Indian players, Board headed for a standoff

Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's cricket board seemed set on a collision course with star players after it ordered a clampdown on personal endorsements.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said that players would have to trim lucrative endorsement deals to a maximum of three as it reviewed the team's inglorious first-round exit from the World Cup.

The announcement was among a slew of decisions ostensibly aimed at cutting the players down to size.

Currently stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni enjoy money-spinning deals with as many as 15 brands each.

The players will also be required to submit a copy of their contracts to the board and sponsors have been asked not to sign deals with more than two players.

While the players refrained from commenting - they have also been asked not to speak to the media - the corporate world was quick to slam the move after it was announced Saturday.

"It is a regressive step. Restriction on endorsements is the last way to get performance out of a cricketer," said Shailendra Singh, joint managing director of Percept Holdings, which deals with Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh.

"If BCCI would like to link performance with the players, then the sponsors can, in turn, link performance with the BCCI," he told the Times of India.

An editorial in the same paper said it was apparent that the board was wary of some players, especially the senior ones.

"Clearly, they feel some of them have become so powerful that they are harming the team and its future.

"Make no mistake, almost every decision has been aimed at breaking them down, at marginalising them. They have taken the war to a flashpoint."

It said the players were not in a position to fight back now, but would hit out once they start winning matches again.

"The board, then, will have no place to hide," it added.

Another editorial in the Hindustan Times said BCCI had absolved itself of all responsibility and put all the blame on the players.

"Their solution -- to please the lowest common denominator, the fan - is to cut off all avenues from which players make legal money, even cut their match fees, but leave themselves free to do what they want."

The BCCI has signed multi-million dollar deal for television rights, a sponsorship contract and an agreement to hold India-Pakistan ties outside the ICC's Future Tours Programme at off-shore venues.

While the players could well be seething inside, outgoing coach Greg Chappell is bound to feel vindicated by the board's plans.

The former Australian captain had long been dismissive of the ways of the senior players whom he reportedly went to the extent of referring to as 'mafia'.

Also, in keeping with Chappell's policy of promoting youngsters, the board said it would send a 'young team' on the May 10-29 tour of Bangladesh led by Rahul Dravid.

Dravid wants talks on endorsement ceiling: Meanwhile India captain Rahul Dravid wants talks with the cricket board following a clampdown on personal endorsement deals after the team's World Cup exit last month.

The ceiling on endorsements has led to further speculation in local media that corporate interest influenced selection procedures for the World Cup, and that the players and the board were on course for a collision.

Dravid played down that talk in a statement on Monday.

"Let me clarify that there is no conflict between the players and the BCCI," he said. "The interests of the players and the BCCI are inclusive and not exclusive.

He said the board had always been "caring and considerate about players' interests," and said he expected a discussion to "examine the areas of concern (and) iron out the irksome issues" between players and the board.


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