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banner Monday, 26 November, 2001, 16:01 GMT
Sehwag saga hots up
Dalmiya chairs a critical meeting on Monday
Dalmiya has passed the buck to his selectors
The controversial president of India's cricket board, Jagmohan Dalmiya, has told his selectors they are free to pick batsman Virender Sehwag for the first Test against England next week.

But International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed has ruled out a compromise on the situation by saying that Sehwag remains "ineligible for selection" for the match.

Sehwag is officially banned from the Mohali Test by the ICC, but Dalmiya has insisted he is serving the ban by not playing in the current unofficial Test at Centurion Park, South Africa.

On Wednesday, Sehwag could be named in a squad of 12 for the Test which starts 3 December.

I advised the BCCI that the match would be stripped of its official status
ICC chief
Malcolm Speed

That would make England's preparations - already disrupted by the Mike Denness saga - especially difficult.

Denness was replaced as match referee for the third Test between India and South Africa, prompting the ICC to withdraw Test status from the match.

The game's governing body says that a one-Test ban dished out to Sehwag will therefore have to be served during the Mohali match.

Dalmiya said: "In my mind the current match against South Africa is an official Test which will make Sehwag eligible to play against England.

"However, we have an open mind and if somebody can explain to us that we are wrong in assuming the match is official we are prepared to listen."

Mike Denness: public enemy No.1 in India
Mike Denness: public enemy No.1 in India

But Speed was quick in offering an explanation, saying that the ICC's stance on the issue had not changed.

"I advised the BCCI that because of its refusal to play under the properly appointed ICC match referee Mike Denness, the match would be stripped of its official status," he said.

"On Sunday evening Percy Sonn, the president of the United Cricket Board of South Africa [said] that the South African Board did not regard the match as an official Test match."

The feeling is that India could wait until the 11th hour before naming Sehwag in a starting team - at which point England would be thrown into an impossible dilemma.

Denness hits six

Former England captain Denness sanctioned six players in all after the second Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.

The most serious culprit, he said, was Sehwag - who was handed an immediate one-match ban.

England play their final warm-up game in Jaipur on Tuesday.

But if India insist on playing Sehwag at Mohali, they may be be forced to abandon the tour.

It has also emerged that the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) had demanded cash from the ICC before the Centurion match started.

Before colluding with India to drop Denness for the match, the UCBSA had asked for 40 million rands (2.85 million pounds sterling) - the estimated cost to them of cancelling the match.

BBC Sport's Pat Murphy
"The ICC stands by its decision"
ICC president Malcolm Gray
"I hope that common sense prevails"
Chairman of India's selectors Chandu Borde
"We select the team only on merit"
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