League takes tentative first steps August 22, 2007

ICL to hold camp at Mayajaal in Chennai

The Indian Cricket League may not have identified a stadium where it can host its matches but they have made the first step by finding a ground to conduct their first training camp. Although the exact duration and logistics of the camp have not yet been finalised, Cricinfo has learned that ICL players will practice and train at the ground adjoining the Mayajaal complex on the outskirts of Chennai.

Situated on the East Coast Road, about 15 kilometres from the heart of Chennai, on the road that connects Chennai to Pondicherry, the Mayajaal complex, an initiative of the Pentamedia Group, houses an entertainment complex that includes a video-game arcade, a multiplex cinema and a food court, among other things. Some years back a cricket ground was added to the facilities.

Highly placed sources within the ICL revealed to Cricinfo that they had firmed up a deal with the Pentamedia group to use the facilities to conduct a training and preparatory camp for their players at the venue. The ground, which is spread over 18 acres, houses three turf wickets, and although the facilities are far from sufficient to host matches of the profile that the ICL proposes, it would be eminently usable for practice and training. It should not escape anyone's notice that this modest facility - not used by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association for any of its activities - was inaugurated in 2003 by Kapil Dev, who now heads the executive board of the ICL.

The ground, which is available on rent for corporates to stage their in-house matches, has been used once for serious purposes with India and Australia clashing there in a women's encounter in December 2004. The last match of a seven-game series was held at the Mayajaal Sports Complex with Australia winning 4-3 although they lost the last game.

It is as yet unclear whether the ICL hopes to stage its matches at this ground. What is clear, though, is that the ICL will not be able to host any matches in Mumbai, and most likely all of the West Zone, given the signing of four Pakistani cricketers. In the past the Shiv Sena, a right-wing political party, has ensured that no Pakistan team could play in Mumbai or several other communally sensitive areas bordering the state capital. The last time Pakistan played a Test in Mumbai was in 1979. The last time they played in Mumbai in any ICC-recognised game was in 1989 when they squared-off with Australia in the Nehru Cup.

With the Essel Group offering the services of its premises at Essel World on the outskirsts of Mumbai, a ferry ride away from the mainland, to the national football team recently, it has been suggested that they might try and take cricket to the same venue. However, the presence of as many as four Pakistani cricketers - Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammed Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq and Imran Farhat - has ensured that this is not a viable venue. After all, with the state and central governments unable to provide security guarantees to the Pakistan national team, it's difficult to see how the ICL can assuage similar fears.

Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo