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November 30, 2001
There has been one question occupying the minds of the cricket fraternity ever since the Sehwag row erupted. How far towards the brink was Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, prepared to go before pulling back?
The answer came today in a statement from the International Cricket Council to the effect that Dalmiya had agreed that Virender Sehwag would be omitted from the Indian team to face England in the first Test scheduled for Mohali on Monday.
Had he not done so, the match would not have been given Test status by the ICC, England would have withdrawn from the series, India might have retaliated by not touring England next summer, and world cricket would have been split down the middle.
At the eleventh hour, a deal has been negotiated between the ICC and the BCCI whereby Dalmiya has agreed that Sehwag will be left out of the team, having originally been named in the squad as a direct challenge to ICC's authority as the governing body of the game after the furore in South Africa.
That led to endless negotiations between, on one side, Malcolm Gray, the president, and Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the ICC, and Dalmiya on the other. These negotiations appear to have borne fruit and the Test and tour can continue as planned.
The deal was described as a "victory for common sense" by the ECB chairman Lord MacLaurin. "I am delighted to hear this news. The decision is a victory for common sense, and I congratulate both the ICC and BCCI on reaching an agreement.
"As we have made clear the ECB has always been fully supportive of the ICC's position throughout this process. The decision will strengthen the ICC's authority and integrity as the world governing body for cricket -- but the family of cricket is the real winner."
Dalmiya said: "Cricket had to survive. In the larger interests of the game, Sehwag had to be dropped in this match."
Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the ECB, echoed his chairman's views. "This is good news for the millions of cricket followers worldwide and England's supporters. There is huge expectation about the series, and I am delighted that the tour can now proceed as planned and that the England team can continue their preparations for the first Test in Mohali without any further distractions."
All such deals require some give and take and, while the ICC has received the assurance that Sehwag will not play at Mohali, the governing body has also made some concessions towards the BCCI.
There will be a "Referees Commission" established to examine whether the ICC Code of Conduct and proper procedures were followed when Mike Denness imposed the penalties during the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
The BCCI will be consulted as to the composition of the commission, but ICC has said that membership will be confined to "persons of the highest reputation and at least two of them will be reputed former cricketers."
At the end of the day, Dalmiya must have realised that the ICC would not accede totally to his demands and could not afford the scheduled Test series against England to be jeopardised. Hence the outcome that gives him a concession to show to his board while the ICC has successfully upheld its authority as the governing body of the game.
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