Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Ambati Rayudu is set to become the second Indian to play in the men's Caribbean Premier League (CPL) after St Kitts & Nevis Patriots signed him as their marquee player for the upcoming season.
But five days before the start of the league, Rayudu pulled out amid the BCCI's proposal to introduce a one-year cooling-off period for retired Indian players before they can participate in overseas franchise leagues.
If Rayudu is cleared, he will add to the Indian presence in the men's league. Legspinner Pravin Tambe was the first Indian to play in the men's CPL when he was with Trinbago Knight Riders in 2020. There have been two other Indian cricketers - Sunny Sohal and Smit Patel - who have played in the men's CPL, but they qualified as USA players. This season will also see Shreyanka Patil become the first Indian to take part in the Women's CPL, having been signed up by Guyana Amazon Warriors.
Rayudu will replace South Africa allrounder Tristan Stubbs, who is no longer available for CPL 2023, at Patriots. He link up with former Tamil Nadu allrounder Malolan Rangarajan, who has replaced Simon Helmot as Patriots' head coach. Malolan has also been part of Royal Challengers Bangalore men and women's support staff in the IPL and WPL. In the past, Robin Singh and Abhishek Nayar had coached CPL franchises.
"I'm really excited to be joining the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. I look forward to having a positive contribution for the team in the upcoming CPL 2023," Rayudu said.
Rayudu's presence could potentially help Patriots fill the void created by Dwayne Bravo's return to his home franchise TKR. Rayudu brings with him the experience of having played over 100 IPL games and having won six IPL titles - the most along with Rohit Sharma.
Patriots owner Mahesh Ramani said in a statement, "I am sure Ambati's seasoned expertise of having won multiple championships with various teams in an illustrious career in India will undoubtedly enrich the experience of our young players as we chase our second CPL title in 2023."
TA Adhishwar, the director of cricket at Patriots, is also looking forward to working with Rayudu: "I am really excited to welcome Ambati to the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. He is one of the most decorated players in the IPL and we have seen how important experience is in big tournaments like this. I look forward to him sharing his wealth of experience with the team."
Though Rayudu hasn't played international cricket in the Caribbean, he had been part of the 50-overs Carib Beer Cup in 2002-03, when India A and West Indies B competed with teams from various islands. He had played six matches at the time, scoring 289 runs and picking up seven wickets.
Rayudu will join the South African trio of Dewald Brevis, Corbin Bosch and George Linde, and Afghanistan's Izharulhaq Naveed as Patriots' overseas players. Evin Lewis, who had led Patriots to the men's 6IXTY title last year, is set to captain the CPL side this season following Bravo's departure.
As things stand, Indian players can feature in overseas leagues only if they are retired from international cricket and BCCI-run tournaments such as the IPL. Unmukt Chand, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan and S Sreesanth are among the Indians who have participated in franchise tournaments recently after having retired from international cricket.
The men's CPL 2023 will be played across five islands in the Caribbean from August 16 to September 24. The CPL will overlap with the Hundred in England that runs from August 1 to August 27 this year, and the knockouts of the Lanka Premier League. Patriots will open their campaign against serial CPL winners TKR on August 19 in St Lucia.