The city chapter of what was threatening to rip Indian cricket apart got off to a timid start on a partly cloudy Friday. The Kolkata Tigers — one of the six teams taking part in the Indian Cricket League (ICL) — began a weeklong conditioning camp at CCFC with the coach of the team drawing the most attention.
There was a sprinkling of big names in domestic cricket with Rohan Gavaskar and Deep Dasgupta moving around in their team's red and deep blue shirts in addition to England opener Darren Maddy. All eyes though were on Darryl Cullinan who looked busy in his new role of coaching a team of grownups.
Activities on the field were not as intense as things in Twenty20 are expected to be, but given that it was the first day and with the weather being uncertain, it was probably par for the course. Cullinan obliged the media in the evening and there was some cricket talk ranging from ICL, Bob Woolmer to Sachin Tendulkar and the Nervous Nineties.
Like in his playing days, the former batsman blocked when required, opened up and elaborated on some questions and hit some out of sight when the chance came. "I still haven't understood why some cricket boards are against the ICL. It's a good opportunity for players, a chance to see new talent, which has to be good for the game. I hope things are sorted out in future."
He felt recreating the intensity of international cricket wouldn't be difficult in an unofficial competition like ICL. "When active and young players compete against each other, I'm sure they would like to win. So intensity or motivation shouldn't be a problem."
Cullinan's late coach came in for a lot of praise. "Bob was the most innovative coach I worked with. He made us one of the strongest one-day sides and in a way changed the concept of coaching worldwide."
Cullinan said he was amazed by Sachin Tendulkar's scoring spree after 18 years in international cricket and said he was most pleased by the master's ability to adjust over the years. "He saw a lot of changes, players, coaches, but kept adapting and making changes. Now I think we are seeing glimpses of the old Sachin. I got three hundreds in 130-odd one-day games. This guy got 16 nineties, phew!"
The Kolkata Tigers players sat down with the coach for a meeting afterwards and Lance Klusener, Upul Chandana and Ireland's opening bowler Boyd Rankin, who arrived on Friday and didn't practise, joined them. At well over six-and-a-half feet, the Irishman was clearly above everyone and almost everything.
Captain Craig McMillan was expected late in the night and if the first day was an indication, the ICL seems to mean business.