When the Ranji Trophy season kicks off this year, there could well be several familiar faces missing. In fact, several major state teams could be completely new look and find themselves back to developing squads instead of looking at winning the Trophy.
Here’s why. Till now, we had heard that the Indian Cricket League (ICL) was in the process of recruiting talent. On Friday, ICL’s business head, Himanshu Mody, confirmed that they already had 17-18 playing Indian cricketers on board.
While Mody would not divulge the names, HT has learnt that several are current Ranji Trophy players. Mody would only say “reactions have been positive”.
“Quite a few people are disillusioned with the way the BCCI functions,” said Mody. “At the same time,” he added, “we are carefully scanning players’ lists for our needs. We need to be careful and make sure they suit us too, they have to be players who have either played some level of quality cricket or youngsters who have the potential to do so.”
“I think a lot of kids are very upset with the India A selection,” said another top ICL official. “So some of the fringe players are moving towards us. The only thing that worries them is the pension, but the money they make from ICL, if invested properly, shouldn’t be such a bad deal.”
This last doesn’t make so much sense. According to sources, ICL is looking to pay many of its Indian players (there will be 60 Indian players and 30 foreigners spread over six teams in the first year) in the range of Rs 15-20 lakh per season.
The initial contract will be for two years with a renewal clause for the third year. That doesn’t seem all that much, given the new domestic payscale and the giving up on playing for India or being associated with the BCCI in any capacity later.
Delhi’s selection committee chief, Atul Wasan, interestingly, said it wouldn’t be such a bad idea if the state lost a couple of top players. “As it is, we struggle to qualify everywhere. If two-three stars go, we might as well lose with youngsters. It might be a blessing in disguise,” he said, adding that there would be a huge problem if “youngsters went”.
Meanwhile, in addition to several top players, the coming of the ICL will also mean the Ranji will lose many of its most experienced coaches. Sandeep Patil, Madan Lal and Balwinder Singh Sandhu — all capable of handling any domestic side — are already with the ICL and a dozen more ex-cricketers are expected to join.
While other officials told HT that Sandhu’s decision to join the ICL forced the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) to start a fresh search for a coach — “experienced coaches and players cannot be easily replaced nor bought and sold” — MPCA secretary Sanjay Jagdale told a different story. “I don’t think the Ranji would be affected. We have enough quality coaches,” he said.
“Sandhu’s contract was for last year and we did not renew it as we are on the lookout for a professional player-cum-coach this season.”
And what of the BCCI itself? They are positive the ICL is “doomed to failure”. “It will not affect domestic cricket in any way,” said Board secretary Niranjan Shah.
Watch this space.