The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The aces up Dalmiya’s sleeve

Calcutta: Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Jagmohan Dalmiya made it clear Friday that the Board’s full frontal attack on the sponsors of the World Cup remains unabated and that the interest of the players remains top priority.

Dribbling on the sidelines of emotion, though, Dalmiya maintained he was playing with aces of amicable solutions and of drastic legal measures on the controversial Player Terms issue up his sleeve. It is a silent statement of preparedness, and getting the Union government on his side is only a part of the game.

While stressing again that “certain” multinational companies are “using Indian cricket to settle disputes” of vested interest, he also told a press conference here that a remote possibility of a solution exists if Hero Honda and others (LG and Pepsi) can get together and thrash things out.

The BCCI remains adamant on the issue and whatever the ICC correspondence, they have been kept in abeyance. Now that the ball has been punted to the sponsors’ court, it will be a wait and watch game for the time being.

In this regard Dalmiya said he was thankful that the Union government (read Union sports minister Vikram Verma) had offered support. “I am grateful to the government for this,” he said.

[An agency report from London says that ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed has again threatened the BCCI with a “significant claim for compensation” if contractual obligations aren’t met. ]

[He reiterated that the process by which the ICC and BCCI entered into their contracts was “clear and transparent” and each party has willingly accepted the obligations that were detailed in these agreements.”]

The contract itself remains one of Dalmiya’s aces. Dalmiya has maintained that the controversial “restrictive clauses” had been introduced after the contract was signed during the A.C. Muthiah regime.

That means there has been a breach of trust.

This is, of course, not what the ICC has said, but if what the BCCI claims constitutes a “void” contract, then “yes, these legal ramifications do exist, as always,” said Dalmiya. “This option should be tried out if necessary.

“It is highly unjust that we ask the players to forego millions by binding them for nearly three and-a-half years out of five years (the contract is drawn to run till 2007),” he said.

“Also, we cannot ask the Indian players to break their existing contracts because it is illegal. And, in any case, their personal sponsors have already waived their rights for the 47-day period of the tournament.”

Showcasing his ire over the Cup sponsors, he cited the example in which “a senior manager of a multinational company” who had “said that if they receive $ 15 million they would dilute their rights and grant dispensation.”

That isn’t the colour of money that Dalmiya likes, Dalmiya said. “The moot question is whether the Indian sponsors of the ICC Development International should be allowed to use cricket…”

Meanwhile, Dalmiya maintained that the BCCI would definitely pick the country’s “best 15” when the squad is named for the World Cup here Monday. It will be a purely cricketing decision and these controversial issues will not really hamper the process, he said.

The emotive power shows through. As he admits that the BCCI was only a semi-professional body, his call for a “national sentiment” shines bright, and his “cricket’s larger interest” slogan does sound good.

With such assumptions, and in the same breath, though, defending the “millions” that the cricketers stand to lose if the contract lives, and ignoring world views (and court verdicts) on “ambush marketing” issues presents a jarring note.

These are chinks that will take more than this ‘wait’ time to iron out.

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