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The supreme irony: India, Pakistan opposed meet
- Everyone is enjoying... there are no superstars: Dhoni

Calcutta: Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Shoaib Malik were only too happy to pose with the ICC World Twenty20 trophy on Sunday afternoon, in the lead-up to Monday’s dhamaka-promising final. However, the supreme irony is that the Indian and Pakistani Boards initially opposed the tournament!

In fact, wholly because of their strong reservations, the ICC chose to make it an invitation event. In other words, it wasn’t mandatory for the Test-playing nations to participate. Later, of course, India and Pakistan relented.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, the change in heart had much to do with securing South Africa’s support for Asia’s (successful, as it turned out) 2011 World Cup bid.

“It’s highly unlikely that South Africa would’ve backed the Asian nations had India and Pakistan offended the Ray Malis by staying away from what is the maiden Twenty20 World Cup... Obviously, an understanding was quietly reached,” maintained one of the sources.

Former Indian Board president Inderjit Singh Bindra confirmed that, early on, there was opposition. “That’s because there was a resolution during Jagmohan Dalmiya’s time opposing Twenty20 on the grounds that it would cannibalise the 50 overs game... We got it changed,” he said.

Pakistan’s initial stand, one learns, had much to do with ex-Board chairman Shaharyar Khan’s rather “traditional” outlook. Even he did a U-turn in the “larger interest” — getting the World Cup back to Asia.

While the about-to-end tournament has the status of an invitation event, participation is compulsory in the 2009 edition, in England.

The ICC hasn’t decided beyond 2009, but everything points to the World Twenty20 becoming a permanent fixture in its calendar. Indeed, it could knock off the Champions Trophy from the No.2 position (after the quadrennial World Cup).

Meanwhile, it’s not assured that the ICC will introduce another category — Twenty20 Player of the Year — in its awards from next year.

“There’s a cap on a maximum of seven Twenty20 Internationals (excluding appearances in any ICC tournament) in a year and, so, there won’t really be many matches to choose from... But, then, this could be discussed at a later date,” remarked an ICC official.

Footnote: The Indian Board president, Sharad Pawar, is going to be at the Wanderers during the final. Also flying with him is selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar, vice-president Rajeev Shukla, secretary Niranjan Shah and Bindra.

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