Breaking the suspense over its recruitment, the Indian Cricket League on Monday unveiled a list of 50 players for its breakaway multi-million dollar venture, which has Pakistan's prolific batsman Mohammad Yousuf and South African cricketers Lance Klusener and Nicky Boje as its star attractions.
Apart from the big guns, like Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul Haq, two Pakistani players, Imran Farhat and Abdul Razzaq, are among the seven overseas cricketers who have signed up for the Twenty-20 tournament, likely to be held in October-November.
Dinesh Mongia, Deep Dasgupta, J P Yadav, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Thirukumaran, all former India players, were among the home draw cards announced by the Subhash Chandra-owned Essel Group at a media conference in Mumbai.
Significantly, the announcement came just a day before the Board of Control for Cricket in India's Special General body Meeting, where it is expected to take a decision on the ICL and the fate of National Cricket Academy chairman Kapil Dev, who heads the ICL's Executive Board.
Although Essel Group officials refused to divulge financial details, it is learnt that the Pakistani players have been offered a whopping Rs 80 lakh per season besides performance incentives.
An average Indian domestic player is being offered Rs 30 lakh per year, which is six times more than what one earns for playing all the Ranji Trophy matches in a year.
The BCCI had refused to approve of the ICL and said those who join the ICL will lose all benefits they are entitled to.
But Kapil Dev said the ICL will not stand in the way of a player's dream of representing the country.
"Our players are free to play for India. I will back (the players) till the last day I live," the 1983 World Cup-winning captain said.
He also said the ICL has grand expansion plans.
"There would be around 50 matches (this season). It will be only Twenty-20 cricket this year but in the future there will also be 50 overs-a-side games and three-day matches. There will be all kinds of cricket, lots of cricket," he said.
Himanshu Mody, Business Head of the ICL, said the organizers do not foresee any problem with regard to South African spinner Boje, who is wanted for interrogation by the Delhi Police in the 2000 match-fixing scandal.
"He has signed a three-year contract. We expect him to come to India," Mody said.
Mongia, 30, said he has no qualms about joining the ICL although he played for India in the Champions Trophy last year and could get a recall anytime.
"As a cricketer, I want to play cricket. The ICL is an opportunity where I can play with legends of the game," he said.
"I am not bothered by what people say, I am simply focussed on playing cricket."
Former India spinner Erapalli Prasanna also broke ranks with the BCCI to join the ICL though it was not clear in what capacity.
While most of the overseas players are either retired or have virtually no chance of representing their country, the signing of Yousuf comes as a surprise as he is still a member of the Pakistan team.
Being overlooked for national captaincy and dropped from the squad for the Twenty-20 World Cup may have prompted the stylish middle order batsman to join the league.
With the Indian Cricket Board making it clear that players aligning with the rebel league would be barred from playing for the country, many of the Ranji Trophy teams have been hit hard by the exodus just before the start of the new season.
Hyderabad, which has lost as many as eight of its players, and Bengal have been the worst hit sides while Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Punjab have lost a few of its key players.
Kiran More, former India wicketkeeper and chief selector, said the ICL is a complete package aimed at making youngsters play for the country.
"It is not that we are going to produce players in one year. It will take 4-5 years to groom them and we have our format ready for that. We will have well balanced teams which will be an important factor in grooming them," More said.
The enrolled players: Inzamam-ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdur Razzaq, Imran Farhat, Lance Klusener, Nicky Boje, Dinesh Mongia, J P Yadav, Deep Dasgupta, Dheeraj Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Abbas Ali, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Avinash Yadav, Reetinder Sodhi, Hemanth Kumar, Inder Shekar Reddy, Ishan Malhotra, Kaushik Reddy, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manish Sharma, Mohammad Ibrahim, Monish Mishra, Robin Morris, Alfred Absolem, Ali Murtaza, Shashank Nag, Shib Sagar Singh, Abhijit Shetye, Devendran, Sumit Kalia, Dakshinamoorthy Kumaran, Taduri Prakash Sudhindra, Sarabjit Singh, Thirunavakarasu Kumaran, Ganapathi Vignesh, Devishetty Vinay Kumar, Yashpal Singh, J Hariesh, R Satish, Rajesh Sharma, Ranjeet Khirid, Sachin Dholpure, Shalabh Srivastava, Shreyas Khanolkar, Subhojit Paul, Subhomoy Das, Raviraj Patil, Pushparaj Mohan Joshi and Syed A Ahmed.