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After IPL, Assam Premier League

Guwahati, June 3: The Assam Premier League is the talk of the town now that the cash-rich IPL is over.

The six-team event will be presented by Singhco India Sports Management, a sister concern of Singhco India Pvt Ltd, a city-based petroleum products construction company and organised by 9 Sports and Event Promoters on the lines of the IPL in August.

It was an exclusive advertisement in The Telegraph on May 26 that triggered the enthusiasm and curiosity among the entire cricket fraternity in the state. Every cricketer, past and present, who has the slightest chance to make the cut, is back on the ground and the gym in the so-called off-season to work his way to a share of the big money that is up for grabs.

“We get a lot of calls these days enquiring about franchises and also from players for berths in the yet-to-be prepared auction list,” event manager Mukut Kalita said. Several leading businessmen of the state are in the fray to own a franchise.

As in the IPL, the franchisees will sign a contract with players bought during the auction. At least 120 players — 20 per team — will be up for auction. Besides, the franchisees will reserve the right to buy one mentor each in the form of players.

“In the first edition, only players from Assam will be up for auction. If the BCCI allows, players from outside the state might be engaged in the later editions,” Kalita said. Singhco India has engaged 9 Sports and Event Promoters for three editions of the tournament.

“It makes me happy to find most of our cricketers in the gym and the ground these days, thanks to the concept of the APL,” said Assam Cricket Association (ACA) secretary Bikash Baruah. The players usually take a break from their hectic schedule from April to June every year.

“The organisers have applied for permission and we have forwarded it to the BCCI for its approval. We are yet to get the official nod, but I have been advised that it will have to be entirely along the lines of the IPL with the ACA playing the role of the BCCI as in the case of IPL,” Baruah said.

Mukut Kalita of 9 Sports and Event Promoters, which is manned by people who have carved out a niche for themselves as professional cricket organisers, said: “There will be a total of 18 floodlit T20 matches. Every team will play one match against each of the five others in the league which will be followed by the semi-finals among the top four in the tally and the final.”

“We propose to hold the first edition in August because the Nehru Stadium will not be available from September. In the winter, it is difficult to hold floodlit cricket because of fog and mist. Besides, most of the players will be on state duty in winter,” Kalita said.

About the stadium’s floodlights, which are not adequate for cricket, Kalita said: “We will have to install new lights on the towers and also put up temporary extra towers to make it sufficient.”

The International Cricket Council’s standard for floodlights in a cricket ground is 2,500 lux in the central pitch area, 2,000 lux on the larger ground and 1,000 lux at the boundary. The existing lights in the Nehru Stadium here is hardly 1,500 lux in the pitch area.

Singhco India has suggested teams like Guwahati Lions, Nagaon Warriors, Dibrugarh Royals, Assam Rhinos, Silchar Scorpions and Kokrajhar Panthers for which they would accept bids and the franchises will have to right to change the name of the district like Sivasagar or Jorhat in place of Dibrugarh or Chirang or Baksa in place of Kokrajhar.

Efforts to contact Singhco India proved futile but sources close to it said the franchises will be up for sale at a base price of over Rs 25 lakh each and the franchisees will have to bid for players above Rs 1.5 lakh per head.

The ACA’s help will be taken to select about 300 players who will be up for auction. Forms filled up by players have already started flooding the office of 9 Sports here, Kalita said.

APL’s brand ambassador and the only player from Assam in the IPL, Abu Nechim Ahmed, said he was upbeat about the event.

“It is going to be a great annual event for our players. It will be a platform for us to perform and catch the attention of the IPL teams and even the national squad selectors. Besides, we will get the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the BCCI T20 tournament,” Ahmed, who donned the Mumbai Indians colours in six matches of the recent IPL, said.

Another senior player of the state, Nishanta Bordoloi, said: “I don’t know how much it will contribute towards the development of cricket but the APL is going to be beneficial and motivating for the players. Apart from being a source of earning, it will make our players professional cricketers in the right perspective. At least you can find players like Mrigen Talukdar, Souvik Das and Debabrata Roy, who had almost given up cricket, back on the ground these days.”

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