SPORT

BCCI affirms support to players

KOLKATA DEC. 25. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Wednesday decided to firmly support the cause of the Indian cricketers in the ongoing contract dispute with the International Cricket Council (ICC). This stand thus virtually rejected the final offer of the ICC.

An emergency special general meeting of the Board, which was held at the Eden Gardens today, felt that the restrictive clauses in the Participating Nations Agreement (PNA) and the Player Terms were unjustified and that the Board should stand by the players.

The meeting, which lasted close to four hours and attended by all the important functionaries of the BCCI, discussed the ongoing contracts dispute with the ICC Development (International) Limited (IDI) with regard to the 2003 World Cup. The house felt that inducing the Indian cricketers to break existing contracts was unlawful and that the Board should not be a party to it, the Board president, Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya, informed the media.

The Board, however, decided to stick to the deadline of December 31 to name the final squad of 15 players for the World Cup. For this the National selection committee would meet at Kolkata on December 30.

The Board also felt that it was necessary to ascertain whether the rights given to the IDI sponsors under the Sponsorship Agreements were in consonance with the decisions of the IDI Board or the ICC Executive Board or the Cricket Committee (Management). If excessive rights had been granted to the IDI sponsors than what was due to them, the house felt, the Indian Board, as a stake-holder, should not be called upon to suffer financial losses on account of such excessive rights given to the IDI sponsors.

The members informed the Board president, that these issues should not be brushed aside on the pretext of being "outdated'' and "irrelevant.'' by the parent body. Instead these issues should face scrutiny. The Board unanimously appreciated the Indian cricket team sponsor, Sahara India, for coming forward to support the team despite not being allowed to display its logo on the players' clothing during the ICC Champions Cup held in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Dalmiya, citing the stand of Sahara India in the past, said the members strongly felt that the Indian sponsors and the Indian partners of the Global Cricket Corporation (GCC) should come forward to "grant dispensations'' to the Indian cricketers and pave the way for them to participate in the 2003 World Cup. He said the members hoped that these sponsors and partners would rise to the occasion by foregoing their "pecuniary considerations'' in preference to the larger interest of the country and its cricketers. He added such a gesture would go a long way in continuing the commercial dealings between the BCCI and the sponsors and partners.

The Board also issued a veiled threat by saying if the sponsors and partners did not look after the interest of the country and its cricketers, the BCCI might review its commercial relations with these sponsors and partners in future.

The house appreciated and ratified all actions taken by the president in the ongoing controversy and empowered him to take any further action that would be necessitated in the matter. To a question, Mr. Dalmiya said, the Indian Board was not on a collision course with the ICC. "We are not on a warpath. The ICC is a family of which India is a member. We are humbly and respectfully dealing with the ICC. It is our parent body. There is no question of any confrontation with it,'' he said.

The Board chief said the problem the Indian cricketers faced was of a unique kind. "Our players have contracts worth millions of rupees running for the next five years. We should respect those contracts. At the same time we too understand the problems of the ICC. We only request the ICC to come up with solutions to settle the problems so that India, like other countries, would be able to send its best team to the World Cup,'' he opined. "Our major concern is to participate in the World Cup. India wants to go and play,'' he said.

Mr. Dalmiya said four Indian players - Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Kaif, Harbhajan Singh and Sanjay Bangar - were on the injured list and added that none of the four suffered from any serious injury. The team management did not ask for any reinforcement. Instead it had asked opener Shiv Sundar Das to stay back as a cover.