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August 21, 2007
He has not even signed up with the Indian Cricket League (ICL), but Nilesh Kulkarni is already feeling the strain. Mumbai's selectors named their team to take on Karachi in a four-day match for the Nissar Trophy on Saturday and Kulkarni figured in the squad. With speculation rife that he was set to join the ICL Mumbai Cricket Association officials got in touch with Kulkarni to check what the exact situation was.
When they learned that Kulkarni, who is currently playing league cricket in England, had indeed been offered a contract by ICL, and was dilly-dallying over whether to sign or not, and reportedly asked for a few days time before he made up his mind, Mumbai's selectors made theirs up. They dropped Kulkarni for the Nissar Trophy match, replacing him with Mundeep Mungela, the medium-pacer.
"We wanted to send a strong message to Nilesh," a senior MCA official close to the selection committee, comprising Dilip Vengsarkar, Abey Kuruvilla, Milind Rege and Kiran Mokashi, told Cricinfo. "He wanted a few days' time but we decided to take our own decision."
Mumbai's reaction is hardly surprising considering the embarrassing position Sharad Pawar, president of the MCA and the BCCI could find himself in if members from his own team migrated in large numbers to the ICL.
Mumbai will play Karachi Urban, winners of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in Pakistan, in a four-day match starting on September 8. This is the second edition of the Nissar Trophy, named after Mohammad Niswar, the fast bowler who represented India in six Tests in the 1930s before migrating to Pakistan. The first edition was won by Uttar Pradesh, then Ranji champions. Mumbai will miss the services of Wasim Jaffer who is recuperating from a knee injury and has been advised to take six weeks rest.
Already players who have signed up for the ICL have been left out in the cold by their state associations, most notably Hyderabad, who were forced to send in replacements for seven cricketers who were part of the Hyderabad team taking part in the Buchi Babu Memorial tournament in Chennai.
While it has only happened in one or two cases so far, it is expected that many of the cricketers who have signed up with the ICL will also either lose their jobs or be forced to give up their jobs as they will be ineligible to take part in any tournaments organised by the board or its affiliates.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?