Iqbal Abdulla, the Mumbai left-arm spinner, has signed a two-year deal with Kolkata Knight Riders ahead of the fourth season of the IPL. Abdulla, who is also a useful lower-order batsman, was at Kolkata for the first three seasons, having been picked as their Under-19 draft in the first season, and now returns as an uncapped signing. "We needed a specialist Indian spinner to accompany Shakib [al Hasan] and Yusuf Pathan and we are happy to get Iqbal," a Kolkata spokesperson said.
Kolkata are talking to at least 10 or 12 uncapped players, some of whom played for the team in the first three editions of the IPL. Bengal allrounder Laxmi Shukla, Haryana wicketkeeper-batsman Manvinder Bisla and Delhi middle-order veteran Rajat Bhatia are some of the other names the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise is in talks with it.
Though Mumbai, the defending champions, were knocked out by Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals this year, Abdulla had a good season, ending as their top wicket-taker with 27 victims at an average of 22.11 in addition to notching up his maiden Ranji century, an unbeaten 150 against Saurashtra in their opening match. Abdulla averaged 47.75 with the bat in eight matches in the Ranji season. When Mumbai defended their crown in the 2009-10 season, Abdulla had a tally of 32 wickets.
Even though teams have until March 8 to sign uncapped players for the IPL, which starts on April 8, franchise owners and officials have shown desperation in the last few days to latch on to quality youngsters as soon as possible.
Kings XI Punjab have been lucky to get back three players who were part of their squad in the previous seasons: Punjab allrounder Love Ablish, Himachal Pradesh fast bowler Vikramjeet Malik and Uttar Pradesh left-arm quick Shalabh Srivastava have decided to stay with Punjab for the next two years. The franchise has also signed Sunny Singh and Nitin Saini, centurions for Haryana in the Ranji quarterfinals this year against Tamil Nadu, along with 23-year-old batsman Siddharth Chitnis, who made his first-class debut for Mumbai this year.
The BCCI has also made it clear that it is the players that have the final say on which team they wish to join. "Franchises have full rights to scout for players in their catchment area, but uncapped players have the right to negotiate," Niranjan Shah, BCCI vice-president, told IANS. "We are also keeping a close watch on any underhand dealings between the players and the franchises. All agreement will be tripartite, involving the board, the player and the franchise."