Shillong, Sep 20: The Meghalaya Cricket Association (MCA) sought to clear the air today regarding the situation that brought it to the attention of the BCCI’s anti-corruption unit because of the involvement of Aushim Khetarpal in the MCA’s planned Meghalaya Premier League (MPL).

Khetarpal’s involvement caught the ear of the BCCI because he had previously been accused by former New Zealand cricketer Stephen Fleming of trying to fix a Test match in 1999. Khetarpal denied any such attempt at match fixing.

It was reported in the Hindustan Times on Tuesday that Khetarpal’s company Orient Tradelink had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the MCA in the presence of the latter’s President and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.

At a press conference here today, incidentally also a historic day on which Meghalaya won its first Vijay Hazare Trophy Plate Group match against Mizoram, MCA Honorary Secretary Naba Bhattacharjee flatly denied that any MoU had been signed.

He did admit that Orient Tradelink had submitted a proposal for a Meghalaya Premier League T20 tournament on the lines of others held in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The MCA is in favour of the idea for a T20 tournament in order to promote the sport. However, the proposal it received from Orient Tradelink was “not up to the mark,” Bhattacharjee said. “They were pushing for us to launch the tournament but we said it has to be done in a proper manner.”

It was only after that that a search online brought up Khetarpal’s past and his “doubtful antecedents” and that made the MCA tread extra carefully.

“Now that Meghalaya is a full member of the BCCI it will be subject to predatory eyes,” MCA Joint Secretary Gideon Kharkongor said.

Nevertheless, the MCA is determined to push on with the MPL if it receives the BCCI’s nod.

Such state leagues need to be held outside of the BCCI’s window, which means between March and April. The governing body has also restricted state leagues from fielding players from outside the host state in these types of tournaments.

Bhattacharjee is keen on promoting the sport among the indigenous tribal population of Meghalaya. Unless cricket is taken up by more of the majority tribal population of the state Meghalaya will not be able to improve its prospects, he said.

He pointed to the Shillong Cricket Academy, which has 350 children enrolled, but out of which only 10 are tribal children. This is despite the fact that fees have been waived for tribal children.

Kharkongor added that a league like the MPL will act as a platform for players who would otherwise never dream of getting into the Indian Premier League.

(TSR photo)

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