Calcutta, Feb. 13: Rapidly acquiring fame as a tournament of controversies, the World Cup kept up its run of off-field scraps with India today wading into the dispute over England’s refusal to play in Zimbabwe.
The BCCI president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, today accused the International Cricket Council of “bending backwards to protect the interest of the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) and that too at the cost of the other competitors’ interest”.
For an entity that keeps international cricket well-fed by acting as the cash cow, the Indian board had been strangely quiet until today, when the England-Zimbabwe match was scheduled to be played in Harare, but was called off by the ICC as it gave time to the English team management to substantiate its fears for players’ safety.
Dalmiya offered the ICC a choice: either deduct four points from England or shift all matches out of Zimbabwe — an organisers’ nightmare.
At Harare Sports Club today, the welcoming expanse of green lay untouched and the stands remained empty and silent. After a few hours of meaningless training drills by the Zimbabwe players, the ground was once again left empty and silent. Dalmiya’s intervention came a day before the World Cup technical committee meets to rule whether the Harare match should be moved to South Africa, whether England should forfeit the match or whether the points should be shared.
Under the tournament rules, if England forfeits the match, Zimbabwe bags all four points. If the points are shared, England and Zimbabwe will get two each. Being in the same group, it is in India’s interest to see that neither side earns any bonus points without playing because both England and Zimbabwe are contenders for the next round of the tournament — the Super Six.
“They want to adopt a ‘wait-and-watch policy’ to see the results of the other matches in the group and make a final decision on the issue. It seems they want to take a final decision seeing their chances of qualifying for the Super Six,” Dalmiya said.
He has posed five prickly issues before the ICC.
n Decide if Zimbabwe is safe for playing
n If it is not, shift all matches from Zimbabwe
n If it is safe, award the England match to Zimbabwe
n Deduct four points from England for refusing to play
n Financial damages be claimed from the ECB after giving a chance to defend itself. The guarantee money payable to the ECB be withheld as has been done in the case of India in the dispute over players’ contracts.
Dalmiya asked for a settlement by Saturday, when India plays Australia.
After rejecting the ECB’s plea to switch the venue from Harare last Friday, the ICC changed its stand on Tuesday. It announced that it would allow England a fresh appeal against the game being hosted in Zimbabwe.
In a letter to Malcolm Speed, the managing director of IDI (the ICC’s business wing), Dalmiya said: “BCCI is surprised, rather shocked, to go through the media reports which suggest that the ICC management is now planning to grant another opportunity to the ECB to present allegedly new facets/reports before the event technical committee.”