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Money makes the board go

IF THERE ever were any doubts over what drives the Indian cricket board, all doubts have now been set at rest. A row over sending a team to participate in the Commonwealth Games cricket competition has clearly shown that the board thinks in only one dimension -- dollars and cents (and if it is the American currency, so much the better).

The Indian board has said it would prefer to send its best team to play Pakistan in Toronto -- in the Sahara Cup five-match series -- to boost its already bulging bank balance rather than to participate in the Commonwealth Games. The Indian and Pakistani cricket boards each receive half a million US dollars every year from the organisers of the Toronto series while there is no appearance fee for the players at the Commonwealth Games which run from September 11 to 21.

But from the perspective of the Indian Olympic Association, which claims to have fought for the inclusion of cricket in the Commonwealth Games, this will not do. The teams go into one of four groups and India is grouped with Australia which is sending its strongest outfit. One team from each group will advance to the semi-finals.

The secretary of the Indian Olympic Association, Randhir Singh, has said he could still press for a last-minute inclusion of the Indian cricket team at the Games provided the board agrees to send its best players. Singh says he will not accept a second-string side; winning a gold medal has to be the only priority, he says.

But the board secretary Jayant Lele obviously does not want to be "dictated to" by the Olympic Association. He says only the board can decide which team to send for the Games as cricket does not come under the purview of the Olympic Association.

India’s cricket selectors will meet on September 4 to pick separate squads for the Commonwealth Games and the series against Pakistan. From Lele's perspective, the series against Pakistan is more important. He says there is no word on whether matches at the Commonwealth Games will be recognised as official one-dayers, adding that Pakistan and South Africa are sending their second teams and England has declined to field a team.

Plans to postpone the Toronto matches, which run from September 12 to 20, are not acceptable to the organisers who cite commitments to sponsors and the non-availability of accommodation later on.

Once again, the board appears to have won. However, if the government decides to take a hand, then there may well have to be some compromise.

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