The last week was once again a story of punches and counterpunches being traded in the cricketing arena where need, greed, spirit of domination, and a resolve to dent a monolith took the centrestage. The ICL-led parade of 'breakaway' domestic stars followed by BCCI's 'carrot or stick' policy and a determination to launch a league of its own overshadowed India's fine cricketing achievements.
While India's victory at Bristol did get its fair share of compliments (as well as brickbats for below-par fielding and unnecessary end-game suspense), India A's tremendous show in Kenya resulting in a title win failed to get much notice. However, the triumph may have taken away some of the blues of the seasoned ones in Pathan, Parthiv and Kaif. The brilliant all round performance of Praveen Kumar, the man of the series, too is sure to count in the coming months.
Zaheer may not have played a part at Bristol, but he continues to get plaudits for the way he has been performing ever since his comeback in South Africa. "Zaheer has proved his critics wrong in this series," were Brett Lee's emphatic words as he disclosed that the Australians were trying to figure out the new Zaheer. It is surely the best compliment the bowling spearhead can hope for.
Meanwhile, the ICL's march continues with gusto. As of now,two other countries where the League is causing the biggest turmoil, are Pakistan and New Zealand. For PCB, where some sections would like the players to play for both ICL and Pakistan if the fixtures do not clash, things may have got complicated with the League going to court against BCCI - an off-shoot of Laxmi Ratan Shukla's about turn, and the proposed amnesty scheme and new league threatening a reverse flow.
The Pakistan Board is now trying to minimise the damage by getting Mohammad Yousuf back. With tour of India approaching, Yousuf's timing could not have been more lethal for Pakistan Cricket. After all, it was Yousuf and Younis, who had countered India so well on the last tour. Probably, Miandad's line may hold in the end. The former skipper would like PCB to recognise ICL as it will offer players enough wages - a compensation that PCB alone can't provide.
Kiwis' wings worry Board
Even the New Zealand Board looks worried. There are chances that Fleming and Bond along with few others could be on plane to India for ICL tournaments. To stem that, the carrot of future gains through another league masterminded by BCCI is being dangled, and the spirit of patriotism invoked to ensure that the Kiwis do not soar too high. As of now, Chris Harris is already on, while Cairns and Astle are the other likely candidates.
Heath Mills Manager New Zealand Cricket Players' Association, who had earlier urged the ICC to support the ICL concept as NZ players, would be more vulnerable than the others, told a New Zealand paper that there's a lot going on at the moment and it's very important that New Zealand Cricket tries to make sure we're a part of whatever eventuates in some way, shape or form.
Former stalwarts support Kapil, ICL
In India, there continues to be anguish at the punishment meted out to Kapil Dev and most of his ex-colleagues have gone on record to express their surprise at this humiliation - expected but uncalled for.
Gundappa Vishwanath ruled out money as factor for Kapil, saying probably they (some Ex-players managing ICL) are trying to do something for the game. Even former stalwarts Ajit Wadekar and Nawab Pataudi asked BCCI to note that ICL was only providing a platform to domestic players.
Rather, the BCCI's attempt to slam the brakes on ICL's progress has led the later to go to the court for redressal. Do expect the ICL's challenge to the BCCI monopoly over Indian national team to be really strong. After all, mega bucks and a business empire's credibility are at stake. The ICC has already refused to intervene in the matter calling it an internal matter of the Indian Board, giving the League a moral victory.
The seeds of revolt are certainly brewing strong. Former Keeper Saba Karim has even advised Bihar Cricketers to try and join ICL as the fate of the game in the state is uncertain due to court cases filed by different associations.
However, the best comment on the issue has come from Union Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, whose decision to give the much needed access to Railway's stadiums was such a life-saver for ICL.
The Bihar Cricket Association President has suggested that BCCI and ICL should rather organize competitive tournaments against each other as it would benefit of the game in the country while improving the skills of the cricketers at the same time. Yadav has also suggested that the best cricketers, irrespective of whether they were with the BCCI or ICL should represent the country.
Echoing somewhat the same sentiments, but in different tone, ICL's J P Yadav hit the nail on the head when he said selectors and coaches have liking for certain players and it is not always based on performance. And the 33-year-old Yadav is certainly not alone. Cricket runs in UP's Ali Murtaza's family. And these very family men advised the 17-year-old to join ICL for fame and money.
With so many futures at stake, may, in the end, the better men win!