Though not directly admitting to forming a parallel governing body to the International Cricket Council (ICC), the Essel Group on Monday said they have initiated an operation to take cricket beyond the Commonwealth nations.
They have, however, denied any kind of involvement of former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, as has been widely speculated, in their initiative. Essel have also insisted that the initiative is being carried out solely by them and refuted reports, which claimed that Ten Sports, which is owned by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, was behind the many website domain names that have surfaced of late.
“Essel Group is now geared up to enter the sports business at a global level, focusing on Cricket, since it has been limited to Commonwealth countries. Our research reflects that there is an immense opportunity to make it a global sport,” they said in a press release. “We would also like to clarify that Lalit Modi has no linkage whatsoever with Essel Group in this initiative. Essel Group is independently taking up this initiative on its own accord,” the press release added.
Modi, meanwhile, praised his one-time bete noire Subash Chandra, but clarified that he had ‘nothing to do with it’. “I wish @_SubhashChandra all the best in this new venture. I have nothing to do with it. But we need a rival body,” Modi tweeted.
The issue came to light on Friday, with a British paper reporting that there was an imminent threat of a split in the cricket world with the Essel Group, who had earlier run the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), had started registering companies in Australia, New Zealand and other cricketing countries with names that rivaled their national boards. The domain names included worldcricketcouncil.co.in and cricketassociationofengland.co.in, and the report also revealed that Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket, among other boards, had already been forewarned about the impending danger.
Elsewhere, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) has warned the national boards to be wary and ‘on their toes’ about their players actually signing up with the rebel group. This despite the fact that a number of players weren’t paid for their participation in the ICL, and that former New Zealand opener had confessed to corruption charges during his stint there.
“There is always going to be interest from players in events irrespective of what history has occurred. Obviously there will be some reticence from players based on what has happened but I don’t think you can discount the fact that players will be interested,” FICA chief executive Tony Irish was quoted as saying in The Sydney Morning Herald.
He also spoke about how it was the responsibility of the governing bodies to make mainstream international cricket attractive to ensure that their players aren’t tempted by such rebel groups.
“International cricket and mainstream cricket have got to be on their toes to keep their players. But that’s the case as it is anyway because players have got opportunities in approved T20 leagues around the world at the moment and a lot of players I think are looking to just go that route. So whether this event happens or doesn’t happen I think the boards have got to be on their toes,” he said.