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September 12, 2002 | 1430 IST

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Player contract issue could cloud W'Cup: ICC

Leading officials of the International Cricket Council have admitted there is "still work to be done" to avoid a repeat of the player contract dispute that overshadowed the build-up to the Champions Trophy also affecting next year's World Cup.

The dispute arose when players including the whole Indian team refused to sign up for the event because of potential clashes between their own personal sponsors and sponsors backing the ICC event.

A last-minute compromise deal ensured that all players agreed to the terms, but ICC president Malcolm Gray said the matter would come up again ahead of the World Cup, staged in southern Africa in early 2003.

"I hope we're not in for hard bargaining, I hope we're in for a rational discussion, but that's sometimes not the case with ICC," said Gray.

"I think there's still work to be done in relation to the World Cup and in particular the players on this issue."

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed added: "Our focus is to get through this event. We're pleased to have all the teams and the full Indian team here, but when we are through we will sit down and speak to those who still have concerns about the player terms and seek to work it through with them.


"We would also need the Global Cricket Corporation (ICC's commercial arm), sponsors and broadcasters involved in those discussions, but it is not appropriate they take place now.

"Let's just have a great event here and then focus on those issues in October and November," Speed. told a news conference ahead of the September 12-29 event in Colombo.

Gray said the ICC might be liable to claims for damages from sponsors as a result of the delay in players signing the agreement. All member countries would meet those claims.

However, he added the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would have been liable for those damages had agreement for the full Indian squad to attend not been reached.

The whole saga has detracted from the build-up to the event commonly known as "the mini World Cup", and Gray admitted the matter could and should have been handled better by all parties involved.

"Was there a lack of foresight? No, I don't think so," he said.

"That's not to say we are 100 percent pure and like a lot of problems in life we could have been better.

"By we I mean the ICC, the member countries and the players who sometimes don't want to get involved in these things until the last minute. It wasn't a breakdown in communication, there just wasn't enough communication."

Speed added: "The boards had the player agreements for nine months and if they had had any problems we would have expected to have heard but we didn't until we were approaching the deadline for the event.

"Let's hope the focus goes now from what's happening behind the scenes to what's happening on the ground."

The tournament, which involves the 10 Test-playing countries plus Kenya and Holland, opens on Thursday when hosts Sri Lanka play Pakistan.

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