Indians exude confidence, say they are on safe wicket

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2003, 19:49 [IST]
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New Delhi: India's cricket officials expressed confidence on Wednesday the country's top stars will take part in next month's World Cup despite the ongoing contracts row. "Take it from me, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly will be there at the World Cup," an official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) told. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has confirmed it received "signed but altered" contracts from India by the Tuesday deadline, but said a decision whether they will be accepted will be taken later in the week.

Indian cricketers, who ended a tour of New Zealand on Tuesday, conditionally signed the contracts last week without accepting clauses that bar them from endorsing non- official sponsors before and after the tournament. The BCCI official, speaking privately, said the players were on a safe wicket even if the matter went to the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland. "We have asked for arbitration because we are confident we have a good case," he said. "The Court's decision could take weeks, by which time the World Cup would not only have started, but ended as well.

"The ICC can't ban players or enforce the players' terms till the matter is resolved, legally or otherwise." The fear of paying millions of dollars as compensation if the BCCI loses the case is also not causing sleepless nights to officials. "Compensation claims can be put forward only by the official sponsors, and that is something we can work on," the official said without elaborating. Three of the four major World Cup sponsors -- Pepsi, Hero Honda and LG Electronics -- have major interests in India and are keen to have a share of the South Asian nation's huge cricket market.

BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya last month appealed to these sponsors to "keep the country's interests in mind" and even hinted they could be blacklisted from Indian cricket in the future if compensation demands were made. Dalmiya also said Indian players could not be banned from the World Cup just because they had objected the clauses. "We are extremely keen to participate. There is no clause to stop the players if they have signed conditionally," Dalmiya, a former ICC chief, insisted.

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