Calcutta: A hardening of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) stand on the Player Terms row with India could see the South African government, headed by Thabo Mbeki, getting into the picture.
South Africa, after all, is principal host of the sport’s most ambitious tournament — the World Cup from February 8-March 25 — and the Sachin Tendulkars are required for that showpiece.
That the government may intervene was indicated by the tournament’s executive director, Dr Ali Bacher, during a brief telephonic interaction with The Telegraph late Thursday.
“We are in constant touch with our government on issues concerning the World Cup and, if required, we will request it to facilitate the resolution of whatever problems could remain. Obviously, any move by our government will be strictly behind-the-scenes,” Dr Bacher observed.
Speaking from his Johannesburg office, he acknowledged that the Terms dispute and Zimbabwe were the “biggest problems” confronting his organising committee.
Talking specifically about the row featuring Indian players, Dr Bacher said: “I’m confident the very best XV will land in South Africa later this month. Frankly, I don’t visualise a situation where a Sourav Ganguly or Sachin or a Rahul Dravid will be missing — and, I’m not saying this only because I’m an optimist.”
For good measure, he added: “In any case, it’s not insignificant that the ties between South Africa and India are strong. In fact, the bonding gets stronger each year…”
Incidentally, Union sports minister Vikram Verma has already pledged the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s support to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The BCCI, of course, is waiting to hear from the ICC — actually, the IDI Ltd, its business arm — on the acceptance or otherwise of the Terms signed conditionally by Sourav and Co.
While much of the immediate attention is on the World Cup Contracts’ Committee, the Indians’ conditional acceptance may eventually be placed on the Executive Board’s table.
“At the moment, it’s fifty-fifty: The conditional signing could be accepted conditionally, allowing for arbitration, or the BCCI may well be asked to make a fresh selection,” is how a top ICC source put it.
Whatever, even Pretoria is watching.