India Rides Roughshod Over Contracts Issue

Cricket News 11/12/02

By Jon Cocks

Once again, India, under the stewardship of Jagmohan Dalmiya, creates headlines as the only nation not to name its 30-man squad by the ICC-nominated deadline. And India – the nation with the biggest TV audience and from which around 70% of World Cup sponsorship emanates - is not likely to be expelled from the World Cup tournament for not complying with the formalities.

Only arbitrary corporate concerns such as advertising could ride roughshod of selectorial integrity in such a cavalier fashion. A lot of international players have a lot of sponsorship deals. The ICC - in concert with the WC's sponsors – seeks to avoid such conflicts of interest.

As long ago as 2000, representatives of the various national cricket boards signed contracts with the ICC, binding them and their players to sponsorship and endorsement restrictions for not only the duration of the Cup, but a month before and a month afterward. Players were to be locked in for a quarter of any twelve-month contract, a not inconsiderable inconvenience.

It appears that these restrictions have not been formally conveyed to players and their managers. On the face of it, a simple addition to the fine print of any commercial contract for any player, excusing him from any obligation to the sponsor during the World Cup matches, should have seen the matter dealt with. Given that the captains of most Test-playing sides met at Lords’ this year, it seems ludicrous that a significant issue such as this could be overlooked.

With Sachin Tendulkar alone appearing in an estimated quarter of all Indian ads, the commercial concerns facing Indian cricketers, as opposed to those in place for the WC, are too labyrinthine for the BCCI to name its squad now and not face further irritating litigation.

India's commercial concerns notwithstanding, surely they could proffer a reasonable expectation or perhaps seek to broker a compromise, given the potential commercial clashes of interests that might call into question the personal integrity of a few players.

Dalmiya seemingly delights in these confrontations, using the complex Indian set of commercial obligations within an enigmatic and complex cultural context to bamboozle the opposition. In doing so, he increases his own profile and causes no end of headache for everyone else. With the backing of a billion Indians, he can get away with just about anything. The Indian market is a monster, whose bloated figures preclude any real control by outside corporate, administrative or commercial interests.

Malcolm Speed has done his limited best with the ICC, an organisation that has not moved with the times in all ways. He is an administrator faced with a rampant beast that is too large for the normal corralling procedures. Whoever follows him in the job will have exactly the same headaches.

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