India spark controversy by skipping ICC Awards
The Indian team's non-appearance at the ICC Awards ceremony in London on Monday night has sparked off a controversy of sorts with the ICC expressing its "disappointment" and the team management saying it was informed too late to change existing plans.
Not a single Indian player or official attended the event and there was no one to collect the Spirit of Cricket Award, which MS Dhoni won for his decision to send back Ian Bell during the second Test of the summer at Trent Bridge.
"We are disappointed," Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo. "They have had a great year [before the England series] and it was an occasion to celebrate. It was a missed opportunity."
According to Lorgat, India also missed out on attracting more sympathisers after a disastrous England tour where they have lost both the Test and ODI series. "It was a good opportunity to show their sporting character despite them losing on this tour."
Indian team manager Shivlal Yadav explained that he received a call from the ICC on Monday afternoon. "I had already told the boys that it was an off day. So now how could I have asked them to suddenly change their plans? Hence I told them (ICC) that they should not keep the table free for us," Yadav said.
The BCCI's chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty said the board did not want to comment on the issue. "Lorgat can say whatever he wants to. We don't want to comment on it," he told the Times of India.
Interestingly, in 2009 Dhoni failed to collect his ODI Cricketer of the Year Award even though he was in Johannesburg, the venue of the ceremony. Last year's event was in Bangalore, with the Indian team in attendance albeit in denims and T-shirts. Raising more eyebrows, though, was the absence of the BCCI's top brass, including N Srinivasan, then its secretary and currently its president-elect.
The decision to hold this year's awards in London was taken the ICC's executive board on February 16; it is understood that the ICC then sent an email to the BCCI outlining the various details of the awards ceremony, to be held on September 12. On August 24, two days before the nominees' list was formally made public in Canterbury by Clive Lloyd, head of the selection panel for the awards, the ICC sent another e-mail to the Indian board informing that three Indians - MS Dhoni (Spirit of Cricket), Sachin Tendulkar (Cricketer of the Year) and Gautam Gambhir (ODI Cricketer of the Year) - had been nominated in three different categories.
On September 7, the ICC sent a fresh e-mail to Srinivasan's office reminding him about the awards and thereby extending another invitation for the Indians to attend them. It is believed that the Indian team, which was originally scheduled to leave for Cardiff, where it plays its final one-day match on September 16, had in fact postponed its trip by a day, leading to speculation that the players would attend the ceremony.
"We hold the awards' night at a time convenient for the cricketers," Lorgat said. "When we sat earlier in the year to decide on the dates for this year's awards, the choice was between London and Colombo. But we felt that England-India would be a marquee series and therefore [it would be] apt to host it in London."
Unofficial estimates put the ICC's expenditure on the ceremony at close to US$ 1 million.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo