Essel Group plans to set up new cricket league

Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2007, 4:58 [IST]
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New Delhi:In what could challenge BCCI's domination over the sport in India, Essel Group, which owns Zee Network, on Tuesday announced plans to start an independent professional cricket league aimed at creating a talent pool in the country.

The proposed Indian Cricket League (ICL), tipped to be the richest professional league in India with a million-dollar bounty, will be launched later this year and will have six teams comprising international stars, Indian players and rookies selected from talent hunt programmes throughout the country, Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra told reporters here.

However, he rubbished any parallels drawn with the Kerry Packer World Series Cricket of the 1970s and said the new body and league would not rival the Board of Control for Cricket in India but in fact, help provide a vast reserve of players that would enhance Team India's bench strength.

The late Australian media mughal, after his Channel Nine was denied of cricket telecast right, took on the authorities in the field launching a breakaway cricket series comprising the who's who of the game.

Subhash Chandra's Zee Sports bid for the BCCI telecast rights was also cancelled by the board last year.

However, Mr Chandra said the group was not taking on the BCCI but was looking forward to cooperate with the board to formulate a win-win scenario.

''There's going to be no rivalry with the board. In fact, we have written letters to them seeking cooperation and awaiting their response,'' Mr Chandra clarified.

On its part the BCCI, in a release, has admitted that its president Sharad Pawar has received the letter but said a decision on that would be taken later.

Meanwhile, answering as to what was the logic behind the move in wake of Team India's debacle, Mr Chandra said: ''All we want to do here is to create a formidable reserve of talented players that would enhance Team India's bench-strength and help us win trophies.''

The league would be played on ODI and Twenty20 format with teams playing matches on home and away basis, he informed.

Any given team would have four international players, two top India players, who may or may not have been contracted by the BCCI besides eight budding players selected through various talent hunt programmes with even public particiaption being saught in the selection process.

Mr Chandra said negotiations were on with some top players, although it would be board's say regarding the cricketers with BCCI contracts. He said the new body, governed by an independent executive board run by experts, would be open to players who have retired but still have couple of years of cricket in them.

The announcement could throw open the door for the likes of Anil Kumble, who has just retired from the shorter version of the game.

''State-of-the-art academies would be established all over the country to hone the players and full-time salaried psychologists and fitness experts would be attached with each team to work on physical as well as mental aspect of the game,'' Mr Chandra elaborated.

A 'mentor', an ex-India player belonging to the region a team comes from, would assume the role of chief coach/motivator. The teams would be regularly sent abroad to gain maximum exposure in alien conditions, Mr Chandra said.

What's more, there would even be Ombudsmen from judiciary and cricketing fraternity to address public grievances. To be aired on Zee Sports initially, it would not be a reality TV show but a sincere attempt to uplift the game, Mr Chandra added.

The Essel Group and co-promoters IL&FS aim to take the number of participating team from six to 16 in three years.

Ball is in the BCCI's court: Meanwhile the BCCI officials in Mumbai said that they have received a letter from Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra seeking permission to start the Indian Cricket League and an appropriate decision in this regard would be taken soon.

Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary in a release issued here stated that the letter had been received by the cricket board Chairman Sharad Pawar who would take a decision in this regard.

However BCCI vice-president Shashank Manohar said from Nagpur that it was premature to react to the formation of a parallel body for the sport.

Finer elements of Indian Cricket League (ICL)

* 6 teams to play in the inaugural year
* League would be played on ODI and Twenty20 format
* Rules committee to form regulations for ICL
* Referees and umpire panels to be created
* Executive Board of the league to be formed
* Each team to have a mentor/coach and other support staff
* Prize money for the winner- US$ 1 million
* League to be a joint venture between Essel Group and IL&FS Group
* League teams to play with teams from other countries
* Ombudsmen to address players grievances


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