Thursday, March 27, 2008

ICL planning makeover with international matches

A year after its launch, the Indian Cricket League (ICL), is planning a makeover with significant changes to its structure and schedule.

The revised blueprint, revealed by its business head, Himanshu Mody, includes matches between international XIs, four-day matches and opening up team ownership to minority stakeholders.

The changes are being announced weeks before the launch of the Indian Premier League, backed by the Indian board and launched as a hostile response to the ICL.

"We will soon be having matches between international teams like an India XI, a Pakistan XI, an Australia XI and even a World XI,"
Mody told Cricinfo.
"This is a very distinct possibility that will turn into a reality in the very near future, as soon as this year."

Currently, the unauthorised ICL has eight teams representing various Indian cities and Pakistan's Lahore, with a list of 46 international players, including 16 from Pakistan, eight each from Australia and New Zealand, and seven from South Africa.

Prominent among the international stars who are currently involved in the second edition of ICL are Inzamam-ul-Haq from Pakistan, Shane Bond from New Zealand, Jason Gillespie and Damien Martyn from Australia, Chris Cairns from New Zealand and Justin Kemp from South Africa.

Mody also said they were looking at four-day leagues, which will probably be aimed at the Indian players in the league, who have been barred from domestic cricket and are known to be missing the longer version of the game.

Significantly, the ICL, owned by the Essel Group, has also opened up team ownership for the first time by getting the Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty on board as co-owner and brand ambassador of Kolkata Tigers.

The actor's roots are in Kolkata, and he still has an iconic presence there. The deal is worth around US$ 6-8 million.

"Mithun expressed interest in joining us some time ago,"
Mody said.
"Everything has been tied up, and he is now the first co-owner of an ICL team. He is a celebrity in India and brings along tremendous value in terms of promotion, which is most welcome."

The decision signals the ICL's intent to spread some of the liability and move away from the single-ownership business model. That moves it closer in structure to the IPL, which is based on a franchise model with all eight teams owned by various business interests.

Mody said the ICL is in talks with other celebrities who have expressed interest in co-owning some of the other seven teams, but added that the sale of only minority stake is being considered at the moment.

He clarified, though, that actors Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor are no longer in the frame though they had initially shown an interest in this option.

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