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Brawn GP Formula One driver Jenson Button of Britain won the Monaco F1 Grand Prix in Monte Carlo last week. Button won ahead of his teammate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil and Ferrari Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland was third. Reuters photo

The Lost league
With the BCCI decision to grant umbrella amnesty to rebel ICL cricketers, the league’s survival is at stake. Amit Khanna takes a lookIn the din and dazzle of the IPL-II, an announcement by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) almost went unnoticed by our cricket-crazy nation. The BCCI has decided to grant umbrella amnesty to cricketers who have a contract with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL). It seems to be in a finishing mode as far as its battle with the ICL is concerned. The BCCI has decided to take the players back into its fold if they rescind their contracts with the rebel league. On the face of it, though the gesture seems magnanimous, in reality it is only one more attempt to put pressure on the ICL authorities.

Priceless Messi
Sebastian Fest
Alex Ferguson, Cristiano Ronaldo and the whole of Manchester United have one major reason to worry ahead of their Champions League final against Barcelona within two weeks: a man named Lionel Messi. “Take Messi off, Guardiola take Messi off!” Barcelona fans shouted in the closing minutes of the 4-1 win against Athletic Bilbao last week. The King’s Cup trophy had basically been won by that time and fans were thinking of the Triple Crown that Barcelona stands a chance to win this year. At 21, Messi is a key factor in that effort. He finally knows what it means to win a final with Barcelona. Due to injury, he had missed the May 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal and the World Club Cup final months later against Internacional Porto Alegre. In the Spanish Supercup against Sevilla, he did play but Barca lost.

 

 

 

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The Lost league

Senior players like Kapil Dev and Inzamam-ul-Haq have been associated with the ICL. The league, which was started two years ago to give better opportunities to fresh talent, has suffered due to the monopolistic attitude of the BCCI
Senior players like Kapil Dev and Inzamam-ul-Haq have been associated with the ICL. The league, which was started two years ago to give better opportunities to fresh talent, has suffered due to the monopolistic attitude of the BCCI

With the BCCI decision to grant umbrella amnesty to rebel ICL cricketers, the league’s survival is at stake. Amit Khanna takes a look

In the din and dazzle of the IPL-II, an announcement by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) almost went unnoticed by our cricket-crazy nation. The BCCI has decided to grant umbrella amnesty to cricketers who have a contract with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL). It seems to be in a finishing mode as far as its battle with the ICL is concerned. The BCCI has decided to take the players back into its fold if they rescind their contracts with the rebel league. On the face of it, though the gesture seems magnanimous, in reality it is only one more attempt to put pressure on the ICL authorities.

The ICL, which started two years ago with an objective of providing facilities to develop international standards of the game, was the first real threat posed to the BCCI’s monopoly.

Dinesh Mongia
I am quite encouraged by the BCCI decision and am hopeful of staging a comeback in the national side again.
— Dinesh Mongia

Ibrahim Khalil

I am looking forward to getting back with my state association. Hope everything will fall in place soon. — Ibrahim Khalil

The venture is supported and managed by a corporate house but seems to have been hit by the aftereffects of recession. As a consequence the ICL has not been able to hold its T20 tournaments as per schedule and has also not been able to make payments to its players since December last.

After the national cricket board’s decision to grant amnesty, scores of players immediately applied for their no objection certificates (NOCs) from the ICL. After severing ties with the ICL, these players can again be considered for selection by the state associations.

The board’s decision has been welcomed by many players, with most of them making no bones about their renewed hopes and the excitement at the prospect of securing another opportunity to don the national colours.

“To play for your nation is a dream which every cricketer nurses in his heart. I am hopeful of playing for my country again. Let us see how things move on from here,” claims Reetinder Singh Sodi, who represented India in 18 One Day Internationals (ODIs). This former all-rounder played for Ahmedabad Rockets in the ICL.

Hyderabad Heroes’ Ibrahim Khalil views this as a golden chance to catch the eye of the national selectors by performing at the state level. “I am looking forward to getting back with my state association. Hope everything will fall in place soon.” The BCCI seems to have timed its offer perfectly just when the banned players were fast running out of options and were quick to latch onto the olive branch offered by the board.

In addition to more than 50 players applying for the cancellation of their agreements, various officials and support staff attached with the ICL have also resigned from their positions. Former India spin legend Eravalli Prasanna, too, has reportedly exited from the league.

Many other national boards have also emulated the BCCI offer. The cricket boards of Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Africa have also decided to consider rebel players if they terminate their contracts by May 31.

Though the ICL was quick to say that this would not affect it negatively, since the league was confident of being able to retain its players. But it seems the exodus is so widespread that it cannot but impact the league adversely. The immediacy with which the ICL seemed to agree and allow the players contracted to it to move comfortably out of their contracts comfortably, raises some uneasy questions about the future of these players and the league as a whole.

Did the ICL authorities cave in after realising the economic futility of the league that was formed to locate and harness the budding potential of the Indian cricket?  Could the two leagues have worked with each other instead of against? Was there still a glimmer of hope for some common meeting ground with the BCCI?  Will the ICL hold its next tournament scheduled for October? These are some of the queries that await immediate answers.

It is an open secret that due to a threat to its monopoly the BCCI had left no stone unturned to make it difficult for the ICL to prosper. Right from refusing the use of its grounds to banning players for life, it had virtually left no other option open for the ICL. The monopolistic mindset of the national cricket board in not letting the ICL happen has hampered the spirit of healthy competition in cricket.

Could the bosses have shown a long-sighted approach by taking it in the form of a competition and not rivalry?

Notwithstanding the optimistic stance of the ICL authorities, it might not take long before ICL becomes ECL (Extinct Cricket League).
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Priceless Messi
Sebastian Fest

Alex Ferguson, Cristiano Ronaldo and the whole of Manchester United have one major reason to worry ahead of their Champions League final against Barcelona within two weeks: a man named Lionel Messi.

“Take Messi off, Guardiola take Messi off!” Barcelona fans shouted in the closing minutes of the 4-1 win against Athletic Bilbao last week.

The King’s Cup trophy had basically been won by that time and fans were thinking of the Triple Crown that Barcelona stands a chance to win this year. At 21, Messi is a key factor in that effort.

He finally knows what it means to win a final with Barcelona. Due to injury, he had missed the May 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal and the World Club Cup final months later against Internacional Porto Alegre. In the Spanish Supercup against Sevilla, he did play but Barca lost.

Few people doubt that Messi is Barcelona’s best player. His teammates accept that he earns more than any of the others and that he enjoys special privileges when it comes to resting.

“For me, Leo never plays badly. Leo is different these games are his games. It is him, him and him,” Coach Pep Guardiola said.

The coach — former Barca midfielder and captain and the brains behind a team that could become the most successful in the club’s history — particularly values Messi for his sheer football talent, even if it is clearly backed by concrete figures.

Messi has scored 37 goals this season. He is Barcelona’s top scorer and he is five goals off Cristiano Ronaldo’s mark when he was awarded the European Golden Shoe last year.

Messi reached such figures not just because he is a precise shooter but also because he is able to follow play until it’s really over. He never just watches what happens when the ball is about the goal but always sees a chance that others overlook.

This year, there is no trace of the injuries that plagued his performance in earlier seasons and no one even dares to talk seriously about his alleged doubts during major games anymore.

In recent weeks, he played a great game against Venezuela in Diego Maradona’s debut as Argentina coach, he was the man in the resounding 6-2 game against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, and he was the intense, thinking player who set up Andres Iniesta for the last-minute goal against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.

Guardiola, who never improvises and always weighs his own words, has a very clear idea of what is happening: “For Barca, having a player like him is priceless. We have to look after him, pamper him and let him play.” — DPA

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