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Martyn joins rebel league

DAMIEN Martyn has become the first Australian to sign with the rebel Indian Cricket League, which threatens to throw world cricket into turmoil by dividing the game in India.

An official announcement on Martyn’s involvement is expected to come as soon as tomorrow.

The recently retired Test and limited overs batsman was unavailable for comment last night but sources close to ICL confirmed he had signed up for the month-long Twenty20 tournament, proposed for India in October.

It is believed he will earn about $305,000 if he commits to the tournament for the next three years.

Martyn originally rejected advances from ICL when it was nothing but a concept being mooted by disgruntled Indian media giant Zee TV, which recently missed out on India’s billion-dollar television rights.

The 35-year-old shocked the cricket world by retiring abruptly after the second Test against England late last year, walking away from the game completely and becoming a cricketing recluse.

He played 67 Tests, with his average falling from a high of 51 following the New Zealand tour in early 2005 to 46 when he retired.

Martyn and a number of other Australians, including Justin Langer, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were vigorously pursued by former Test batsman Dean Jones, who has been appointed ICL’s operations manager.

Langer, who has retired from international cricket but will continue to play with Western Australia, rejected the offer outright.

However, Warne and McGrath are still understood to be considering offers worth about $610,000 a year, although Warne has become cool on the idea following a backlash from India’s cricket board, the BCCI, and the International Cricket Council.

Brian Lara became the first big name signing and more recently ICL announced that it had 60 cricketers on its books, although most are Indian domestic players.

However, there is a sprinkling of current and former stars, with those still playing facing bans from their countries for taking part.

The biggest name still playing is Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf, who is rated the second best Test batsman in the world at the moment behind Ricky Ponting.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has consistently threatened to ban players joining the ICL but is trying to lure Yousuf back into the nation team.

Three other Pakistan internationals – Abdul Razzaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Imran Farhat – have also signed up with the ICL, although the board has not made any approaches to them.

“Obviously the four signing up is something of a loss but we are concerned mainly about Yousuf,” a PCB official told local media yesterday.

“We are trying to discuss his decision with him but we are happy that he is the only big name to sign up from Pakistan.”

Local papers reported the board was considering offering greater financial rewards in a bid to lure Yousuf back and, although unconfirmed, they are likely to create some friction with players who turned down lucrative offers from the ICL to stay with Pakistan.

Its policy on the ICL has been consistent: any player associated with it will be banned from playing for Pakistan. And even as efforts are under way to change Yousuf’s mind, Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, reiterated its stance on the ICL.

“Our position is clear. Anybody who goes to the ICL does so of his own choice,” Ashraf said.

“It is not an approved league and anybody associated with it will not be associated with Pakistan thereafter.”

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