The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi rallies behind Dalmiya
- Message goes out to World Cup sponsors to fall in line

Calcutta, Dec. 26: The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s lobbying in New Delhi’s corridors of power on the controversial Player Terms issue has begun to pay off.

Today, for instance, its campaign to dilute the International Cricket Council (ICC)-drafted terms for the 2003 World Cup received a boost with Union sports minister Vikram Verma promising support.

Thirteen months ago, Verma’s predecessor, Uma Bharti, had also extended unequivocal backing during the BCCI’s standoff with the ICC over Mike Denness. In fact, there was unanimous support in Parliament as well.

While it’s possible that BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya himself approached Verma, much of the lobbying has been done via a very influential BJP leader.

According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, it wouldn’t be a surprise if those in the top-most echelons have been “briefed” and their “blessings” sought.

“As long as the stand taken by the BCCI and the players is in the interest of the game and country, the government is with them and will extend all possible help in the matter,” is what Verma told a news agency in Indore.

He added that the ICC should adopt a “practical approach”.

If some reading between-the-lines is resorted to, Verma has indirectly conveyed a message to three of the World Cup’s principal sponsors (Pepsi, LG and Hero Honda): That they, too, should extend all possible help in finding a solution.

Additionally, there’s a hint that the ICC’s failure to adopt a practical approach won’t be well received by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Given the status cricket enjoys, impediments towards the best XV for the World Cup just can’t be overlooked.

“If the BCCI is actually prevented from sending the best squad, the government may take the extreme step of withholding permission to head for South Africa and Zimbabwe,” a source pointed out. That is something for the future. In the short-term, it’s to be seen how the sponsors react after Verma’s comments.

Yesterday, of course, Dalmiya’s call that they “forego pecuniary considerations in the larger interests of the country and its cricket” was shot down by LG, while Hero Honda’s response was softer.

Incidentally, Pepsi’s reaction will be influenced by an “advisory” from its New York HQ.

That Hero Honda didn’t respond the LG way strongly suggests it could offer more concessions than already granted (on conflicting endorsements and imaging). That will be welcome.

In any case, being a desi company, it also has to live up to its “Desh ki dhadkan” slogan.

Unlike LG, which is concerned about seven players (Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Jawagal Srinath, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Kaif and Dinesh Mongia), Hero Honda’s sole worry is Sachin Tendulkar.

Meanwhile, though it couldn’t be confirmed, the Sangh parivar’s economic spearhead, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, may also come into the picture. That will be interesting.

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