Where do we go from here?
The BCCI's amnesty to 79 ICL players might weaken the league but it is unlikely to change the face of domestic cricket in India. It does offer an opportunity to a few individuals like Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and Ambati Rayudu to resurrect their careers and help a couple of teams like Bengal and perhaps Hyderabad improve their standings in the Ranji Trophy. Some of the state associations told Cricinfo they would welcome the ICL players but the ground reality is not going to be smooth.
As one coach put it: "Reinstating these players is going to be a sensitive issue and it will come down to strong personalities at the association level. What about the players who didn't leave for the ICL and stayed faithful to the associations? There might be some rancour if one or two are dropped. It's going to come down to an ad-hoc decision at the individual association level. The various club secretaries could have problems if their players are ditched for someone from the ICL."
Good performances will obviously make it an easier decision, but there are not enough games and tournaments to prove oneself. A state official said, "These players have only played Twenty20 and that too sporadically. How do we know whether they are good enough to play a longer version or not?" Not all states have a good competitive league or club structure programme and selection is not going to be easy.
Though not every cricketer will get reinstated to his Ranji team, the move out of the ICL will open up other avenues for them. They can put up their names as "professionals" and offer to play for weaker sides like Tripura or Assam. Also, they can now play in the leagues in England without any harassment from the boards.
Some of the state associations, especially those who were hit hard by the ICL exodus, are looking forward to the return of the players. "These are our boys. The good thing is that the birds have returned to the nest," said MV Sridhar, secretary of the Hyderabad Cricket Association. "Obviously they should perform well in the league cricket to be eligible for playing in Ranji Trophy."
Likewise, the Bengal association was happy with the return of Jhunjhunwala, Rohan Gavaskar and Deep Dasgupta. Rayudu, for his part, is looking forward to playing domestic cricket and the IPL. "I am not looking too far ahead, just want to concentrate on domestic cricket and push for the IPL," he said.
Some, like Dinesh Mongia, have admitted that the ICL has not been great for their career. "I took a step to play some cricket which didn't go really well with my career," he said. "I think that has passed now and I will have to take it in my stride and hopefully things will improve now. Mentally it was very tough because I was playing active cricket, and after I joined the ICL there wasn't much cricket. As a cricketer I went there for more cricket but I ended with no cricket actually. That was the toughest part."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo