The murmurs had been doing the rounds for over two months. On Monday, it was official that former West Indies captain Brian Lara, who recently retired from international cricket, had joined the Zee Group's breakaway Indian Cricket League (ICL). Lara retired from the game after the World Cup and said he was looking at returning to some form of cricket in the near future. In a statement from London, he said the exciting format of the ICL drew him to it.
"You can't keep me too far from cricket and hence I return to the game in this exciting new avatar that the Essel Group has launched," he said. "I look forward to playing with promising youngsters from India and elsewhere, along with some of my illustrious international counterparts with who I've shared many exciting moments."
Himanshu Mody, Project Head for the ICL, said in a statement: "We are extremely honoured to welcome Brian to the ICL family… I think playing with him will immensely benefit the youngsters we are grooming for India's future."
Gen-Ex exodus continues
Meanwhile, the ICL also announced the signing of four more ex-international cricketers — Madan Lal, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Rajesh Chauhan and Pranab Roy — in various capacities.
While Lal will join as coach of the Delhi team, Sandhu has been appointed as director of academies, which are planned to groom young talent.
Chauhan and Roy, on the other hand, have been appointed as talent scouts with an aim to identify, shortlist and channelise promising talent in their respective zones.
Sandhu, who has coached a number of state teams as well as at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) at Bangalore, said it was the urge to keep coaching that drew him to the league.
He told Hindustan Times: "The ICL will offer me the opportunity to coach. I was coaching earlier and I'll be doing the same here as well. But if the BCCI approach me, I will still make myself available for them."
At least two more former cricketers are likely to be announced as talent scouts within less than a fortnight. The ICL, if it plans to follow BCCI's zonal system, will need five zonal talent scouts.
"We will appoint two or three more talent scouts," Mody said.
Monday's announcements also made it official that the ICL would be an inter-city league. Earlier, it had been only announced that the first edition, to be played at the end of this year, would feature six Twenty20 teams, city-based or provincial, participating.
Lal's appointment — specifically as the coach of the Delhi team — and Lara's statement, however, made it clear that the ICL would have teams named after cities.
"I feel honoured to captain one of the ICL's city teams, and hope to use my experience in taking that team to victory in the inaugural ICL Trophy," Lara said.
Apart from Delhi, the other five teams would be Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chandigarh. So, the tournament, in all likelihood, would be staged in one of these six cities.
Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), who had announced that those who join the ICL would not get the monthly monetary allowance as part of their welfare scheme, said the ex-players' joining hands with the Zee Group would not hamper them.
"Former cricketers joining them is not going to affect us," BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah told the Hindustan Times from Rajkot.