The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ball rests with the Big Four
- Contracts issue
- If only the ICPA was ‘alive’...

Calcutta: It’s not a stand-off, but may reach that stage as, till late on Thursday, the Bangladesh-bound players hadn’t signed the stringent contracts offered to them by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

As reported in these columns, the players have strong reservations and most are probably looking to the Big Four — captain Rahul Dravid, senior-most pro Sachin Tendulkar, former captain Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble — “for guidance.”

Eventually, Dravid’s stand can have the biggest influence.

For now, the BCCI’s position is that the players must sign before Team India’s departure.

The 15-man ODI squad leaves on May 7, while the seven Test specialists are expected to cross the border around May 14.

“There’s no change where the signing of contracts is concerned, but I intend speaking to the president (Sharad Pawar) on Friday,” BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah told The Telegraph, some hours after his return from the West Indies.

It’s to be seen whether Pawar, who has been projecting himself as somebody who is reasonable, calls for the contracts to be put on hold once more.

The process should have been completed before October 1 last year.

So much for the BCCI’s efficiency.

Talking of the other side, it’s ironical that at a time when most are looking for “leadership,” five of the eight Founder Members of the Indian Cricket Players’ Association (ICPA) are actually involved with the conditioning camp in the city.

Besides the Big Four, the quintet includes interim cricket manager Ravi Shastri. He’d been one of the prime movers, despite the failed experiment in 1989-90 when he was himself a player.

President Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi, Abbas Ali Baig and Arun Lal complete the Founder Members’ club.

Had the ICPA been effective, it would have served as a bridge between the players and the BCCI. That’s the role played by such bodies across the world of cricket.

Also, and as important, between the players themselves.

The ICPA, however, hasn’t been recognised by the BCCI.

It came into being in late 2002 when Jagmohan Dalmiya, who wouldn’t ever have encouraged player-power, was calling the shots. Recognition wasn’t sought as the ICPA feared he would shred its request to pieces.

Pataudi & Co. didn’t step out even after Pawar came to power in November 2005.

“The general feeling was let’s get more members before seeking recognition… Basically, let’s get stronger,” explained somebody associated with the ICPA.

Barring a couple of high profile fund-raisers — the launch at the Hyatt here had been a money-spinner — and a donation for tsunami victims, the ICPA has done precious else.

One wonders whether the rookies in the ongoing camp are even aware of its existence.

“Look, it’s alive,” Lal insisted, but declined to say anything more. He’d been at the forefront during the 1989-90 ‘movement’ too.

What Lal left unsaid is that the current players have the responsibility to take the ICPA forward.

That the initiatives must come from them.

Clearly, for whatever reason, that drive has been missing and the BCCI has got an opportunity to arm-twist.

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