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ICC sees hope Down Under Future stays uncertain

Leeds, Aug. 22: The International Cricket Council (ICC) is currently upbeat, buoyed by the understanding reached between the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and its players, but the interpretation of an otherwise simple word — future — could eventually make for a return of stalemate Down Under.

It should, after all, be noted the Ricky Pontings haven’t actually signed. Moreover, according to The Telegraph’s sources, nobody will probably do so till the ICC’s Executive Board meets next Saturday in Dubai.

For the Australian cricketers, being consulted by the ICC before “future” contracts is a key element of their agreement with the ACB. Indeed, the ACB has been assured a mechanism will be put in place.

In any case, the Australians weren’t signing the Player Terms even though, at this point in time, there was no conflict of interest with their own sponsors.

The future had them worried.

Of course, just the other day, the ICC more than indicated that the terms would only be applicable for next month’s Champions Trophy in Colombo. Implied was a review immediately after that tournament and before the February-March World Cup.

Yet, in “welcoming” today’s shaking of hands between the ACB and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), the ICC has clarified that any “consultation” with the players before “new” commercial agreements excludes existing sponsorship arrangements till the 2007 World Cup.

Surely, the ACA couldn’t have been talking of a post-2007 scenario. Also, the ICC’s clarification contradicts the “assurance” given to Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Jagmohan Dalmiya on Tuesday.

The future, then, is anything but clear.

Meanwhile, with the ACB reaching an agreement with the ACA, it’s widely being assumed that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) will follow suit.

Apparently, the PCA’s (unofficial) stand right through has been: What’s good enough for the Australians will be good enough for us. But, then, what about Nasser Hussain’s bit about “extending solidarity”' The next few days should be interesting.

Incidentally, one England cricketer has already signed. Only, he is understood to have done so “blindly”. It’s only now that the player — a one-day specialist — has begun to appreciate the ramifications.

As for the Indians, till late this evening, there was no change in their absolutely firm stand. “The dialogue between the ACB and the ACA needs to be welcomed. At the same time, both the ICC and the BCCI must talk to our cricketers,” emphasised Ravi Shastri, the Indians’ spokesman.

Contacted in Calcutta, Dalmiya didn’t say much beyond “the door remains open”. It’s obvious that till the ICC sets a deadline for naming the squad, this door will remain open for the Sourav Gangulys.

Today, by the way, was a big day for the Indians. Had they stumbled in the opening hours of the third Test, they would have had more to worry. As it turned out, Day-I couldn’t have been better (236 for two).

Significantly, by the ICC’s own admission, the terms have been signed by players of only four Test-playing countries: Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Reuters adds: The Indian cricket board is still hopeful the players will sign the contract. “I hope so, hope wisdom prevails,” Niranjan Shah, secretary of the BCCI, said.

Shah said the Indian board was still going ahead with plans to select a second string squad for the Champions Trophy from a list of 25 unnamed “probables”.

Shah said the board has done its best by offering the players compensation for lost endorsement deals and support in case of legal problems from their sponsors, though he feels the BCCI is handicapped by the absence of player contracts. “When we enter into contract we can have provisions for such issues, but it is not easy (to finalise), it will take time,” he added.

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