The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now, BCCI sings a new tune
- Is it a tactical move or has the players’ stand paid off'

Calcutta: For a change, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has acted sensibly: It has climbed down from its stand that the Bangladesh-bound players must sign their contracts before setting out for Dhaka/Chittagong.

Unless it wanted a confrontation, the BCCI didn’t have much of a choice as the 22 players had resolved they wouldn’t oblige till such time that the contentious clauses are amended.

The BCCI, in fact, took a step back within hours of a players’ meeting at the Taj here on Friday afternoon.

Yet, it could all be a tactical move on the part of hardliners Shashank Manohar (vice-president, Central) and treasurer N.Srinivasan.

Apparently, the Big Four — captain Rahul Dravid, senior-most pro Sachin Tendulkar, former captain Sourav Ganguly and veteran Anil Kumble — met for a while before 16 of the remaining 18 were invited to join.

For different reasons, V.V.S.Laxman and Dinesh Karthik haven’t yet reported at the conditioning camp.

Laxman, who is indisposed, may not come at all. In any case, he hasn’t been selected for the three-match ODI series. The two Tests are later.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, the Big Four “briefed” the rest about what’s wrong with the contracts.

The players didn’t form a committee to interact with the BCCI, but it seems Dravid and Kumble will represent them during any dialogue with the officials.

Kumble, who has retired from ODIs, had a hand in drafting the first set of contracts when the idea took shape exactly six years ago.

Dr A.C.Muthiah was then in power.

That the Dravids have strong reservations was reported in these columns on Thursday.

“Look, if the players have some issues, then where’s the time to sort out things' That’s why, if needed, they can sign after returning from Bangladesh,” remarked BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah.

A couple of days ago, while in transit in London on the way home from the West Indies, he’d insisted all 22 would have to sign before May 7, when the ODI squad leaves for Dhaka.

The seven Test specialists head for Chittagong at a later date.

Shah confirmed he’d spoken to president Sharad Pawar in the morning, but didn’t say he’d been directed by him to take a softer stand.

“President se baat-cheet hoti rehti hai… I’m going to meet him (in New Delhi) on Saturday. The other office-bearers will be there too,” he added.

Intriguingly, in another turnaround, Shah said he wasn’t sure whether he would come to Calcutta on Sunday.

Pawar has called a meeting of the “core group” and the contracts issue is bound to relegate everything else to the background.

According to vice-president (East) Rajeev Shukla, the players “haven’t communicated” their misgivings to the BCCI.

Sources, however, indicated that a letter had been sent, putting on record the players’ reservations.

“We’ve only been reading and hearing about their misgivings… Nobody has told us anything… Not till now at least,” Shukla added.

There’s speculation, of course, that the leak about the players’ payments being held up for months may have contributed to the change in the BCCI’s stand.

What if more worms spill out'

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