India to shop for foreign cricketers

Indian cricket officials are keen to bring in foreign players to add a touch of glamour to domestic tournaments.

  • Reuters
  • Updated: August 8, 2006, 11:45 AM IST
India to shop for foreign cricketers

Ahmedabad: Indian cricket officials say they are keen to bring in foreign players in order to add a touch of glamour to otherwise dull domestic tournaments.

While cricket-mad India is the game's commercial hub, domestic matches draw few spectators or additional sponsorship in contrast to the international matches.

Interest has also waned as top draws such as Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar rarely play domestic cricket due to their busy international schedule.

"The board is open to the idea," says board secretary Niranjan Shah. "The rule is already there but nobody has used it so far."

Shah says regulations allow teams to include up to three players from outside a state, but there are no restrictions on how many of the three can be foreigners.

"If some big players from abroad come then people will come and see these matches," says Shah, adding that he did not anticipate much opposition from local players.

"If our players can go and play in the English county then we should also be ready to bring in outside players."

Officials also hope that tempting some of cricket's biggest names to India would boost television viewer figures.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) signed a four-year TV rights deal in February worth $612 mn that requires 70 days live telecast of domestic games.

"We took a decision last year to shop for foreign players, preferably a star commodity," says Ajay Shirke, president of the Maharashtra Cricket Association.

State sides can draw on huge funds at their disposal thanks to a grant from the world's richest national cricket board, which signed rights deals worth over $1 bn this year.

State associations are set to receive as much as $1.7 mn this year, says Shah.

Maharashtra have already appointed Australian coach Darren Holder, who took the team to fifth in Ranji Trophy last season. Former Pakistan player Intikhab Alam coaches the Punjab team.


Shirke says foreign players could earn between $30,000 to $40,000 a season if a team went all the way in the tournament.

The match fee for a Ranji game is Rs 1 lakh. "Also remember, if we hire a star we can attract sponsors," he says. "I don't think money is an issue at all."

Wider endorsement of such a move could bring many big names to domestic Indian cricket, especially after England's board recently announced counties would only be allowed to field one overseas player from 2008.

Foreign players are not new to Indian cricket. India had invited West Indian fast bowlers Roy Gilchrist, Chester Watson, Charlie Stayers and Lester King to play in the 1960's to help their batsmen adapt to pace and foster their own seam bowlers.

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