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August 20, 2002 | 2300 IST

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BCCI hoping for the best

M D Riti

"I think it will all be bashed [sic] up," said Chandu Borde, head of the senior selection committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in Bangalore, just after the working committee meeting on Tuesday.

What he meant, of course, was that he and the BCCI are very hopeful of the cricket players coming around and agreeing to a mutually acceptable arrangement on the contract row with the International Cricket Council.

"It's just a question of people not understanding the exact terms and arrangements planned," he explained, in an exclusive conversation with immediately after the meeting at the Taj West End hotel.

"Once people [read players] have had the time to think things over, they will be willing to reach a common meeting ground. After all, they are playing cricket for their country, and would always want to do everything to make India proud of them."

The BCCI meeting began at about 1430 hours. The board members closeted themselves in the Ballroom of the hotel. Two of the senior selectors, Ashok Malhotra and Shivlal Yadav, waited with journalists and other sports enthusiasts outside, and seemed quite clueless about what was going on inside.

Madan Lal, who is serving his last term as selector, was noticeable in his absence. "Sheikh Madan Lal is in Dubai," said Malhotra, jokingly. "The next time we have a problem like this, we must resolve it in Dubai with Madan Lal also around; all of us selectors will fly down there, what says?"

He looked at senior BCCI official Walia from Punjab, and said, "Aap log bulayen, hum daudke aayen! [You'll called us and we came running]"

"Bangalore is the ideal place for such meetings, because the humid climate is perfect for such discussions," replied Walia.

"Seriously, though, we will involve Madanlal in the final selections," continued Malhotra. "Perhaps we will have a teleconference with him before we announce the final list."

However, he certainly reflected the mood of conciliation that BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya and Borde seemed to favour, when he said: "I hope that the board gives us a good crop of players to select from."

It was quite obvious that he meant that he hoped the best players would not be eliminated from the BCCI list.

Yadav too echoed his thoughts. "This is a very tricky situation," he said, regretfully. "I hope that whatever is best for the game will happen."

Other senior cricketeers like KSCA head Brijesh Patel were tight-lipped about the whole debate.

"It's up to the BCCI and the selectors; I am just present here, I have nothing to say," he said.

The BCCI meeting concluded at about 1745 hours or so, but the board members simply rushed out of the room and off to another part of the hotel without meeting anyone on the way, not even Yadav or Malhotra.

Meanwhile, a KSCA official could be seen rushing into another room with two shopping bags obviously bearing news shirts. Had the BCCI lost their shirts over this debate, wondered waiting scribes?

The board came back eventually, looking remarkably fresh and unrumpled, considering the heated nature of their discussions, and revealed their decision.

"This decision was unanimous," said Dalmiya.

He more or less implied that the board would give the selectors 20 names of probables. The selectors would then choose the team. They would reveal the identity of this team only to the secretary of the board, who would then keep the whole issue mum until they sorted out the ongoing controversy with each of those players individually.

"I cannot give a deadline for this," he said. "We will wait until the other countries too announce their teams and then announce ours. It will not be just one or two days ahead of the match, but in enough time to organise visas and tickets for the team."

He went on to add that the board had also concluded that there is no conflict of interest with Sahara sponsoring the team for the ICC Champions Trophy.

"So there is no need to replace Sahara as the sponsors," he said.

When there is already a team of 20 listed and ready, what is the need for the board to announce a fresh list of 20 names of probables now, if the new list would anyway include all the players who are locked in the sponsorship tussle?

"Why assume that the 20 shortlisted for England must be the same people shortlisted for the ICC Trophy as well?" countered Borde, refuting the suggestion that the board was attempting to issue a veiled threat to the players by saying that they will draw up a fresh list of 20 names.

"We are willing to assist those players who go with us to hold discussions with their sponsors and sort out whatever problems they may have with them," continued Dalmiya, almost plaintively. "We will even help them to fight law suits against them, if necessary."

He also took great pains to explain that "the present situation is very unpalatable" and that the board's sympathies are entirely with the players.

"Some clauses that they are asked to sign are very far-fetched," he conceded. "The players had a genuine concern in not signing the contracts. We should give them some time to resolve all these issues."

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