ICL proves itself with inaugral T20 c'ship

Born just this April, the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) has been able to crawl, walk and even run pretty fast as far as Indian cricket is concerned.

updated: December 24, 2007 18:50 IST
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Born just this April, the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) has been able to crawl, walk and even run pretty fast as far as Indian cricket is concerned.

The successful conduct of its inaugural Twenty20 championship - keeping the first-time organizing aberrations aside - at the Tau Devi Lal cricket stadium in Panchkula has bolstered the $25 million ICL to be a viable alternative to the ever-dominating Board of control for cricket in India (BCCI).

If the stampede and the big traffic jam outside the stadium in Sector 3 in Panchkula on Sunday evening was a parameter for the success of the maiden ICL cricket tournament, the organizers clearly have reason to pat themselves on their backs.

That the stampede and the traffic jam were more the result of mismanagement by both the ICL organizers and the local administration and police is another matter.

But the chaos proved one thing, BCCI or ICL - people just love the game and will do anything to see it.

Inside the floodlit stadium - with a capacity of 7,000 - there were close to 10,000 spectators for the final game played between eventual winners Chennai Superstars and local favourites Chandigarh Lions.

Even during other match days, most enclosures of the small stadium - virtually put into shape in just five weeks from being just another cricket ground - were full of spectators.

The light and sound show - right from Bollywood stars like Kareena Kapoor, Yana Gupta, Malaika Arora, Dia Mirza, Tanushree Dutta, Ajay Devgan, Irrfan Khan, Ayesha Takia and others, singers, music directors, politicians like Railway Minister Lalu Prasad - and the fireworks that lit up the Panchkula skies every time a four or six was hit or a wicket fell or a match or innings ended had everyone enthralled.

And not to forget the Russian cheerleaders who made every effort to keep people on their toes even in the early winter chill of this town located at the foothills of the Himalayas.

"You can see from your own eyes what we are trying to do, what we did and what we created in the last 15 days. Yes, there were a lot of teething problems but you don't have to tell me. We are trying to make them (teams, officials) all comfortable.

"But if I try to compare this with somebody (BCCI) who has 50 years organization (ability), this is just the first tournament we ever did," an elated Kapil Dev said as the championship drew to a close.

Everything at this stadium - right from the grass to pitches, stands to floodlights, dressing rooms to the media box housed in a container - was put up in five weeks.

"We had a good time playing here. Some of the younger Indian players showed a lot of promise," Chandigarh Lions captain Chris Cairns said as his team lost the final played here Sunday.

Essel (Zee) group - the parent organization of ICL - chairman Subhash Chandra was equally happy with the way that ICL went.

"We were overwhelmed by the response that ICL has evoked. I can assure you, the ICL has worked as per the business model planned," Chandra said as he announced five tournaments in the ICL calendar for next year here Sunday.

The ICL championship offered the highest prize money for any Indian cricket tournament - Rs.150 million. Winners Chennai Superstars took away the prize of Rs 39 million ($1 million) while runners-up Chandigarh Lions took Rs 19 million.

Brian Lara's Mumbai Champs - a much fancied team in the event - which finished sixth and last in the championship took home Rs 8.5 million.

For every match won, teams took home another Rs 2.5 million. Every player of the match was richer by Rs 375,000.

"My entire team worked very hard for this. Sometimes we wonder that so many things look so easy but if it really turns out to be as good as that (the ICL championship), you feel happy and satisfied. We want to tell you and promise you that we will do our very best (in future)," Kapil Dev said.

And Kapil is not letting up without giving a fight to the BCCI - which sacked him as National Cricket Academy's chairman when he joined ICL - to provide a viable alternative for cricket in India.

"We will not let you down, we will work for everything - our life is dependent on that. In a few years, these boys will play for the country. If that does not happen, I think the best players will not be playing for the country. I will be disappointed," he said in his parting shot at the BCCI.