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ICL on brink after exodus

INDIA'S rebel Twenty20 league faced a bleak future on Wednesday with many players seeking to be released from their contracts to return to official cricket.

The Indian Cricket League (ICL), launched in 2007 by promoters of the nation's largest listed media group Zee Entertainment Network, was staunchly opposed by the Indian board which persuaded other countries to bar players who signed up.

It attracted players from New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but was in trouble after the International Cricket Council refused recognition and some national boards led by India offered to lift the bans if players quit the league.

The launch of the official Indian Premier League last year had already overshadowed the rebel version.

"A few domestic and overseas players and support staff have approached us with applications to be released from ICL to pursue cricket with the state associations," the ICL executive board said.

"ICL has been set up for the development of cricket ... if certain players do wish to go back to the Board of Control for Cricket in India fold we will not stop them nor would we ever wish to exercise contractual authority to stall their dreams."

Former Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar was among those who quit the ICL and Indian media reported that New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond also wants to leave.

Former India allrounder and coach Madan Lal said he had quit as an ICL coach and felt the league could collapse. He said the ICL suffered due to a lack of matches and official approval. "If you don't play for six months, it is not good," he said. "And if you can't play any other form of (official) cricket, how long can you just keep doing physical fitness?"

Organizers in the US said last month that players from the ICL and leading former test players were expected to take part in an unofficial Twenty20 tournament in New York in October.


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