Why must players sign contract with ICC, asks Kapil

Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2002, 18:29 [IST]
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New Delhi: The near revolt by India's top cricketers against the sport's world governing body over sponsorship contracts has received wide support from ex-players and fans alike in this cricket-mad nation. A whopping 80 per cent of viewers in a poll conducted by a local television station backed captain Saurav Ganguly and his team for refusing to sign agreements with the International Cricket Council (ICC). Legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev led the chorus of support by ex-players, who wanted the ICC to back down in the row that threatens the participation of India's star players in next week's Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka. The Indian team, currently touring England, has refused to agree to clauses that prohibit them from endorsing products that conflict with the interests of the tournament's official sponsors for 30 days after the event ends. Ganguly's team has also rejected the clause, which allows the official sponsors to use the players images for six month after ICC events like the Champions Trophy and the World Cup. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), struggling to convince the players to sign up, is resigned to sending a second-string team for the 12-nation Limited Overs tournament from September 12. In a country where cricketers are often accused of earning megabucks disproportionate to their performance on the field, the support for Ganguly's team is both unexpected and overwhelming. "Our boys are undergoing mental torture and I feel sorry for them," Kapil said ahead of the decisive final Test against England starting at the Oval on Thursday. "What I can't understand is why must the cricketers sign a contract with the ICC, any arrangement should necessarily be with the home board. "Does the ICC select our teams? Does the ICC look after the players? Does the ICC provide our match fees? It's beyond me." Kapil, a former world bowling record-holder, lashed out at the ICC for forcing players to fall in line with its dictates. "I am amazed the ICC wants our cricketers to break existing contracts, wants them to do something unlawful," he said. "Is this how the sports governing body should behave? Should it encourage indiscipline? I can't believe it. Are contracts or agreements ever one-sided?" Former Test opener Gopal Bose added, "The ICC is almost asking players to sign a blank cheque." Kirti Azad, a former World Cup star and current member of Parliament, said he was astounded at ICC chief Malcolm Speed's plea to players to choose between cash and country. "Can one question Sachin Tendulkar's commitment to playing for India just because he opposes the contracts," Azad asked. Asked why players from other countries had signed up, Azad said, "They do not have personal endorsements of the kind Indian players do." Players from Australia and England initially opposed the ICC's contracts, but agreed to play in the Champions Trophy after reaching agreements with their respective boards.Australian players, however, wanted the contracts to be renegotiated before the World Cup in South Africa early next year, a proposal the ICC is willing to consider. The Indian players received unexpected support from their South African counterparts, who have also reportedly rejected the ICC contracts. Tony Irish, chief executive of the South African Cricketers' Association, was quoted on television as saying the players remained unhappy with the contracts and would not sign them. The United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) responded that it was committed to taking part in the Champions Trophy and would send its "strongest team" to Sri Lanka.

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