The end of a controversy

Published : Feb 14, 2003 00:00 IST

Darren Lehmann. - JON BUCKLE/REUTERS

Darren Lehmann. - JON BUCKLE/REUTERS

THE controversies that have threatened to affect the 2003 cricket World Cup in South Africa, which begins on February 9, have been put to rest, albeit temporarily.

Foremost on the list of problems was the possible non-participation of a full-strength Indian team, whose players were in dispute with the International Cricket Council (ICC) over official contracts for the event (Frontline, September 27, 2002). On January 24, the ICC Executive Board approved a compromise deal that would allow the Indian players to take part in the event despite the contracts row. The ICC decided that the contracts issue would be settled after the tournament, which ends on March 23.

The Indian players had originally refused to sign the full Players Terms in the official contract since it clashed with their personal endorsements. The players' major points of contention were the imaging clause, which allowed the official sponsors of the tournament to use images of participating players for up to six months after the event, and the `ambush marketing' clause, which prohibited a player from endorsing products that rivalled those of the official sponsors' for a period of 30 days before and after the tournament. The Indian players have agreed to play in the World Cup under altered contracts where the `ambush marketing' clause would be restricted to the duration of the tournament and limitations would be placed on the use of players' images by the official sponsors.

The agreement endorsed by the ICC's Executive Board on January 24 accepted the altered contracts signed by the Indian players with the provision that the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) accept responsibility for any compensation claims that may arise from the ICC's commercial partners as a result of the amended contracts. In case the official sponsors sue cricket's governing body on this issue, the ICC said that the final decision regarding the responsibility and size of claims will be made through an arbitration process after the World Cup is over. The ICC will retain India's $9 million share from the World Cup pending the outcome of arbitration. The ICC added that if an arbitration process was to determine that the BCCI was liable for damages and should the BCCI refuse to pay this compensation, the ICC Board would recommend that India be suspended from the ICC.

Welcoming the decision to allow a full-strength Indian side to participate, BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya said: "The best thing is that the Indian team is going to the World Cup. We are putting up our best team. The money and contracts matters will be resolved in course of time."

In a related decision, on January 22, the Delhi High Court directed the Union government and the Reserve Bank of India not to release foreign exchange or provide income tax concessions to Pepsi Foods, Hero Honda Motors, and LG Electronics India, who are the official sponsors of the World Cup, if India was debarred from playing. The verdict was in response to a public interest litigation filed by six citizens, including former India players Kapil Dev and Madan Lal.

In its January 24 meeting, the ICC Executive Board also decided that World Cup matches scheduled to be held in Zimbabwe would go ahead as originally planned. Many English and Australian government officials and politicians have called for a boycott of Zimbabwe as a mark of protest against the regime of President Robert Mugabe, which is blamed for famine-like conditions, increasing violence, including attacks and seizures of white-owned farms, and repression of human rights in the country. In late 2002, the British government increased pressure on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to pull out of their matches in Zimbabwe, fearing that playing there would be construed as a message of support for Mugabe's regime. However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stressed in December that the government would not force the ECB to boycott their match in Harare. The ICC decision to hold matches in Zimbabwe has also been termed "disappointing" by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a key critic of Mugabe. Meanwhile, the main Zimbabwean Opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, has vowed to stage protests during the matches in Zimbabwe. The ICC has said that it has reserved the right to switch matches from Zimbabwe to South Africa should the security situation in the former deteriorate before the start of the World Cup.

IN another important ICC verdict, Australian cricketer Darren Lehmann was suspended for five one-day international matches for a racist outburst during a January 15 VB Series match against Sri Lanka. Lehmann, who yelled a racist slur after his dismissal in the game, became the first player in history to be suspended for a breach of the ICC's code of conduct rules on racial vilification.

Kanta Murali
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