The sponsorship saga March 19, 2005

Lara can play, but others in limbo

Cricinfo staff

Brian Lara has been passed for play because his contract with C&W was signed well before Digicel came into the picture © Getty Images

In another twist to the ongoing sponsorship saga, Brian Lara has been cleared by the West Indies Cricket Board to play in the forthcoming series against South Africa starting on March 31. However, the six other players, including Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle, are still out in the cold.

Lara, who has been given 24 hours to respond to the board's decision, has agreed to do so within the stipulated time, according to a statement issued by the board. Consequently, the announcement of the squad has been delayed until later today.

The reasoning advanced for accepting Lara was that Lara's contract with Cable & Wireless, the company locked in an ambush marketing dispute with Digicel, the official sponsors of West Indies cricket, was deemed 'pre-existing' because it was signed in 2003, before the board entered into negotiations with Digicel.

The board said that the invitation to Lara had been extended on the advice of its legal counsel. The other six players with personal endorsement contracts with Cable & Wireless were found ineligible by the lawyers because these were signed while the board was in the process of finalising its deal with Digicel.

The board said, "The contracts were reviewed by counsel to ensure that the provisions did not fetter the Board's use of its team rights or not impose on the players any obligations, which could cause them or the WICB to be in breach of the board's sponsorship contract with Digicel."

All eyes are now on Lara, the incumbent captain, who has played no cricket since returning from the VB Series in Australia due to a wrist injury. Writing in the Trinidad Express, Tony Cozier, the veteran broadcaster and cricket writer, said that the West Indian selectors had reportedly recommended that Lara retain the leadership he has held, for the second time, since March 2003. "But it had to be ratified at a teleconference call yesterday by the 14 WICB directors, several of whom are known to oppose his reappointment."