Contract row unresolved, India misses ICC deadline

Published: Monday, December 2, 2002, 21:00 [IST]
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New Delhi: India failed to name a preliminary World Cup squad on Monday, the last date set by cricket's world governing body, as the dispute over players' contracts showed no signs of being resolved. All the 14 nations taking part in the World Cup in south Africa in February-March next year were supposed to send in their provisional 30-man squad to the International Cricket Council (ICC) by Monday.

India is the only nation to have missed the deadline as Saurav Ganguly's national side flew into New Zealand for two Tests and seven One-day Internationals. "We will be naming our squad in a few days," Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) media manager Amrit Mathur said, but parried questions on why the deadline was not met. BCCI secretary Karunakaran Nair said last week India was not obliged to name its provisional squad "so early" and insisted the ICC had not set any date. With India's One-day series against New Zealand ending only on January 14, there was speculation that the selectors may also not name the final 15-man team by the December 31 date set by the ICC.

"We will cross the bridge when we get there," Mathur said. World Cup rules stipulate that any changes to the team after December 31 will have to be ratified by a special committee of the ICC. Australia, England, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan have already named their provisional squad even though they will be involved in international matches till January. The World Cup starts on February 8 with an opening ceremony at Cape Town, followed by the first match between South Africa and the West Indies the next day.

Meanwhile, the row over players contracts for the World Cup escalated with the cricketers and the tournament's official sponsors refusing to concede an inch. The row erupted before the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka in September when India's star players refused to sign contracts which prevented them from endorsing non-official sponsors for 30 days before and after the tournament. The cricketers also declined to let their images be used by official sponsors for six months after the event, as specified in the contracts. The ICC watered down the contracts to ensure the Indians took part in the Champions Trophy, with a promise to review the controversial clauses before the World Cup.

Official World Cup sponsors like Hero Honda, LG Electronics and Pepsi, who are part of the seven-year deal with the ICC worth $ 550 million, have declined to give any more concessions to the players. "Agreeing to alter the contracts for the Champions Trophy was a one-off thing, we won't allow the same to happen for the World Cup," LG's Ganesh Mahalingam was quoted as saying recently. "We have paid a lot to become official sponsors, we must get our money's worth."

Indian cricket chief Jagohan Dalmiya discussed the contracts with senior players like captain Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar at Kolkata airport on Sunday before they boarded the flight to New Zealand. The players refused to sign the present contracts and Dalmiya emerged from the meeting saying "a solution was still a long way off". A high-powered committee formed by the ICC to resolve the issue, of which Dalmiya is a member, faces a ticklish balancing act in the days ahead to ensure the best players take part in the World Cup.

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