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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Indians ready for US adventure
By Arjun Sandhu

Excited at the prospects of sharing a new experience in cricket's far horizons, Indian cricketers are making a beeline to the USA for a new 20-overs-a-side Pro Cricket league.

Ajay Jadeja
Ajay Jadeja is one of the leading Indian names involved

Seeking to fill their off-season with some competitive action, two Indian dozen players - many with Test or one-day international experience - will be divided up amongst the eight teams involved.

Kits are brightly coloured, some might say garish, with a variety of stripes - vertical, horizontal and diagonal.

Former Test batsman and Indian national team coach Anshuman Gaekwad has been the co-ordinating go between for the New Jersey-based organisers.

Players are able to commit for as many games as they like during the three-month season, which climaxes with a final in Bridgewater on 4 September.

"It allows the cricketers a flexible option of playing as few as three games over a weekend, then returning home to their normal businesses and coming back when they feel like it," said Gaekwad.

The new league is the brainchild of two cricket-starved Indian expatriates, Kalpesh Patel and Vimal Verma, who concluded that a three-hour match was what would best appeal to American spectators.

Termed a 3-G (third generation) competition, the matches will follow the same format as the hugely popular Twenty20 Cup in England last summer.

NY Storm
Jersey Fire
DC Forward
Florida Thunder
Chicago Tornadoes
San Francisco Freedom
LA Unity
Texas Arrow Heads

Each team is allowed to have four overseas players on their roster, with all games played between Friday and Sunday - a major selling point for a competition which is seeking to find a niche in a market dominated by baseball, gridiron, basketball and ice hockey.

"I've asked the players to view it as a cricket-playing holiday and then decide if they might want to play more matches," said Gaekwad.

"As the four pros can keep rotating, everyone seems to like the idea.

"The hosts are going to spread the red carpet and provide hospitality, but there isn't going to be big money involved - the players know that.

"No formal contracts are involved here, the invitation and acceptance is all by word of mouth. The cricketers are trying to mix weekend cricket with an off-season holiday. Keeping that in view, they'll surely have a good time."

But why would cricketers travel such a huge distance to play in an all-out slog version of the game?

Vinod Kambli
Vinod Kambli hit four centuries in 17 Test appearances

"It's an exciting proposition, far better to be knocking the ball around in a 20-over match during the off-season rather than have no cricket," said batsman Vinod Kambli, a close friend of Sachin Tendulkar.

"I'm looking forward to playing in the US. It sounds like an exciting format. I'll play some games, come back to attend to my work in Bombay, and return to play some more matches.

"Yes, there'll be a lot of traveling involved, but I don't mind it," added Kambli, who has four Test centuries to his credit, but nowadays is also employed as an actor in a number of television shows.

Other names who have agreed to play include all-rounder Sanjay Bangar, Deep Dasgupta and Tinu Yohannan, who have all featured in India's Test side in recent years, wicket-keepers MSK Prasad and Vijay Dahiya, spinners Rahul Sanghvi and Nikil Chopra, and seamers Rakesh Patel and Jacob Martin.

Another major attraction will be former national team captain Ajay Jadeja, who last year resumed his career in domestic cricket after his appeal against a five-year match-fixing ban was upehled by a court.

"We're not looking at current international players, who won't be able to find time considering their commitments and busy itinerary," said Gaekwad.

"There are no cricket board permissions involved here since this would be like playing club cricket in England, for which the players are waved off and told to go ahead."

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