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Pawar scoffs at Indian Cricket League

Sharad Pawar, the Indian board (BCCI) president, ridiculed an unofficial Indian Cricket League (ICL) competition carrying a prize of US$1 million, saying it would mainly feature players coming out of retirement. Pawar also warned that promising young players would be ineligible for the Indian team if they played in the tournament, which is being bankrolled by Zee Telefilms, India's largest listed media company.

"I can't see any threat from the ICL," Pawar said. "Not many people are interested in watching retired players in action. Everyone wants to see official cricket, not the oldies. I see no reason for young players going there. Only those who play official cricket can represent India."

The BCCI has refused to recognise the league, which has consequently struggled to lure players despite reports of big money offers. Most of the players linked to the competition are retired, semi-retired or unable to hold their place in the national side.

The league would feature six teams playing in Twenty20 matches, a format viewed as a young man's game. Each team will comprise four international players, two Indian stars and eight upcoming cricketers, according to an ICL announcement in May. Matches are to be played across India in October and November.

Brian Lara is the only one to have been signed up as a player so far. Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath last week dismissed claims by ICL chairman Kapil Dev that they had already signed up. Reports have also linked former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq and retired New Zealand allrounder Chris Cairns to negotiations with the league.

The BCCI is due to meet on August 21 to decide, among other matters, if Kapil can continue to head its National Cricket Academy, which grooms promising youngsters.

The ICL could have better luck in Sri Lanka, where, sources say, it has approached Russel Arnold, Marvan Atapattu, Upul Chandana and Nuwan Zoysa, all players on the fringes of selection or recently retired. There are also rumours that Sanath Jayasuriya has been approached and, because he is likely to restrict himself to one-day internationals, could yet sign up if this were true.

The sources suggest Chaminda Vaas might also be a good bet to sign up because he is unlikely to stay in the team beyond another 12 months. Fresh player contracts will be signed in March 2008 but, the sources say, Sri Lanka's annual contracts process is so slow that the ICL could persuade good cricketers to go.