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Franchises are not going to work: Astle

Nathan Astle doesn’t buy John Buchanan’s idea of world cricket being turned into a franchise-based system where players could choose which country to represent and so increase the element of competition.

“I can understand where it is coming from,” Astle told Cricinfo in Mumbai on Friday. “But I don’t think a player will be accepted if he plays for another country. I would stick to New Zealand. It is not going to work.”

Ironically, Astle is in Mumbai as part of a concept similar to what Buchanan advocated. The Indian Cricket League is attracting – as is the Indian board’s Indian Premier League -a free flow of players from various nations and spreading them out among the six franchises.

Astle, who will play in the ICL for the Mumbai Champs, he was addressing the media in the absence of his captain Brian Lara, a West Indian and one of five different nationalities in the squad, and coach Sandeep Patil.

Having retired from first-class cricket in July, citing the lack of motivation as a major factor in his decision, Astle said he had not expected to be back so soon. “I didn’t expect to be back, once I gave it up it was pretty much the end of my career.” But after playing a bit of cricket in England, he studied the ICL offer before deciding to give his nod. And the reasons? “When this opportunity came, I though I could offer the youngsters something”, said Astle, who is the most senior member after Lara in the Champs squad.

A veteran of 22 Twenty20 matches, Astle said he felt most players wouldn’t have any trouble playing cricket’s newest format. “It’s just a question of bringing them up to speed (training and fitness). Hopefully we will get a few close games in Twenty20 and that will help everyone gain some good experience.”

After months of speculation, the ICL set the ball rolling with the six squads staging their first practice sessions in cities across India. The air of anticipation was evident at the Western Railway Ground in Mahalaxmi, where the Champs assembled this morning to be acquainted with each other and then do some light drills. The media had started gathering an hour prior to the scheduled practice timing of 9am, expecting the players to come in advance, but in the end it was just a casual workout.

However, Lara, the biggest name on the ICL roster, was absent from his team’s first meeting as he hasn’t yet reached the city; ICL sources say he is expected over the weekend.

With Patil not around, Kiran More, a member of the ICL executive board and a former India player and selector, and Shishir Hattangdi, a former Mumbai player who is an ICL talent scout, took practice.

ICL have procured the services of 15 high-performance trainers from Australia who will take over the roles of physical trainers, physiotherapists and masseurs for the six teams. Practice sessions will continue for the next few days the various camps in Chandigarh, Delhi, Hyderabad , Kolkata and Mumbai. From November 23 to 25 teams will play warm-up games with the line-ups being: Kolkata Tigers v Mumbai Champs in Mumbai, Chandigarh Lions v Delhi Jets in Delhi, Hyderabad Heroes v Chennai Superstars in Hyderabad. Following that all the squads will assemble in Chandigarh on November 27, three days before the curtain rises on the main event.

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