After the fiasco over telecast rights two years ago, Subhash Chandra, Chairman of Essel Group, does not seem to have forgiven the Indian Cricket Board. On Tuesday, at a press conference held in the Capital, the media baron and Zee supremo sprung a surprise with the announcement that he was going to set up the Indian Cricket League jointly with IL&FS. In effect, this will be a breakaway cricket league on the lines of Australian businessman Kerry Packer who challenged the might of the ICC in 1976 by starting the professional World Series Cricket.
The Indian Cricket League (ICL) will be the richest professional cricket league set up in India, with an annual prize purse of $ 1 million. The ICL will involve young talented players being identified from all over India, and trained to compete at the highest levels and then playing for their respective regions alongside top international stars.
Said Chandra, “It troubles me that a country with more than a billion cricket fans and millions of cricket enthusiasts fares so poorly at the international stage. A new approach must be taken for the sport to grow and prosper in the years ahead. We need to provide an environment for young, talented, upcoming players that will keep them motivated and interested in developing their careers in the sport of cricket.”
He further added, “A professional league is the need of the hour, as is a killer instinct among the players. Budding talent must be groomed at the grassroots level and should be given the experience to play on competitive pitches and not on placid tracks, which usually accounts for their downfall when tested on international circuits. The presence of international superstars in the league will provide rich experience to the young talent, as well as deliver some breathtaking cricket. It is time for some or one of us in the private and public sectors to step up and partner together to commit the financial resources necessary to help the sport which is a national obsession.”
While responding to a query whether the ICL would be parallel to the BCCI, Chandra said, “ICL is not in conflict with the BCCI, but is complementary to it. It is a complementary effort by Essel Group to create a talent pool of ideal cricketers who have the killer instinct. The BCCI is free to draw people from the talent pool.”
Chandra also informed that Essel Group has written a letter to the BCCI and is now awaiting a response from them.
The ICL will be launched around July-August this year. Initially, there will be six teams taking part in a league format that will lead up to the semi-finals and then finals. By the third year, ICL promises to increase the number of teams to 16, which will comprehensively represent all of India. The matches will be held in both ODI as well as 20:20 format with teams playing home and away.
Each ICL team will comprise four international, two Indian and eight budding cricketers. There will also be a mentor attached to each team who will function as the coach/prime motivator for the individual team. This is most likely to be an ex-Indian cricketer from that particular region.