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Indian Cricket League arrival welcomed strong

Like sentinels at the gate, the Shivalik foothills stood as passive observers to the frantic activity underway at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium. They must have seen the race against time to feather the bed for latest baby in the form of Indian Cricket League (ICL) to arrive on India’s cricket firmament in less than 24 hours.

Gangs of workers, television crew, ground staff, ICL top brass and all those who are part of the show had the same anxiety writ on their faces as expecting parents have in the hospital corridors. Yet, they had certain jauntiness in their demeanour that comes from defying the diktats of the Big Brother.

The ground on which the Twenty20 ICL games will be played is still bumpy in a few places; patches of bald earth peeped thorough the carpet of grass in a few areas, fine dust swirled in the air when the lawn mower was brought to the work. But in the midst of all this, former India wicketkeeper and executive board member of ICL, Kiran More, painted a picture of quite confidence.

“By 5 pm on the November 30 evening, everything will be in place. If not, then you can go ahead and criticise us for failing to deliver. But that won’t happen. Even the dust will settle and the ground will be in perfect condition for cricket,” More said.

Right through the day, six teams had sessions in the two nets besides the ground. The last to come were the Mumbai Champs, led by the legendary Brian Lara. After the quick inspection of the wicket and the ground, they went for regular practice under the watchful eyes of coach Sandeep Patil.

The arrival of Lara must have been a huge relief for the men behind this idea, especially after the gossip mills adding grist to the talk of the West Indian jumping ship in light Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s unabashed courting of the genius for their proposed IPL.

At every turn the BCCI, though not officially but through its powerful mandarins making isolated statements in different parts of the country has never missed an opportunity to run down the ICL.

What the big-men of Indian cricket said is a matter of interpretation depending on which side of the fence a person is standing. Perhaps, one thing they might have got right is the tag of ‘rebel’ that has been bandied about ICL. To think of it, the league has come to acquire life, which was just a mere footnote in Zee Network’s television rights bid document in 2005, by tapping into the disillusionment of backstage cricketers with the system. Mumbai Champs’ coach Sandeep Patil provides an interesting insight into this particular dimension of cricket ad- League Countdown ministration.

“I waited for the BCCI to give a suitable job to serve Indian cricket. Twice I had written to the BCCI president, Sharad Pawar, expressing my interest to be a coach of the India A side. I was assured a two-year contract, but after waiting for almost one-and-ahalf year, nothing came of it. That’s the time when the ICL offer came my way. Since I wasn’t doing anything, I had to take it up.”

Patil says. “In the last 20 years of coaching, I have been in-charge of Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh, Kenya, Oman, India under-19 and India A. So I have got a fair amount of experience for the job.”

But with the board making clear that the doors of Indian cricket has been shut on all those who have decided to go with the latest baby in town, Patil, however, prefers to take an optimistic approach to the contagious issue.

“If everything goes well, BCCI and ICL will patch-up. If not today, then tomorrow BCCI may do a rethink on the issue. After all, ICL is not trying to put up a parallel board, it’s just a platform for the next stars. Didn’t the Kerry Packer series started similarly, but see what it did. It changed the face of cricket,” he says.

Will BCCI and ICL shake hands is a matter in which only future holds the key, but for the time being everyone, those who have a stake in the idea as well has those who look upon it as an upstart trying to tip the applecart, will be eagerly looking forward to see if this baby walks or tips over as it gets ready to take the first step.

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