The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Team India next' Not now
- Kapil says if BCCI wants to remove him, it can

Mumbai, Aug. 20: Not wanting to be painted as a villain and blamed for distracting Team India, Kapil Dev hasn’t approached anybody who either featured during the recent three-Test series in England or is in the ODI squad there.

“The Indian team is also my team and it’s not proper to contact anybody in the middle of a tour. If the results aren’t favourable, I’m going to be blamed. So, I’m not approaching anybody till the team returns. After that, I’ll invite the players to join us,” Kapil, chairman of the Indian Cricket League (ICL), told The Telegraph.

That won’t be soon, though. The ODIs get over on September 8, but most then head straight for the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa.

Speaking on the sidelines of an ICL function where 44 desi players were paraded before the media, Kapil added: “Those who’ve joined us have shown so much courage. When I was their age, I didn’t have that courage… didn’t have their confidence. They want to live their lives their way and have decided not to do anything at the behest of others.”

Asked if he was relieved that so many had come on board despite the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) adopting a stern “them-or-us” stand, Kapil said: “No. If there’s one feeling which is paramount, it’s that I’ve got more responsibility. They believe in the ICL and believe in me. I’ve got to look after them in every respect.”

Typically, Kapil has vowed to back the 44 till the “last day” of his life.

The parade, incidentally, took place on the eve of the SGMs called by the BCCI. “Our thoughts could be different, but I still respect the BCCI. Hum koi jhatka nahin de rahen hain.… We’re only giving an opportunity to the cream of the country. I’ve heard some players have been threatened. If true, that’s not proper... that’s not cricket.”

According to Kapil, who “motivated” the group during an informal session behind closed doors, India’s 1983 World Cup success (under his captaincy) had taught him that “a big team wasn’t needed, big commitment was”.

Kapil acknowledged having met BCCI president Sharad Pawar “once” after getting involved with the ICL, but insisted he didn’t do so as the new body’s chairman. Well, he’s also chairman of the Bangalore-located National Cricket Academy (NCA).

“If the BCCI officials so want, they can remove me as the NCA chairman. I’m ready for that.” Kapil’s appointment is till end-September, but he may be replaced before the AGM.

The ICL has plans to launch an academy of its own, to be headed by Balwinder Singh Sandhu. It’s even likely that some of the existing private academies across the country are going to come under the ICL umbrella.

In the group of 44 is somebody like Dinesh Mongia (“I want to play and this is an opportunity. Cricket is in my blood”), who has been in and out of the ODI squad for years. Also Jai Prakash Yadav, once projected as the all-rounder Team India needed.

The ICL has, of course, netted promising youngsters like Hyderabad’s Ambati Thirupathi Rayudu and Bengal’s Avishek Jhunjhunwala. The latter, one of seven from the state to switch colours, was among the probables for next month’s Twenty20.

The players, one understands, have been given three-year contracts. While Kapil didn’t reveal the financial package, he indicated their performances could be reviewed. “They’ve got to perform. If they perform and still don’t get selected, it will be a black day for Indian cricket.”

It’s not confirmed, but the payments have been in the region of Rs 50-80 lakh. “This kind of security is unimaginable,” somebody associated with the ICL said.

The ICL’s maiden tournament, a Twenty20 competition, gets under way by year-end. “We do expect teething problems, but from next season, we’re also going to have three-day and limited-overs matches,” Kapil pointed out.

The teams could, for example, be named on the lines of Bengal Tigers. Equally, a team-specific sponsor’s name may also be added.

Among current players, the biggest catch has been in Pakistan: Former captain Inzamam-ul Haq, one-time stand-in captain Mohammed Yousuf, President Pervez Mus-harraf’s favourite Abdul Razzaq and Imran Farhat.

In a way, that suits India fine as Shoaib Malik won’t have everybody at his disposal during Pakistan’s tour here later this year.

The quartet’s presence, however, means the ICL won’t be able to hold any match in Mumbai. Possibly, in the entire West Zone, as the Shiv Sena is bound to make a big issue of the Pakistanis.

Two South Africans, both in the has-been bracket, have come on board too. While Lance Klusener is non-controversial, Nicky Boje featured in the match-fixing scandal of April 2000.

In fact, since then, he has refused to tour India. The ICL’s project head, Himanshu Mody, though, claimed to be ignorant of the past. “Don't know what you're talking about,” he told a journalist.

The Inzamams and Kluseners have joined Brian Lara in the overseas players’ category. At the moment, negotiations are on with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath and a couple of New Zealanders -- Stephen Fleming and Chris Cairns.

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