The Indian Cricket League (ICL) further expanded its area of influence, officially launching a new team - Dhaka Warriors - for its forthcoming season beginning on October 10. Just what effect this will have on an already struggling Bangladesh team, only time will tell.
Habibul Bashar, the former Bangladesh captain, will lead the side comprising 13 players from all levels of the game in the country. However, the fact that six of them - Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees, Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mosharraf Hossain - have been drawn from the national squad has not gone down well with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). The BCB made desperate attempts to keep their players in the fold, by showing them their domestic and international calendars and the money that they could earn by playing for Bangladesh in the same period, reportedly $220,000.
However, Nafees who was present on the occasion said, "Now cricket is played on a very high note and every player has the right to choose what he wants. I still want to play from my country."
Former India cricketer and ICL chairman Kapil Dev echoed the sentiment saying, "We want them to play for Bangladesh. But when they are free, they can play for us."
Bashar added, "ICL has told us that whenever we want to play for our country, we are free to go."
However, when told that all players have announced their retirements and will no longer be able to play for the national side, Kapil, said, "These boys are not achhuts (outcastes) and should not be treated that way."
Later, Bashar revealed that the BCB had given its players two more days to reconsider their decision. Meanwhile, the BCB has convened a meeting of its executive committee on Wednesday after the six players summoned to meet with board officials failed to respond.
The top fresh signings will be paid upto $200,000 by the ICL for their three-year stints. But Nafees said that it was not money that played a part in his joining the ICL. "As a cricketer first and last I would love to play cricket. I sacrificed 10 years of my life and never thought about money," he said. "As a professional player, I will get money to play. I thought it was a new dimension of cricket."
The Dhaka Warriors, the ICL's ninth team, will be coached by former India cricketer Balwinder Singh Sandhu and will also represent ICL Bangladesh in the forthcoming ICL World Series-Edition-II.
The first phase of the season starts with the ICL 20's Championship to be staged across four venues - Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Panchkula. This will be followed by the World Series featuring teams representing India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Rest of the World, to be held in Hyderabad.
Apart from this tournament and the latest influx of players, ICL has plans to spread the game to the grassroots level. "We already have a pool of 90 players with many U-18 and junior cricketers in our ranks," said executive board member, Kiran More. "Now that we have four stadiums in our fold we will plan for practice sessions. We also have a plan for a cricket academy."
On the case of Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Yousuf, ICL Business head Himanshu Mody said, "The case is still on and the matter was deferred for September 30 by the court today."