‘ICL organisers planning another cricket league’

Essel previously ran the ICL, which ended abruptly in 2009 with more than $2 million owed to more than 40 players including Australians, and was later the subject of corruption admissions by New Zealander Lou Vincent.  — AFP/file

MUMBAI: The Essel Group, headed by the indefatigable Subhash Chandra, is planning to rekindle its romance with cricket.

The company bigwigs were travelling the day Sydney Morning Herald reported that companies had been registered with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and also in New Zealand and other full and associate member countries that suggested another move against cricket’s world body (International Cricket Council) some time in the future.

On Monday, after returning to India, one of the top men at Essel Group — who has handled their cricket interests in the past — spoke to the Times of India confirming such a move.

“The IPL is just a copy of the format that we had created in the first place. And the previous BCCI administrators, including Lalit Modi, admitted that they felt threatened by what we did back then,” he said.

Contrary to rumours, Essel says Lalit Modi is not part of their plans, which involve another attempt to take on the establishment like they had done with the Indian Cricket League (ICL).

“The reports are correct [of registering companies]. But they’re all at a nascent stage and are still being worked upon. We’ll share details as things develop,” he added.

The Essel top executive stressed that having battled the might of the BCCI in the past, the company was aware of the pitfalls it faced between 2007 and 2010 while trying to run the ICL.

“That experience has taught us a lot and this time when we return, we’ll be better prepared. We know how not to burn our fingers now,” he said.

A report carried by the Sydney Morning Herald website said the head of world cricket’s players union, Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), believes governing bodies should be “on their toes” about a potential raid on their players by a rebel group despite the Indian conglomerate having a poor record in cricket administration.

Essel previously ran the ICL, which ended abruptly in 2009 with more than $2 million owed to more than 40 players including Australians, and was later the subject of corruption admissions by New Zealander Lou Vincent.

Essel recently agreed to a settlement of $280,000 in a Mumbai court after litigation brought by 12 of the players concerning unpaid money from the 2008 and cancelled 2009 events but the rest of the players and others associated with the ICL remain out of pocket six years after the tournament folded.

Retired Australian players Jason Gillespie, Michael Kaspro­wicz and Damien Martyn were among those to compete in the ICL. The fight for the players to be paid was led by FICA and while their chief executive, Tony Irish, believes cricketers would be wary about signing up for a body that in the past reneged on payments he said many would be tempted.

“There is always going to be interest from players in events irrespective of what history has occurred,” Irish said. “Obviously there will be some reticence from players based on what has happened but I don’t think you can discount the fact that players will be interested.”

Irish agreed that players from outside the so-called ‘big three’ of world cricket — Australia, India and England — would be more easily persuaded by a rebel approach for financial reasons. West Indies players, for instance, had a bitter dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board over payments last year, prompting them to quit a tour of India, while Sri Lankan cricketers eng­a­ged in their own contract wrangle with their board in 2013.

“International cricket and mainstream cricket have got to be on their toes to keep their players,” Irish said.

“But that’s the case as it is anyway because players have got opportunities in approved T20 leagues around the world at the moment and a lot of players I think are looking to just go that route.

“So whether this event happens or doesn’t happen I think the boards have got to be on their toes and realise there are other markets for players and they’ve got to try and make mainstream international cricket as attractive as possible.”

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