New Delhi:The Indian Premier League, the ambitious cash-rich Twenty20 venture launched by the BCCI, on Monday announced the signing of eight current Sri Lankan cricketers, including captain Mahela Jayawardene and spin wizard Muthiah Muralitharan, for its inaugural edition.
Barely three days after the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) released its second list of 18 players, the IPL responded by coming out with the names of its first high-profile signings, intensifying the recruitment battle between the two rival groups.
Apart from Jayawardane and Muralitharan, the dashing Sanath Jayasuriya, wicketkeeper batsman Kumar Sangakkara and pacemen Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Zoysa, Farveez Maharoof and Dilhara Fernando were the other players to play in the inaugural season.
The IPL had already roped in the likes of spin great Shane Warne, former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and Aussie speedster Glen McGrath for the Twenty20 tournament, seen as a counter to the Subhash-Chandra owned Essel Group's breakaway League.
Lalit Modi, Chairman and Commissioner of IPL said, "We at the IPL are committed to enticing an entire new generation of sports fans into the grounds by showcasing some of the best cricketing talent on offer from the world over.
"It is in line with this philosophy that we have signed eight of the current Sri Lankan squad. We are also in talks with some of the finest players in the International cricketing arena. I promise Indian fans that the IPL will truly be one of the finest cricketing leagues anywhere in the world," he said.
The BCCI had recently launched the IPL to be played in the globally popular Twenty20 format, offering a whopping $ 3 million as prize money.
The Champions League, which will feature the two top teams from the four participating countries, has a prize money of $ 5 million.
In stark contrast, the ICL has a winner's purse of $ 1 million with West Indies batting great Brian Lara and former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq being the star recruits.
"T20 cricket is an exciting new format for both cricket players and fans. We are all thrilled to be joining the IPL, an innovative venture that has the potential to fuel crickets growth around the world during the coming years. We are looking forward to making our mark in the league," Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was quoted as saying in a press release.
The IPL, scheduled for an April 2008 launch, will feature eight franchises in the first season, with each team playing seven home and away games against one another.