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June 2, 2009
The BCCI has granted amnesty to 79 ICL players, 11 former players and 11 officials, dealing a potentially crippling blow to the unofficial league. The players include Hemang Badani, Dinesh Mongia and Deep Dasgupta while the former players include Sandeep Patil, EAS Prasanna, Madan Lal and Ajit Wadekar.
The players (click here for the full list) have been declared eligible for domestic cricket in India, which will be good news for the teams that suffered most from the ban - Bengal, Punjab and Hyderabad - but their participation in the IPL has not yet been formalised.
The ICL is now left with five Indian players from its original pool of 84 but there has been no official confirmation on the status of the league's 53 remaining foreign signings. ICL officials said "some of the foreign players" have left, and there have been individual confirmations from players such as Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq and, on Tuesday, South Africa's Justin Kemp.
However, India's former captain Kapil Dev, who is the chariman of the ICL's Executive Board, has not terminated his contract, nor has former wicketkeeper Kiran More.
Himanshu Mody, the ICL's business head, dismissed suggestions that the league was winding up. "The world has been saying this about the ICL time and again, and every time we come out stronger," he told Cricinfo.
ICL officials maintain that the league will survive and will soon conduct camps in India to create a talent pool. They also say they are "on track" with their international tournament planned for October; the March edition of the league had been called off due to the deepening recession and non-availability of Pakistan players given the cross-border tensions in the wake of the Mumbai attacks last November.
Daryll Cullinan, coach of the Royal Bengal Tigers, appeared less optimistic. "This is a big blow because it is the bulk of the Indian players continuing their careers outside of the ICL," he said. "My guess [on whether the league would wind up] is as good as anyone else's. I don't really know what the long-term plans or intentions are of the ICL."
However, the players who have quit are looking at the benefits of life with the BCCI. "It's heartening to be back in the main fold," Hemang Badani, the former India batsman, told Cricinfo. "I am looking forward to playing again for my state [Tamil Nadu] and also for Chennai Super Kings in the next IPL. I would like to use my experience to make Tamil Nadu win a Ranji Trophy."
The decision to quit the league did, however, leave him with mixed emotions. "It was obviously tough because we had left the BCCI, joined ICL and have come back again now. There were worries whether they [BCCI] would treat us right or victimise us but so far things have gone on well. Look, there was not enough cricket being played in the ICL now. Not even practice. We were all hoping that the so-called war between the ICL and the BCCI would end but it hasn't. We couldn't enter grounds or play for our companies. There was also a cash crunch at the ICL. But, I would like to thank the ICL for the opportunity given in the last two years and I wish them luck for the future."
A major attraction for the returning players will be the opportunity to play in the big-money IPL but the BCCI said it was yet to decide on the issue, although the IPL has been classified as an Indian domestic event.
The BCCI statement announcing the amnesty was ambiguous on the point: "Guidelines with respect to participation in Indian Premier League will be intimated in due course," it said. However Rajiv Shukla, a BCCI vice-president and member of the IPL governing council, said the board might apply the one-year cooling period prescribed by the ICC.
Shukla also said the return of ICL players would be beneficial for Indian cricket. "This issue has been going on for some time and that's why the BCCI decided that players who are playing for other leagues should be given an opportunity to return," Shukla said.
The Indian board announced on April 29 an amnesty for all Indian players associated with the ICL, with a May 31 deadline to cut their ties with the league. Players who did so would be eligible to play international cricket after a one-year 'cooling period' and domestic cricket from June 1, when the ICC's new rules on official and unofficial cricket came into force.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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