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September 11, 2002 | 2330 IST

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BCCI would have faced huge damages: Gray

Faisal Shariff in Colombo

Malcolm Speed is happy. And perplexed.

Happy, to see the full-strength Indian team land in Sri Lanka for the Champions Trophy that kicks off September 12.

Perplexed, at the role played by the Board of Control for Cricket in India -- or more accurately, the role it did not play.

The International Cricket Council CEO, in company of ICC president Malcolm Gray, called a media conference to clear the air surrounding India’s participation.

Addressing the press, at the Taj Samudra here, Gray said, "We at the ICC and the member nations are prepared to underwrite the damages if there are any, providing the full Indian team is present.

"We were not ready to give indemnity to India at all, but in the spirit of cricket we have decided to act conjointly in making sure that the full Indian team got here and the lower level of the damages would be met by everybody."

It is a hugely significant concession from the game's governing body. Intriguingly, the ICC has conceded a demand by the Indian players, that the BCCI had refused to countenance.

Equally intriguingly, he pointed out that if the full Indian team had not made the trip, then the Indian board would have been liable to pay damages, which he said would have been "ten-fold".

The ICC head honchos clarified that the Indian players have finally signed the same document as the rest of the participants -- with the exception that the block-out period (to wit, the time frame specified during which individual sponsors could not use players to advertise) was reduced from 30 to 16 days.

There is no favoritism involved here. As Speed himself pointed out, several Indian players have lucrative contracts with various sponsors and were, therefore, likely to be affected more badly than players from most other nations, where such contracts are almost unknown.

It all raises several interesting points. Throughout the imbroglio, the Indian players were left to fend for themselves. Initially, BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya expressed his support for the players -- but soon, thereafter, the board took a position diametrically opposite to that of the team.

When the team, then in the middle of the England tour, sought to appoint former player Ravi Shastri as their spokesperson, the board refused to acknowledge Shastri’s role. And, in fact, asked how players could pick their own representative in the first place.

The flip side of this was pointed out by Gray, who said he was piqued that while the Indian team was in fact playing in England (the headquarters of the ICC, incidentally) and while Speed and other ICC officials were in constant touch with the senior players, not a single member of the Indian board felt it necessary to be present.

Speed called on the media to leave the issue be for the duration of the Champions’ Trophy. "We will take up the issue once this tournament is over. In October we will discuss the entire episode involving the GCC and the players, in time for the World Cup in South Africa next year."

Once he was done with the question of contracts, Speed went on to talk of the other issue that could dominate the tournament: to wit, technology.

As has been reported, this tournament will see umpires being allowed to use technology to adjudicate certain decisions such as the LBW (or at the least, to determine whether the ball landed within the area of the stumps), and to ascertain whether catches are clean.

"We have restructured the elite panel of umpires and now have the best umpires in the business," Speed said. "These umpires are brilliant and have an accuracy rate of 90 per cent. But there are certain decisions that need the help of the third umpire, because deciding in real time is tough.

"We do not wish to make the umpires coat hangers or ball counters. All we are doing is giving the umpire on the field the chance to consult the third umpire and give the correct decision."

The ICC, Speed said, wants to give the entire responsibility for decisions to the umpire on the field. But tech is being used on a trial basis, after which feedback from umpires, players and the media will be collected and analyzed, before a decision on the future use of technology is taken.

Countering arguments that excess use of the third umpire could slow things down and turn people away form the game, Speed said that a time period would be given to the third umpire within which he will have to make his decision.

The ICC will not use Hawk-Eye, the magnifying glass, or the snickometer -- all highly popular on television -- for decision-making. Speed also confirmed that umpires and referees would take note of delays resulting from consulting the third umpire, when calculating whether a team bowling first had overshot the time limit for completing the stipulated number of overs.

Gray said that a yellow light -- in between the red that signals dismissal, and the green that gives batsman an extended tenure -- will now be used to indicate that the field umpire is in consultation with the third umpire.

Another announcement with long term consequences is the fact that the ICC is slated to implement a doping policy for next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

The policy has been finalized, and the list of banned substances have been sent to the teams six weeks ago.

All teams have been advised to ensure that they do not consume any of these substances.

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