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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 17:32 GMT
India tempts global cricket stars
By Rahul Tandon
BBC Sport in Calcutta

Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara
Ponting and Lara will be playing in opposing Indian leagues
In one corner stands the rebel Indian Cricket League and its proclamation that it "will change the face of world cricket" with stars such as Inzamam-ul-Haq and Brian Lara in action from this Friday.

In the other, watching with disdain, is the heavyweight Indian Premier League, boasting the support of Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar.

The two rivals are set to fight a very public - and very ugly - contest about who will be the undisputed Twenty20 champion of India.

The battle will have ramifications throughout cricket.

At stake are potential global audiences in excess of one billion and multi-million dollar sponsorship deals in one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

And neither organisation will back down in its quest to succeed.

The animosity between the two leagues revolves around its organisers, the Zee Telefilms media organisation and the BCCI, the governing body of cricket in India.

ICL BIG NAMES
Australia: Damien Martyn
West Indies: Brian Lara
Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Imran Farhat, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood
England: Chris Read, Darren Maddy, Vikram Solanki, Paul Nixon
New Zealand: Chris Harris, Chris Cairns, Hamish Marshall, Nathan Astle
South Africa: Lance Klusener, Nicky Boje
India: Dinish Mongia
Ireland: Boyd Rankin, Niall O'Brien

Zee - a satellite channel which broadcasts films, music and countless soap operas into millions of homes of India's diaspora - is bankrolling the breakaway ICL, with former India captain Kapil Dev heading the PR offensive.

It finds itself in this position because Zee impresario Subhash Chandra was upset when the BCCI turned down his bid for India's cricket rights, even though he had made the highest offer, claiming Zee did not have the necessary experience in broadcasting.

Chandra has set out to prove it wrong - and make it hurt - by setting up his own Twenty20 league, and waving wads of cash in front of cricketers from around the world to tempt them to sign up.

He has succeeded in luring West India legend Lara and former Pakistan captain Inzamam out of retirement, along with other names like ex-Australia batsman Damien Martyn and New Zealanders Chris Cairns and Nathan Astle.

Chandra has also recruited Chris Read, Paul Nixon, Darren Maddy and Vikram Solanki, all of whom have played for England in the last year, with reported salaries of 75,000 for six weeks of action.

To put the figure in context, the average English county cricketer's salary is between 40-50,000 a year, so the financial incentive is irresistible - and you can be sure the star names are earning much more.

606: DEBATE
alan

The tournament is scheduled to begin on 30 November, when Lara, Inzamam and Solanki will each appear for one of the six regional sides - Chennai Superstars, Hyderabad Heroes, Kolkata Tigers, Delhi Jets, Chandigarh Lions and Mumbai Champs.

But the BCCI has refused to acknowledge the ICL's existence - it has denied access to any of its affiliated grounds and threatened players with lengthy bans - and other national governing bodies are warning their players against taking part.

That is because it is launching the IPL in April next year - and unlike the ICL, it has the blessing of cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council.

Its list of contracted players - who will be paid around 150,000 for six weeks's work - reads like a world fantasy league squad.

As well as Ponting et al, Australia vice-captain Adam Gilchrist and many of the world champions' Test squad have signed up, along with Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene, Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf and Shahid Afridi, and South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis, as well as a host of Indian stars, including Yuvraj Singh.

The Indian Cricket League has produced an eye-catching logo

It is a seriously impressive line-up.

And the BCCI is backing it up with plans for a lucrative Champions League-style World Twenty20 competition, featuring two teams each from India, England, Australia and South Africa, with a 1m prize for the winners.

The BCCI believes it has hit upon a winning formula and vice-president Lalit Modi claims to have been approached by unnamed owners of English Premier League football clubs interested in becoming team franchise holders.

If you are wondering what is the appeal of a Twenty20 league in India to such major international sporting stars, the answer comes back to the reason the leagues were set up in the first place - money.

Cricket is enormously popular in India, and India is one of the world's fastest growing markets.

Many of the world's biggest companies are looking to get a foothold in India, and any company worth its dividends knows cricket sells, especially when your product has the potential to be broadcast to a population of 1.1 billion cricket aficionados.

WHO WILL PLAY WITH THE IPL?
Australia: Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds, Glenn McGrath, Mike Hussey, Matthew Hayden
India: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni
Sri Lanka: Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumara Sangakkara,
That is why India's cricketers adorn endorsements from mobile phones, motorbikes through to energy shakes and pens - and why the ICL and IPL have the finances to buy any player in the world.

So far, though, there is little doubt that the official IPL has the more impressive line-up of stars.

But Zee vice-president Ashish Kaul is not concerned. He says his dream is to raise the standard of cricket around the world.

"Imagine a guy from a remote village in India playing with Brian Lara!" he says. "What a learning experience it will be."

Kaul believes there is space in cricket for the ICL and the IPL - which is just as well as the BCCI rejects any suggestion of an eventual merger.

But is there room in Indian cricket for two rival leagues offering a similar product - or will one or the other inevitably emerge as the winner?

One thing is sure - an awful lot of money will be spent before they find out.



SEE ALSO
Aussie stars join Indian League
31 Oct 07 |  International Teams
Pollock, Shoaib join India League
16 Oct 07 |  International Teams
Legend Lara set to end retirement
23 Jul 07 |  West Indies
Pakistan serve notice on Farhat
04 Sep 07 |  Pakistan
Pakistan star agrees Indian deal
16 Aug 07 |  Pakistan
India plans Twenty20 competition
24 Aug 07 |  Cricket
Kapil sacked over Indian league
21 Aug 07 |  Cricket
Lawson hoping for Yousuf U-turn
21 Aug 07 |  Pakistan
Pakistan ban players from league
02 Aug 07 |  Pakistan
Sri Lanka firm amid ICL threats
10 Aug 07 |  Sri Lanka


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