Pawar scoffs at rebel Twenty20 league
Indian cricket chief Sharad Pawar ridiculed on Thursday an unofficial competition carrying a prize of one million dollars, saying it would mainly feature players coming out of retirement.
Pawar also warned that promising younger players would be ineligible for the Indian team if they played in the tournament, which is being bankrolled by Zee Telefilms, India's largest listed media company.
"I can't see any threat from the ICL," Pawar said, referring to the new competition, the Indian Cricket League.
Pawar, a political heavyweight and the federal agriculture minister, was making his first public comments on the issue as he inaugurated a cricket facility in the western state of Gujarat.
"Not many people are interested in watching retired players in action. Everyone wants to see official cricket, not the oldies," he said.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has refused to recognise the league, which has consequently struggled to lure players despite reports of big money offers.
Most of the players linked to the competition are retired, semi-retired or unable to hold their place in the national side. The league would feature six teams playing in Twenty20 matches, a format viewed as a young man's game.
But Pawar warned, "Also, I see no reason for young players going there. Only those who play official cricket can represent India."
Each team will comprise four international players, two Indian stars and eight upcoming cricketers, according to an ICL announcement in May. Matches are to be played across India in October and November.
Retired West Indian captain Brian Lara, Test cricket's highest run-getter, is the only one to have been signed up as a player so far.
Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, former stars of Australia's national side, last week dismissed claims by ICL chairman Kapil Dev that they had already signed up. But they continue to be linked to the series.
Reports have also linked former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq and retired New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns to secret negotiations with the league.
The ICL, which carries a winner's purse of one million dollars, is reminiscent of the World Cricket Series, which the late Australian TV mogul Kerry Packer launched to take on the cricket establishment in 1977.
Packer roped in the world's top players for the rebel series after being denied official TV rights by the Australian Cricket Board for matches played in that country.
Similarly, Zee Telefilms was rebuffed by the BCCI in 2004 despite tabling the highest bid of 308 million dollars for Indian rights for a four-year period.
Former England skipper Tony Greig, Dean Jones of Australia and ex-India wicket-keeper Kiran More are on the ICL's organising committee under Dev, who captained India to its only World Cup title in 1983.
Dev has signed up World Cup winning teammates Sandeep Patil, Madan Lal and Balwinder Sandhu as coaches for three of the six proposed teams.
The BCCI is due to meet on August 21 to decide, among other things, if Dev can continue to head its National Cricket Academy, which grooms promising youngsters.