Shane Warne set to join Brian Lara in ICL

New Delhi, July 24:

Cricket stars Brian Lara and Shane Warne are set to play in a multi-million dollar rebel series in India later this year.

West Indian Lara, 38, who retired in April as the highest run-getter in Tests, confirmed he will take part in the Indian Cricket League (ICL) being promoted by the country’s largest listed media group Zee Telefilms.

Lara is the first foreign player to be officially confirmed for the ICL, but sources close to the organisers said Australian Warne and a host of other international players were on the verge of signing up.

Warne, 37, Test cricket’s leading bowler who retired earlier this year, has been linked to the series ever since it was officially unveiled by Zee supremo Subhash Chandra in May.

The ICL features six teams, each featuring four international players, two Indian stars and eight upcoming cricketers playing Twenty20 matches across India. The dates and venues for the series, which has not been recognised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) or the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), are yet to be announced.

The ICL, which carries a winner’s purse of one million dollars, is reminiscent of the late Australian TV mogul Kerry Packer’s World Cricket Series that took on the 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 the country. Similarly, Zee Telefilms was rebuffed by the BCCI despite being the highest bidder of $308 million for Indian rights for a four-year period.

Indian great Kapil Dev is the ICL’s chief executive with Tony Greig, Dean Jones and Kiran More on the organising committee.

Dev has already signed up World Cup winning teammates, Sandeep Patil, Madan Lal and Balwinder Sandhu, as coaches for three of the six proposed teams. The BCCI has barred current India players and former players on its payroll from associating with the ICL, but media reports said secret talks were taking place with many active national cricketers.

BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah remained defiant as the ICL spread its wings. “We don’t want to promote anybody who wants to be a parallel body. We have a policy and there will not be any re-think on this.”