ICL releases 50 players before amnesty deadline
The ICL has decided to release around 50 players who had sought a return to official cricket. Those released are believed to include New Zealand's Shane Bond, Pakistan's Imran Nazir and Naved-ul-Hasan, Bangladesh's Habibul Bashar and Deep Dasgupta, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and Hemang Badani from India.
The league will now adopt a two-pronged strategy: start activities afresh by holding talent identification camps and clinics at the six grounds that it controls in India, and pursue legally the ICC's refusal to grant it recognition.
"We will now focus on our October tournament programme," Himanshu Mody, the ICL's business head, told Cricinfo. "We decided to release these players because the ICL is about cricketers, we wouldn't want to stand in their way. We understand that they want to leave us to progress in their careers. You could soon see some of these players in action at the official level, either playing, coaching, or in a management role. Some of them may even turn up for the IPL, which is good for them. We are only happy to help them benefit professionally."
These players - among the 85 Indians and 70 foreigners with the ICL - had applied for release from the league after various national boards echoed the BCCI's amnesty offer made on April 29. They were asked to put in their requests by May 15, facilitating a return to the official fold by May 31, a day before new and stringent ICC rules on unofficial cricket come into force.
Dasgupta, the former India wicketkeeper who played for ICL's Royal Bengal Tigers, welcomed the league's decision and called it a "positive development" for the players. "It's good to hear about this," Dasgupta told Cricinfo. "It's in line with the ICL's concept that they are always for the cricketers. I am now looking forward to playing in the official set-up and take my career forward."
Even though the ICL has hinted that Bond is in the process of being released, the player decided against commenting at this juncture. "There is no update, nothing yet," Bond told Cricinfo.
ICL officials, meanwhile, also confirmed that plans to take on the ICC in a legal battle are still on track. "You can expect a movement on this next week," an official said. Last month, the ICC had rejected the ICL's request for recognition to end months of uncertainty over the issue, including two failed rounds of official talks between the BCCI and the ICL.
The ICL board took the decision to release these players during a meeting on May 18 and said in an official statement that the league "will continue to bring up and nurture younger talents for future". "A few domestic and overseas players and support staff have approached us with an application to be released from ICL to pursue cricket with the state associations," the statement said. "The same was due to the announcement made by the BCCI offering to take the players back into their fold."
Mody dismissed suggestions that the exodus would cripple the league. "It is not a setback," he said. "On the contrary, it will help us streamline the league, and come up with a better Twenty20 product in October. We are very confident going forward."
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo