ICC continue attampts to save series

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The original deadline for India to announce if they intend to keep Virender Sehwag in their squad for the first Test against England in Mohali on Monday has come and gone with the impasse on the issue remaining.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the only man able to save England's first Test of the winter, has even yet to say if he will accept the International Cricket Council's offer to meet him in Kuala Lumpur.

Malcolm Gray and Malcolm Speed, president and chief executive of the ICC respectively, are prepared to meet Dalmiya in a bid to end the current stand–off on the issue of Sehwag's one–match suspension.

A desperate last–ditch attempt to save England's tour was launched yesterday when the ICC extended their deadline for a decision to around noon tomorrow, British time, while Gray and Speed offered to fly to Kuala Lumpur for a final summit with Dalmiya.

The ICC have confirmed that, despite their anxiety to rescue the series, the inclusion of Sehwag in the first Test was "not an option".

More likely was that a deal was being hatched to give the Indians a way to climb down gracefully by giving assurances on future regulations over match referees.

"We are making progress but we still have a considerable way to go," said Speed, who has brokered up to 20 three–way telephone calls with Gray in Sydney and Dalmiya in Calcutta over the past 48 hours in search of a solution.

"It's a strange sort of negotiation. It's two steps forward and one step backwards, sometimes it's two steps forward, three steps backwards, Sometimes we end up further backwards than when we started.

"There will be discussions going on into the night in three time zones. Given we're making progress it's worth while extending the time as we move to the deadline."

The controversy surrounds Sehwag's presence in the 14–man squad for the first Test.

Earlier this month Sehwag was given a one–match ban after being disciplined by match referee Mike Denness for excessive appealing in India's second test against South Africa at Port Elizabeth.

The ICC maintain Sehwag has not served his ban as they ruled India's third Test against South Africa – in which the 23–year–old did not play – to be unofficial as both teams refused to accept Denness as referee.

Speed hinted that future legislation of match referees was crucial to their talks.

"It's one of the things we'll be looking at. From April 1, 2002, we have in place a completely new system for referees.

"What we're looking at is some of the regulations whether there should be a right of appeal and if there is how we bring that in without having a system where players or teams might take unfair advantage of the system. That's one of the reasons why the negotiations and discussions have gone on so long.

"We don't want this going down to the last moment with the teams being presented to the opposing captain just before the toss with an excited cricket ground full of fans. With the safety of players, officials and the public we can't afford to let that happen.

"We've put the deadline in place, we are prepared to be flexible, we're making progress but we can't afford to go too far."

When asked if discussions included the inclusion of Sehwag in the Test, Speed said: "That is not something which is acceptable to the ICC. It is not an option we have discussed."

The England and Wales Cricket Board say they will comply with the ICC's ruling and pull out of the Test if Sehwag is named in the starting XI.

"The barometer of my optimism has gone up and down in the last 48 hours," Speed admitted.

"There have been times when I thought there was absolutely no chance of resolving it. There have been times when I thought there was a good chance of resolving it.

"At the moment I think we sit between those two extremes. I'm optimistic but I'm also realistic. If we can resolve it and go on and have a great Test match and a great Test series cricket will bounce back."

Speed added: "I'm not interested in whether the ICC loses face or the BCCI loses face. We're seeking to achieve a result that works for cricket and enables us to go on with a Test match so long as the principles that the ICC has fought to establish over the past week are maintained."