ICC blinks, India's best pad up - sign-up time: first autographs, then modified deal

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  • Published 9.09.02

London, Sept. 9: Jagmohan Dalmiya’s move to schedule an emergent selection meeting in Calcutta this afternoon proved a masterstroke. It made the International Cricket Council (ICC) blink, for the second time in a week, paving the way for Sourav Ganguly to lead a proper Team India during the Champions Trophy in Colombo.

There have been few more dramatic (off-the-field) days in Indian cricket and, at the end of it, Dalmiya, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, could actually relax — exactly four weeks after the Player Terms controversy erupted.

Moreover, it’s now confirmed that the world of cricket just can’t do without the Indian team. And, yes, the ICC isn’t quite fond of an eyeball-to-eyeball scenario. Straightaway, the focus will now be on “concessions” specific to the February-March World Cup.

Last Wednesday, the ICC had climbed down in negotiations with the cricketers. This evening, with Dalmiya bargaining hard, it backed down yet again. The bottomline is that the BCCI won’t be saddled with damages/claims on account of the terms being “diluted” to suit Sourav and Co.

The terms, of course, are being redrafted.

The revised terms will be applicable only during the September 12-30 tournament and for a period of 16 days immediately afterwards. The original terms would have bound the players (and their personal sponsors) for 30 days after the final, clashing directly with the festive season back home.

“I’m happy we will be going to Colombo. All along, our stand was that we did want to play there.... Now, that opportunity has come,” Sourav told The Telegraph tonight. With the cricket part of this England tour ending, the Indians leave for home tomorrow morning and will depart for the Champions Trophy on Thursday.

India’s first match, against Zimbabwe, is on September 14.

As already reported, the cricketers had refused to sign the terms, even if it meant being dropped. Indeed, their last communication to Dalmiya — faxed very late yesterday — also spoke of the entire issue being “based on principles and integrity”.

With the ICC eventually getting around to obliging the BCCI on the infuriating business of possible claims/damages from its commercial partners, the selectors didn’t have to go public with their second-string squad. Had it come to firming that selection, the captaincy would have gone to Robin Singh, with Venkatesh Prasad the vice-captain.

Instead, the first-choice squad, picked in Mumbai last month, was formally announced. The only new face is the hard-hitting Jai Prakash Yadav, who can also be counted upon for a few overs. The announcement was on hold till the terms issue was resolved.

The day’s stunning developments began with a call from the ICC secretariat to Dalmiya’s office in Calcutta, with a message that the ICC brass wished to speak to the BCCI president. Almost simultaneously, the ICC’s president-elect, Pakistan’s Ehsan Mani, personally spoke to Dalmiya.

As it turned out, the soft-spoken Mani played a big role in ending the crisis.

Dalmiya, one understands, told the ICC brass that while he was open to a dialogue, the national selectors would go ahead with their job (of picking the second string). However, no announcement would be made till the proposed tele-conference, involving members of the executive board, was over.

The tele-conference (which began at 5.30 pm IST) continued for an hour and 45 minutes, at the end of which it was decided that damages/claims (from a commercial partner of the ICC) would be settled by the ICC itself — in effect the IDI, which is its business arm.

Incidentally, a similar exercise was conducted just a few days ago and its outcome wasn’t in India’s interests. Also, the claims/damages would have to be contested in Lausanne and nowhere else. Now, if required, the damages/claims will be shared by all members of the executive board (10 Test-playing nations plus the three associates who have representation).

Apparently, this Dalmiya formula got a boost when Rev. Wesley Hall, the West Indies Cricket Board chief, “strongly endorsed” it. Thereafter, it became easy. In any case, Dalmiya is known to make the most of even the slightest opening.

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