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Restraint of Trade - A harsh reality
by Suresh Menon
Jul 20, 2008
'Restraint of trade' is a phrase that sends more shivers down the spine (if one can be found) of the International Cricket Council than 'bodyline', 'match-fixing' or 'Lalit Modi'. It is a phrase made famous in 1978 by Justice Christopher Slade who ruled in favour of Tony Greig and Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket against the English cricket board chairman, Doug Insole, and the suspensions his organisation had imposed.

"They would preclude the players concerned from entry into the important fields of professional livelihood," said Justice Slade, adding, "a professional cricketer needs to make his living as much as any other professional man." Packer was no philanthropist, and his move to sign up more than 50 of the world's top cricketers for a series of private matches was not aimed at "discovering future players" or "training youngsters". It was a business move, pure and simple, much like Zee Television's Indian Cricket League, which made noises about the greater glory of the game but was equally a business decision. Any good that accrued from Packer or might from the ICL should come under the heading of 'by product'.

'Restraint of trade' has burnt itself so deeply into the psyche of the cricket administrator in the West that the threat of another court case might see the International Cricket Council shake off the shackles placed on it by the IPL whose muscle-flexing has just crossed the line from the petulant into the ridiculous. By 'advising' three Indian players - V V S Laxman, Ajit Agarkar and Piyush Chawla - not to play for the counties they were signing up for because these have ICL players banned by the IPL, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (just another arm of the IPL) is beginning to look sillier by the day. What next? A ban for speaking to ICL Commissioner Kapil Dev's chauffeur? Or for your wife visiting the same hair dresser as Kapil's wife?

I hold no brief for the ICL, which, like the IPL is about business and not cricket. The difference is the two extra letters in 'unofficial'.

After the Packer series, Andrew Caro, Managing Director of World Series Cricket wrote, "In the years to come the significance of WSC may well be that it allowed the players to demand their basic rights which have been previously denied in a dictatorship which treated them as mere labourers".

Now, with the BCCI treating players as labourers, is there any way out for the three who were to play in England? Will the BCCI compensate them for the loss in earnings? "They make lots of money anyway," is no argument. There is a principle involved here. There is too much at stake for the players to take on the Indian Board, and in any case there is no united players' body to look after their interests.

Such, however is not the case in England. Already Hampshire's captain and wicketkeeper Nic Pothas has threatened to sue if he is banned from the Champions League should his county qualify. Pothas played for Delhi in the ICL. He has called the Indian officials "bullies".

The ICC has appointed a five-man committee to look into the matter in detail. It includes Shashank Manohar, the President-elect of the BCCI and Lalit Modi, whose love for the ICL is well documented.

To the professional cricketer anywhere, both ICL and IPL are cut from the same cloth. They both mean better job opportunities, faster clearing of mortgage payments, a neat retirement fund. To invest one with godliness and the other with evil is merely convenience. And ego.
 
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