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Kerry Packer II? Zee plans own cricket league

If Chandra's gambit succeeds, his ICL could well become a Packer-style breakaway body, reports Kadambari Murali.

cricket Updated: Jul 26, 2007 18:59 IST

Is this the beginning of a World Series Cricket-style breakaway body? Although Essel Group head and media mogul Subhash Chandra says he will never do a Kerry Packer, there is every indication that his Indian Cricket League (ICL) -- whose formation he announced on Tuesday -- could well become one if Chandra's gambit succeeds.

The ICL will run parallel to the leagues run by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Chandra told the Hindustan Times that he was "not looking at a confrontation" with the board. But asked if he would go on with the planned Rs 100-crore venture, even if the BCCI denied him permission, he said he would. "Irrespective of whether the BCCI says yes or no, we will go on with this project," he said.

The comparisons with Australian media mogul Kerry Packer's foray in the mid-1970s are inevitable.

What Zee’s league will be like

Six clubs to play in the first year. Number of clubs to be increased to 16 in three years

Prize money for the winner: $1 million

Cricket academies to be opened across the country in the next few months to scout and train talent

Pool of referees and umpires; professional selection panel

In 1976, Packer had made a $500,000 bid for five-year telecast rights of Australian cricket matches. After the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) gave the rights to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation instead -- reportedly for a far lower sum -- a furious Packer created the World Series Cricket, signing up 50 of the best players from across the world for it.

Although the ACB reached a deal with Packer after three years of revenue losses, cricket was never the same again.

Things are different in this case. At present, Chandra is not talking about an international competition. The ICL will a domestic league, will play Twenty20 and one-day matches, with the players, he says, providing a "talent pool" for Indian cricket to draw from.

Zee Sports business head Himanshu Modi said the teams were likely to be "either city- or region-based clubs". He said six clubs would play each other in a round-robin league, likely to start this winter.

It is unlikely that a cricket league can be formed or run successfully without the permission of the BCCI, which has a monopoly on the organisation and conduct of the game in India at the highest level -- being a recognised unit of the International Cricket Council.

No Indian cricketer with even an outside chance of making it to the Indian team will have anything to do with the ICL, whatever the money on offer, if the BCCI frowns on it.