ICL: a few surprises expected

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KEEN LISTENERS: A group of nearly 50 players has been put through fitness assessments at the camp being held in Chennai.
KEEN LISTENERS: A group of nearly 50 players has been put through fitness assessments at the camp being held in Chennai.

Special Correspondent

Camp in progress under the watchful eyes of Patil and Sandhu

CHENNAI: For a week now, the cricketers with the Indian Cricket League (ICL), the breakaway body sponsored by the Essel Group, have been training at Mayajaal on the outskirts of the city.The group of nearly 50 has been put through fitness assessments including skin-fold tests, beep tests, and vertical jumps. The cricketers have had centre-wicket sessions and played practice games.

The effort invested is puzzling. What incentive do those with little hope of representing the nation have? The answer is twofold: firstly, the cricketers are aware of the need of a quality product; secondly, and intriguingly, not every cricketer has given up hope of playing for India despite the BCCI’s position that they can’t have feet in both camps.

Performance is the key

Sandeep Patil, here as an ICL coach, substantiated the first part: “What we deliver on the field is crucial. I’m pleased because the boys look very positive. Their performance will determine (ICL’s) progress. At the moment, that’s what the focus is on. There’s no point worrying what the BCCI says or what the court verdict is.”The stance on the BCCI — and by logical extension, representing India — is interesting. While there’s hope of a rapprochement, the players and coach Balwinder Singh Sandhu believe the National selectors can’t ignore standout performances in ICL.“If these players go and hammer international players, how can anyone keep them out? There will be public opinion,” said Sandhu.

“You can’t ignore them just because they are playing for ICL.” He did, however, add: “I’m sure somewhere down the line, things will be sorted out.”

Abhishek Jhunjhunwla, 24, and talked of as a prospect before joining ICL, said, “If I’m doing well and if everyone is watching it, no one can ignore me.” Neither he nor Ambati Rayudu, another youngster touted as the next big talent at one stage, is convinced the door is closed.

Deep Dasgupta, Juhunjhunwala’s former captain at Bengal, said, “Why shouldn’t Abhishek Jhunjhunwala or anyone else play (for India)?

If they perform well, the media will write about it. The idea is for the best 14 or 15 to play for India. It’s up to you to perform and put pressure on the selectors.”

Second camp

The group of players will be assessed further over the next fortnight.

A more directed camp is planned from October 8, when details about the teams, the format, the schedule, and the international cricketers who have signed will be made public. The international players will join their teams in practice.

The tournament is tentatively scheduled for the end of October.

It will likely be played in four centres.

It is learnt that current players in the West Indies, England, South Africa and New Zealand have been approached; a few surprises are expected.

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