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India challenge ICC

Published: 6:54PM Sunday January 12, 2003

India's cricket chiefs have challenged the sport's world governing body to disqualify the country from next month's World Cup over a players' contracts row.

Indian cricketers, on tour in New Zealand, signed the contracts conditionally last week without accepting the clauses which bar them from endorsing non-official sponsors before and after the tournament.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said the players could not be banned from the World Cup just because they had raised objections on the ambush marketing clauses.

"I am not sure whether the qualified signatures on the players terms will be acceptable to the International Cricket Council (ICC)," Dalmiya said.

"We are extremely keen to participate. There is no clause to stop the players if they have signed conditionally."

Dalmiya, a former ICC chief, took refuge in the rules that invite only points and monetary penalties for boycotting matches in Zimbabwe, an issue currently being debated in Australia and England.

"England and Australia will just be penalised and their points deducted if they don't play in Zimbabwe, which also amounts to refusing to accept the full set of clauses," Dalmiya said.

"If in spite of that England and Australia are allowed to field their best sides, what prevents our players from taking part in the World Cup?

"If team A gets away with a fine, another can't be treated differently."

Dalmiya added the BCCI would honour the ICC deadline of submitting the signed Player Terms to the ICC by January 14, though it was strongly opposed to two of the 22 clauses.

These relate to banning non-official endorsements for 30 days prior to the World Cup and five days after it, and allowing the players' images to be used by official sponsors for three months after the event.

The 30-day pre-tournament moratorium is already being ignored with Indian players featuring prominently in non-official advertisements even though the tournament starts in South Africa on February 8.

Dalmiya admitted the matter was likely to be settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"As I've said, it's time to test the legality of the ICC clauses," he said.

"Solicitors of the ICC and BCCI have started corresponding."

The London-based ICC has refused to comment on India's latest move until it receives the contracts - fully signed or not.

The other 13 teams taking part in the February 8-March 23 tournament have signed the players terms without qualification, the ICC said.

Many Indian stars, including Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, enjoy lucrative personal sponsorships which they may have to forego if the current World Cup contracts are adhered to.

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly justified the players' stand, but was confident the matter would be resolved.

"There are certain restrictions on us. We have our existing contracts and it is illegal to break them," Ganguly said.

"We've told the ICC about our problems and know that at the end of the day something is going to happen because the game will go on and it has always gone ahead.

"Something will happen for us to participate in the World Cup. I've never thought about that danger (of not participating), but obviously some adjustments have to be made."