Stage set for ICL kick off
"Twenty four runs in one ball. Jujubi (too easy)," screams a look-alike of Tamil actor Rajinikanth from a poster outside the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula. Around 200 eager spectators hover around the periphery of the ground trying to figure out what the spectacle is. Organisers fume over last-minute preparations, emcees fret over logistics, and the players kick up gusts of dusts practising their direct hits. The Indian Cricket League is finally here.
"We've had so many spanners thrown into the works that we can't believe we've finally got so far," says one of the organisers, heaving a sigh of relief. Everyone hopes the opening game of the tournament, Chandigarh Lions (with Chris Cairns, Andrew Hall, Daryl Tuffey, Imran Farhat in their line-up) taking on the Delhi Jets (with Taufeeq Umar, Paul Nixon in the side), attracts a good response but nobody is going to complain if it's Bollywood actor Kareena Kapoor's dance show that's whetting the appetite. The next few days may see boundaries between sport and entertainment blur considerably.
One of the goals of such a format, the organisers say, is to build city pride, whatever they can rustle up in a few days. It's of course a different matter that the Delhi Jets has precisely one player (Abhishek Sharma) who's represented Delhi and the Mumbai Champs the same (Robin Morris). Players have been grouped according to the zones they come from and it will be interesting to see how they gel as a unit. Four or five international stars in one side adds some spice to the mix.
What the players seem impressed about is the quality of the support staff provided. Jock Campbell, an Australian physio, and CJ Clarke, his countryman who trained the Sri Lankan side that reached the final of the World Cup this year, have apparently cracked the whip during the camps. Masseuse (women, incidentally) have assisted them.
In an official launch at Chandigarh's Taj, the organisers unveiled a funky trophy and announced an overall prize money of 15 crores (US$ 4 million approx). It includes prize money for all teams; a team can lose every game and still go back with INR 85 lakhs (US$ 213,000).
|Jock Campbell, an Australian physio, and CJ Clarke, his countryman who trained the Sri Lankan side that reached the final of the World Cup this year, have apparently cracked the whip during the camps|
Jazzy television coverage is expected too - GPS devices being attached to players, displaying their heart-beat rates, body temperatures etc. A giant screen has been installed and disco-like arrangements have been set up on the stage. The first half-hour of all games will be shown across all channels of the Zee network. "Switch on the TV and see what we can do to Indian domestic cricket," seems to be the message. There was a suggestion that the third umpire will call no-balls but the umpires - four first-class umpires from England - have apparently insisted that their job remains the same.
Rains aren't expected but in case matches are curtailed it won't be the Duckworth-Lewis system being used. Instead the organisers have chosen the Jayadevan method, an Indian version that has been trialled in domestic competitions.
Another new rule to be enforced is that even if a batsman has made his ground, there will be no overthrows after the ball hits the stumps in an attempted run-out.
It's required the organisers to overcome several hurdles, the most interesting of these is this: the organisers were not allowed to use BCCI-accredited equipment and needed to travel to Dehradun to ferret out the only non-BCCI super-sopper in the country. The tournament is yet to begin but this must surely be a candidate for the scoop of the year.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo