The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Players say indirect ‘no’ to board

London, Sept. 8: The Indian cricketers currently in England are sticking to their decision of not signing the Player Terms for the Champions Trophy beginning on Thursday.

However, in a letter faxed to the BCCI president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, late tonight, they haven’t directly made themselves unavailable. According to sources of The Telegraph, the cricketers have left it to the Internatonal Cricket Council (ICC) and the BCCI to sort things out.

“The players will only sign if the ICC confirms in writing what was agreed to last Wednesday. Basically that, besides the duration of the tournament (September 12-30), the terms will only be applicable for 16 days after the final,” said a source close to the cricketers.

The players, therefore, have said “no” to the latest appeal from the BCCI — conveyed via Dalmiya’s four-page communication late last night — that they sign on the terms as it exists.

Now, either the BCCI reopens a dialogue with the ICC or the national selectors, who are to meet in Calcutta tomorrow afternoon, will be advised to pick the “best available” side. Given tonight’s development, it’s on the cards that India will have a new captain (and team) — albeit for a short while.

In contention for the top job are India U-19 coach Robin Singh and Hrishikesh Kanitkar, who has captained India A.

Earlier in the day, there was frenetic behind-the-scenes activity to ensure the cricketers signed the terms. In the thick of things were Dalmiya and former India captain Ravi Shastri, the players’ spokesman. A key role was also being played Rajiv Shukla, a member of Parliament and a Dalmiya confidant, who has been here for a few days.

Significantly, Dalmiya’s latest letter — largely detailing decisions reached at yesterday’s emergent working committee meeting in Delhi — was faxed to Shukla, and not manager Ranga Reddy.

Shukla, however, followed protocol and handed 16 copies to Reddy this morning who, in turn, gave one to each cricketer in the team bus — en route to The Oval from the St James Crowne Plaza. Bizarre but, then, the terms issue has been so poorly handled right through.

Incidentally, Shukla was closeted with Shastri for half-an-hour during the Day-IV lunch break at The Oval.

Apparently, Dalmiya “assured” the players (through Shukla) that he would himself speak to their personal sponsors on not airing conflicting advertisements for a period of 49 days (19 during the tournament itself and 30 immediately after the final). And, should the sponsors still not relent, the BCCI would -- as announced -- make good any loss the cricketers may themselves suffer.

The players, one learns, have been wary of approaching their sponsors yet again as, only the other day, they had convinced them to respect the “fresh” terms agreed upon at a meeting with the ICC brass.

Going by the understanding reached, the ICC would limit the post-tournament days to 16 instead of the 30 spelt out in the existing terms. The BCCI, though, didn’t endorse that as the ICC kept open the possibility of “damages” being claimed by one of its six sponsors (Pepsi, Hero Honda, LG, South African Airways, Standard Bank and Hutchison).

If a claim is made, on account of the (day-specific) concession offered to the Indians, that will be laid at the BCCI’s door. As a cover, then, the BCCI asked the ICC for an “undertaking” whereby no damages would be sought from India.

The ICC refused to oblige, prompting the BCCI into again asking the cricketers to sign the terms and reiterating that personal losses will be compensated. The players, though, haven’t been amused by this back-to-square-one scenario.

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