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April date for cricket extravaganza

- Odisha Premier League teams to pick players through lottery

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 24: Cricket lovers, it’s time to kick up your heels. The second Odisha Premier League (OPL) is set to begin in the first week of April, announced officials of the Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) today.

“However, this time, there will be no auction and players will be picked up through a lottery system. There will be eight new teams with 17 players in each. We have shortlisted 136 players in a meeting today for the tournament,” said OCA secretary Ashirbad Behera, adding that all 15 matches would be played under floodlights at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack and Veer Surendra Sai Stadium in Sambalpur.

“The tournament will get over in a matter of 10 days. In the league stage, there will be 12 matches with two games being played simultaneously at the two venues. We will soon come out with the fixture,” Behera said.

The eight teams – Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, North, East, West and South – would be divided into two groups. Each side would have a combination of 17 players categorised under four grades – ‘A’ (Ranji), ‘B’ (under 25), ‘C’ (under 19) and ‘D’ (catchment area).

Players in grade A category would be entitled to Rs 50,000. Those in Grade B would receive Rs 40,000 while cricketers in grade C and catchment areas would get Rs 30,000 and Rs 20,000, respectively.

“Though there will not be any bidding of teams or players, individual or firms interested to participate in the OPL-II may sponsor a team,” Behera said, adding that the reforms have been brought about to avoid controversies.

The Odisha clone of the hugely popular Indian Premier League, which was introduced by the state cricket association in 2011, could not be held last year after it came under vigilance scanner following allegations of investment of black money in the tournament. Besides, franchise owners did not show any enthusiasm to participate in the Twenty20 tournament fearing vigilance and income tax raids on them.

The maiden season featured 10 teams – Katak Barabati Tigers, Baleswar Baghas, Bhubaneswar Jaguars, Cooperative Kings Dhenkanal, Western Samurai (Rourkela), Angul Tuskers, JSP Sparks (Jagatsingpur), Kashvi Power Rangers (Keonjhar), Puri Emperors and Berhampur Bhanja Veers. The last three teams were the first to pull out of OPL-II.

“We had launched OPL with the intention of providing a platform to budding cricketers but the raids sent out a wrong message. We have made major modifications to the tournament this time to keep trouble at bay,” Behera said.