Indian players defy ICC; refuse to sign contracts
The rediff ream with agencies
The Indian cricket team has en masse opposed the International Cricket Council's marketing clause in the player contracts that have to be signed ahead of the September 12-29 Champions' Trophy tournament in Sri Lanka.
In the first public position taken by the team since the controversy erupted, team manager Ranga Reddy told the BBC's Hindi service: "The players are united in their opposition to the ICC's ambush policy which, they feel, will adversely affect their financial interests."
"We could have got the new players to sign the deal (of ICC) but they too feel that the new policy is not just. For us, the more important thing is team unity.
"The players are of the view that it is not the Indian cricket board but the ICC which is to be blamed for the controversy," Reddy is quoted as saying.
The team's reaction comes a day after ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed asked players to chose between money and the honor of playing for their country.
Board of Control for Cricket in India president Jagmohan Dalmiya said in Kolkata that it was still 'premature' to comment on the issue.
The Board, he said, was in regular touch with the players and a final decision would shortly be announced.
The BCCI is not alone in "being in touch" with the players - ICC General Manager (Cricket) Dave Richardson, the former South African wicket-keeper, met unofficially with a few Indian players to explain the organisation's position.
"We haven't heard anything from the Indian Board though Dave Richardson did get in touch with a few Indian players," said Brendan McClements, ICC's General Manager (Corporate Affairs).
McClements clarified that Richardson did not negotiate with the Indians, but only attempted to clear the ICC's stand.
A senior Indian player told a news agency that the team saw no reason to reveal its hand at this point, given that India was not alone in opposing the contract.
The player was referring to the fact that four of seven member nations of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations - Australia, South Africa, England and the West Indies - have refused to sign the contract.
India is not a FICA member.
Earlier today, the West Indies Players Association advised its players against signing the contract.
The association covers all 14 cricketers named to the team for the tournament.
Secretary of the West Indies Players Association Roland Holder said his organization was following the recommendation of the Federation of International Cricketers Associations.
"The opinion is that players should not sign as there is a clause in the contract that is illegal," Holder said.
FICA member New Zealand, which had earlier joined the boycott, however announced today that its players would sign the contract. Which in fact did not come as a surprise - Kiwi players do not have big-paying individual endorsements and therefore, have nothing to lose.
The controversial clause in the general contract says that players cannot endorse companies that are rivals of the official, ICC-endorsed sponsors during tournaments under ICC jurisdiction.
The Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), which has advised its members not to sign the "unlawful" agreement, said in Sydney today that it will hold discussions with the national one-day squad and the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) over the issue next week.
ACA chief executive Tim May, who is also joint CEO of FICA, said he met ACB officials today, and both parties were hopeful of resolving the conflict before the September 12 Champions Trophy.
Elsewhere, David Graveney, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association (of England), said the existing agreement would leave high-profile players in breach of existing contracts.
"Players can't be expected to second-guess ICC sponsorship deals in advance," he said.
Graveney said he believed England players would sign the agreement if ICC relented on a couple of conditions.
With the stands on both sides hardening, the ICC today admitted that the deadlock may not be resolved before next week.
This automatically puts the future of the Champions' Trophy in doubt - the ICC-mandated deadline for Cricket Boards to sign the mandatory Participating Nations Agreement ends tomorrow (Friday).
"We are in touch with the member Boards and also the players' associations," ICC spokesperson Mark Harrison said in London. "We are hopeful that a solution will emerge by next week."
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