chief.

Add a little more of the syrup called the telecast rights issue, and the brew is complete!

It is a cruel irony that the flagship event of Indian cricket showcasing the best talent in the country will not be on television simply because the Board had messed up the TV rights bidding process. So much for the hoopla about this being the BCCI's platinum jubilee year.

The situation is a complete contrast to what it was last year when the Board for the first time roped in sponsors for the Cup and field included batting ace Sachin Tendulkar. This time, however, there will be no Tendulkar, and with no live coverage, no sponsorship too.

Yet, despite all the negativism, the flannelled fools have much to play for. There is the graded payment offering manifold increase in wages that could come their way with the contracts to be signed once the senior players return from England.

And if nothing else, there is the place in the Indian team itself that is up for grabs following the Champions Trophy debacle.

The Mumbai players will are also slated to play Australia in their three-day warm-up match at Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium.

Dinesh Mongia, who will lead the Rest of India, returns to the scene of historic Duleep trophy triumph he led North Zone to against East in March earlier this year. Mongia, comes in to the match with loads of confidence following a successful outing in the English County.

With 470 runs that included two centuries for an average of 67.14 from six matches in Division One, besides 241 runs at 48.20 in the National League, for Lancashire should be a dream performance.

The Lancs were so impressed with the Punjab left-hander that he was asked to stay on till the end of the season despite the return of West Indian Carl Hooper for whom he was a replacement originally.

Motivation should be high for Zaheer Khan, too, although for entirely different reasons. The Baroda paceman has become a live specimen of anatomy for the high school biology student, with injury threatening to derail his career.

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