Kolkata: Backing its players, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Saturday asserted that Indian cricketers couldn't be prevented from playing in the World Cup because of conditional acceptance of the ICC contract.
Disclosing that the Board had advised the cricketers to sign the players' terms for the tournament along with their objections, Board President Jagmohan Dalmiya told a press conference "I am not sure whether the signed Players' Terms will be acceptable to the ICC but we are extremely keen to participate in the World Cup.
"There is no clause to prevent the team from participating if it has signed the Players' Terms conditionally," he said. Dalmiya said he had received the signed Players' Terms forms from the 15 World Cup bound cricketers and would forward it to the ICC ahead of the January 14 deadline. Dalmiya said it has already been made clear to the ICC that certain restrictive clauses in the players' terms were not acceptable to the players and the Board.
Detailing the objections raised by the players, Dalmiya said they were ready to abide by the restrictive sponsorship clauses for the 47-day period of the tournament but not before and after the event as required in the original clauses. Also the players were willing to allow their imaging to be used by the official sponsors of the World Cup only for a period of two months and not three months as entailed in the contracts, Dalmiya said. He said the Board had meanwhile invoked the arbitration clause and the process had started with solicitors of ICC and BCCI exchanging papers during the last few days. "Arbitration may continue and at the same time the World Cup could go ahead normally.
Cricket can only be disturbed for cricketing reasons but not for commercial reasons." Dalmiya said. Asked about the Board's reaction if the arbitration resulted in damage claims against it, Dalmiya said, "It is too premature to comment about it at this moment. "The World Cup must go on," he said. Dalmiya said despite protracted negotiations with ICC on the contract issue and the world governing body twice amending the controversial players terms, the issue remained unresolved as, "none of these (amendments) altered the restrictive clauses that were objected to by the Board and the players".
The ICC had offered to reduce the restricted period for conflicting advertisements to 30 days before and five days after the event as against the original provision for 30 days on either sides of the tournament apart from during the event. The ICC had also offered to reduce the duration for using the images from six months after the World Cup to three months and uniformly apply it to all the cricketers irrespective of whether they had any conflicting contracts or not.
Dalmiya said players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag could not accept this because they have existing contracts with companies like TVS motorcycle and Coca Cola respectively which come in direct conflict with the official sponsors Hero Honda and Pepsi. Dalmiya once again alleged that the official sponsors were trying to settle their corporate battles on the cricket field and that is why the issue has remained deadlocked.
Asked whether the Indian sponsors of the World Cup had responded to his appeal for offering dispensations to the Indian cricketers, he said, "two of three Indian sponsors have come forward and had a discussion with the Board but till now there is nothing worthwhile to talk about". Dalmiya emphasised that there were no doubts over India's participation in the World Cup and asked, "If England refuses to play in Zimbabwe for political reasons can the team be totally scratched from the World Cup?" Dalmiya said if England does not play in Zimbabwe, it would face only financial penalty or forfeit points but the full team could not be scratched from the tournament.
"If England cannot be scratched, how can India be scratched," he asked. Dalmiya reiterated that the Board was firm on its stand that it would challenge the legality of the controversial players' terms and as a first step had sought the issue to be resolved through non-binding mediation. "We have even suggested that to expedite the arbitration proceedings we could skip the non-binding mediation," he said adding that the matter was being discussed between lawyers of both sides and the final shape was yet to emerge.
Dalmiya, who had been negotiating with the ICC bosses for more than two months on the issue, also said that the door for a negotiated settlement was still open and, "even today we are ready to sit across the table to resolve the dispute".