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August 21, 2002 | 2130 IST

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Hussain backs Indians in sponsorship row

Tony Lawrence

England captain Nasser Hussain threw his weight behind India's "superstars" in their battle with cricket's world governing body over sponsorship rights on Wednesday.

Hussain said his team refused to sign contracts to play in the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka next month as a gesture of solidarity, while conceding that the issue does not seriously affect his players.

"We don't have any superstars in our dressing room but I know the issue affects some superstars around the world," he told a press conference on the eve of the third Test against India at Headingley.

"We are showing solidarity with some very fine cricketers in world cricket who are having problems at the moment."

India's leading players have refused to sign contracts to play in the event after the International Cricket Council barred players from sponsorship deals with companies competing with the official Champions Trophy backers.

The row could also bleed into next year's World Cup.

The players are arguing that the ICC should not have control over their personal sponsorship rights while the ICC says official sponsors must be protected during events from commercial rivals trying to cash in on the events.

Leading players like Sachin Tendulkar can earn millions of dollars through personal endorsements in India, where cricket is a national obsession and Tendulkar by far the most popular exponent.

The Indian cricket board (BCCI) is threatening to axe the rebel players and field a second-string team in Sri Lanka if they continue to refuse to sign their contracts.

Australia's players have also refused to sign to play in the Champions Trophy, cricket's biggest one-day tournament outside the World Cup, while the South African and West Indies teams are also reportedly unhappy.

Hussain added: "We mustn't just think of ourselves. We must also think of young England players in future who will have image rights that can't just be signed away by the international boards."

India captain Sourav Ganguly added: "It's too sensitive an issue to make any statement. We have given the board our thoughts, the rest is up to the board and the ICC."

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