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ICC close to deal with players

London, Sept. 4: The International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Indian cricketers are on the verge of a settlement. An announcement should be made tomorrow after the sponsors of the upcoming Champions Trophy, in Colombo, have agreed to a compromise.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, the ICC is set to limit the contentious Player Terms to the duration of the tournament (September 12-30) only. Once that is agreed to — seems a formality, as of late tonight — the top cricketers will make themselves available and India will field its “best team”.

In effect, it will be a huge victory for the players.

Officially, though, absolutely nobody said anything concrete. Indeed, after a series of meetings over three-and-half hours, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed chose to be cautious while Ravi Shastri, the Indians’ spokesman, was somewhat upbeat.

Speaking after the Big Four — captain Sourav Ganguly, vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble — had met Speed and ICC general manager (cricket) Dave Richardson, Shastri announced: “It was a good meeting and a dialogue initiated.... Some people, however, still need to be consulted.…”

Clearly, Shastri was referring to the Global Cricket Corporation (GCC), which holds the telecast/marketing rights for ICC events till the 2007 World Cup.

Incidentally, Shastri himself was very much around at the meetings (in the Private Rooms’ wing of St James Crowne Plaza).

Much of the spadework, one understands, was done during Shastri’s meeting with Speed, earlier in the day, where former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Raj Singh Dungarpur was also present.

As for Speed, he had this to say: “I’m not giving a guarantee that everything will be resolved but, yes, we’ve reached a better understanding of the issues involved. At the same time, we do need to talk to certain people.”

The ICC and the cricketers sat down face-to-face after the BCCI got out of the firing line. Speed, who doubles as managing director of the ICC’s business arm (IDI), himself took the initiative this morning after getting a two-page letter from BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya late last evening.

Actually, the BCCI washed its hands of the players, confirming the report today about the growing communication gap between the BCCI and the cricketers.

Dalmiya’s letter included the following: “In view of the paucity of time with regard to the pre-tournament logistics, it is felt that a shorter route should be devised for providing clarifications. Since the Champions Trophy is an ICC event, it is felt that you, as managing director of IDI, would be the best person to provide the clarifications and to grant dispensation, if any.”

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