India news July 25, 2012

Kapil Dev returns to BCCI fold

ESPNcricinfo staff

Kapil Dev, the former India captain, has cut off his association with the unofficial Indian Cricket League, which is now defunct, opening the door to work again with the BCCI. He also stands to be awarded his benefit of Rs 1.5 crore ($270,000) and possibly his pension arrears.

"Mr Kapil Dev has informed the Board that he has resigned from the Essel Sports Private Limited/ICL," the BCCI said. "He has also stated in the letter that he has always supported the BCCI, and will continue to do so in the future.

"The BCCI acknowledges Mr Kapil Dev's immense contribution to Indian cricket, and looks forward to a fruitful association with him in the years to come."

Kapil spoke briefly to reporters after the meeting. "The BCCI is like a parent and we are like its children. I have contributed to the welfare of cricket and cricketers during my earlier association [with the BCCI] and aim to do so even now."

Speaking to the BCCI's website, Kapil was all praise for the Indian board and its president, N Srinivasan. "There can be misunderstandings at times, but as part of Indian cricket, I've always had respect for the organisation more than the individuals [that form it]. I love my cricket board and I'm so happy to be back here. I'm proud to be part of one of the biggest sporting organisations in the world.

"He [Srinivasan] is a wonderful administrator and has shown his worth. I was so delighted to hear from him. He's a man with endless passion for Indian cricket and that's what I admire the most about him. There are people who are only interested in name and fame, but few work sincerely for 25 to 30 years for the betterment of the game."

This ends a long and bitter battle between the board and Kapil, which began with the birth of the ICL in 2007 in the aftermath of India's disastrous World Cup campaign in the West Indies. The ICL, promoted by the Zee group, pre-empted the BCCI's own IPL and was promptly declared unofficial, its players barred from all forms of the game in India and eventually globally. Kapil himself was sacked as chairman of the National Cricket Academy and there followed a series of events, court cases and failed negotiations that led to the ICL's closure; the league's last competitive match was in November 2008.

Kapil spent the next five years on the margins of the game as a television talking head and a newspaper columnist, his relationship with the official side of Indian cricket remaining rocky. However, he held centrestage at the official silver jubilee celebration of India's 1983 World Cup win and, two years later, was inducted into the ICC's Hall of Fame.

In April 2008 the BCCI announced an amnesty scheme for all involved with the ICL, with a May 31 deadline to cut off all ties with the rebel league. On June 2 it announced an amnesty for 79 players, 11 former players and 11 officials. Kapil Dev was not on that list but his rehabilitation has now been completed.

The BCCI will tick July 2012 off as a month of restoration: first came the Indo-Pak cricket ties, then Kiran More was returned to the fold, and on Wednesday, it was time for reconciliation with the biggest fish of them all, Kapil Dev. A five-year cold war over the ICL has ended in a warm embrace of cordiality and bonhomie. The BCCI has kindly recognised Kapil's "immense" contribution to Indian cricket and Kapil has called the BCCI his "parent". Behind all this are two simple truths: one, that the BCCI's financial clout is very hard to resist, and two, fighting words from Kapil Dev are to be taken as seriously as crackpot news television. This is the same cricketer who had threatened to go on a hunger strike if the ICL's younger players were ignored by the BCCI.

The BCCI's first response to Kapil joining the ICL was to sack him as head of the National Cricket Academy and cut off his monthly pension. Devastating for a cricketer of small means, much less so to someone with Kapil's hefty financial earnings. Then the BCCI tried to snub him by not inviting him to a few functions and, as he was India's only World Cup-winning captain until 2011, that only made them look small. The master move came two months ago when the BCCI announced one-time benefits to former cricketers; Kapil was omitted, losing about Rs 1.5 crore ($270,000 approx). The BCCI's pound of flesh was in the form of written assurances of loyalty from former players who have had sterling careers for India. In an angry newspaper column, Kapil, though, drew himself up to his impressive height and said: "Not all cricketers are answerable to the board." On Wednesday, he put himself in the category of cricketers who are affordable.
Sharda Ugra

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