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Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Eventually, it was less give and more take. Frankly, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) couldn’t have come off any better.

Specifically, Virender Sehwag will not be fielded in the Mohali Test, against England, from Monday. At the same time, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has agreed to constitute a Referees’ Commission to review, among other things, Mike Denness’ action in Port Elizabeth.

It’s significant that the Commission, comprising “at least” two eminent former cricketers, will be constituted in “consultation” with the BCCI. It should come into being within a fortnight.

This was agreed to between ICC chief Malcolm Gray and BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya after “three days” of intense negotiations involving hundreds of calls across the globe.

With the stand-off a thing of the past, neither Gray nor Dalmiya will head for Kuala Lumpur for what would have been an extraordinary meeting between the present and immediate-past ICC chiefs.

Releasing a statement —- titled “ICC and BCCI reach agreement to save Mohali Test” —- jointly signed by Gray and himself, late this evening, Dalmiya maintained the “best interests” of the game had been kept in mind.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, however, there was considerable drama before the statement was finalised. Apparently, Gray wished to author a unilateral release, but Dalmiya was bent on it being done jointly. After all, both “sides” had taken steps to “reconcile.”

The BCCI, for its part, will continue to press for the Centurion game getting Test status. Just as important, it wants the “stigma” on Sachin Tendulkar erased.

“Denness has himself clarified Sachin was cleaning the ball, though without permission from either of the umpires. With the Match Referee taking a different line, the ICC should set the record straight,” pointed out Dalmiya.

The status controversy apart, the “stigma” on Sachin, the punishment handed to five other Indians (including captain Sourav Ganguly), will also be placed before the ICC’s Executive Board, which next meets in Colombo four months from now. The Commission’s report, too, will be placed before the Executive Board. “We’ll accept whatever is decided there. The BCCI isn’t an indisciplined body,” Dalmiya insisted.

For the Executive Board to approve any proposal/ratify a decision, support of six of the ten Test-playing members is essential. Even if the Colombo meeting doesn’t endorse India’s position, Dalmiya has actually scored a point by getting the ICC to take the unprecedented step of reviewing the Match Referees’ functioning.

“The question whether the existing system needs to either be overhauled or overturned, will now be addressed,” Dalmiya said.

Besides interacting largely with ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, the lead-up to the joint statement found Dalmiya being in constant touch with the Board chiefs of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Bangladesh, in any case, is with India.

Sehwag wasn’t available for comment. Calls to his Najafgarh residence were answered by family members who claimed a tired “Veeru” had “fallen asleep.”

Around 10.45 pm, though, Sehwag did take Dalmiya’s call. The BCCI president “sympathised” with the Test centurion on debut, besides “explaining” today’s decision. Dalmiya also “assured” Sehwag he would travel to Mohali with the rest of the players.

However, as Sourav will effectively have to pick from one short, he has the “option” of asking for an “additional” player. It’s quite likely that Dinesh Mongia, then, will be added to the squad.

An announcement is expected tomorrow.


London, Nov. 30: 
The International Cricket Council (ICC) feels it has scored a victory over Jagmohan Dalmiya by ensuring that Virender Sehwag, despite all the protestations by the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), does not play in the first Test against England.

“There is no change in the fundamental principle,” said an ICC spokesman, who announced the “deal” today following another round of telephone diplomacy between ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed and Dalmiya.

As part of the agreement, India will get a commission to look at whether there should be a right of appeal against the decision of match referees.

Speed was at his diplomatic best when he briefed journalists at Lord’s today. He was happy because he avoided having to make a tedious journey to Kuala Lumpur.

“I am very pleased,” he announced. “Let’s hope we have a great Test series between these two great powerful nations and let’s hope that the great game of cricket comes out stronger.”

He added: “Whenever there’s an issue like this there are strong emotions. But I’m happy with the result and I think Mr Dalmiya is happy with the result.”

Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the England Cricket Board, echoed his sentiments, though he must privately be delighted at what he, at least, will see as the humbling of Dalmiya. “The decision is a victory for common sense. It will strengthen the ICC’s authority... but the family of cricket is the real winner.”

The ICC spokesman wanted to make sure there is no misunderstanding about Sehwag. “He will not play — the BCCI has agreed to standing him down.”

Tim Lamb, the ECB chief executive, expressed relief that the off-pitch drama had ended. “This is good news for the millions of cricket followers worldwide.”

But in London, there is little doubt as to who has emerged the victor in the latest round of what is seen here as Dalmiya’s battle of control of cricket. His enemies have not seen him off and Dalmiya lives to fight another day.

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