It was a moment cherished by a billion Indians on Saturday. The moment India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni lifted the glittering ICC World Cup, ending a 28-year drought of World one-day championship wins for a cricket mad nation. But that moment may be irreparably tarnished, not just for Team India, but all Indian fans.
Because the trophy that captain Dhoni and his teammates so passionately kissed, hugged and adored – and millions of fans worldwide cheered – was a fake.
A mere replica, not the original. This has never happened in the 36-year history of the cricket World Cup.
Did the Indian players know that the cup that Sharad Pawar, president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and India’s agriculture minister, presented to them, the gold-and-silver trophy that President Pratibha Patil lovingly touched at a reception on Sunday, was not the real one?
Interestingly, a day before the final, Dhoni and his Sri Lankan counterpart Kumar Sangakkara had customarily posed with the same replica. And whether their teammates were aware of that? Chances are they were not.
The real trophy, valued at about $130,000 in money terms, but priceless for any cricket lover, was not at the Wankhede stadium, as the world had been led to believe.
It was rotting at a secure government godown, having been seized by the Mumbai Customs on its arrival from Colombo after the Sri Lanka-New Zealand semifinals on March 29.
The reason: The trophy, according to India’s Byzantine customs rules, was not eligible for exemption from import duty! And a combination of bumbling babudom, and the ICC’s bungling, ensured that it stayed under lock and key at the airport. Now, it will be flying back to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Dubai headquarters on Monday – without having once being actually touched by the team which had fought so hard to win it.
A top official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and an ICC official confirmed that the trophy was going back to the ICC headquarters. “The trophy is being taken back to Dubai,” said Suru Naik, World Cup tournament director (India). An ICC official confirmed: “The trophy is returning to Dubai on Monday.”
The ICC, meanwhile, is getting in a tangle of mis-statements as it tries to desperately cover up its bungling. The ICC spokesperson insisted that the real trophy is never presented to the winning team, and that only the replica is presented to the winners.
But photographs of Australia captains Steve Waugh (1999) and Ricky Ponting (2003, 2007) receiving the original trophy, which was instituted in 1999, prove otherwise.
The base of the original trophy has names of all the winners since 1975 engraved on it while the one presented to Dhoni at the Wankhede Stadium had a blank black base.
A customs official at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati International Airport confirmed the shocking development, and added a fresh twist to the sorry tale. “The ICC has been insisting that the trophy which came on the flight from Colombo (after the Sri Lanka-New Zealand semi-finals on March 29) is a replica of the original World Cup trophy that is already at the Wankhede Stadium,” he said on Sunday.
So, if the original trophy was indeed at the Wankhede Stadium, then why were ICC officials desperate to have the ‘replica’ released from the customs. What would they have done with it by taking it inside the city? And if the real trophy was at the Wankhede, why wasn’t it presented to Dhoni? These questions remain unanswered.
“ICC officials told us that that this trophy has no commercial value as it is used for promotions only. However, when examined by a valuer, the trophy was estimated to be worth Rs 60 lakh or so, made of pure silver and gold. The payable customs duty is about Rs15 lakh. If it is a replica, then does it have to be exactly of the same value as the supposed trophy?
Moreover, the ICC letter that the official was carrying said that it was the World Cup trophy. Nowhere did the letter say that it was a replica and it should be let out,” the official said.
Interestingly, the department of revenue of the finance ministry had issued, “in the public interest”, a notification (No. 7/2011-Customs) on February 9, 2011, to allow certain items to be imported. It listed five broad categories with specific conditions, but there is no mention of the ‘World Cup trophy’ in the list. It includes “sport equipments; medical instruments; photographic and audio-visual equipment and supplies; broadcast equipment and supplies; computer and other office equipment”.
While BCCI and ICC officials are trying to play down the issue, government officials blame the BCCI for all the confusion. “It is clearly a lapse on the part of the ICC or BCCI. They should have added the words ‘World Cup trophy’ while applying to the government for customs exemption,” a senior tax official said. “Moreover,” he added, “why couldn’t ICC and BCCI, which are extremely rich, pay the customs duty? The duty would be peanuts for them.”
The Prudential Cup was the trophy that was presented in the first editions, from 1975 to 1983, when the Kapil Dev-led Indian team won it.
In 1987, it was called the Reliance Cup after the sponsors, as the tournament moved out of Britain for the first time .
In 1992, a crystal trophy was presented to Pakistan captain Imran Khan. In 1996, it became the Wills Trophy and in 1999, the ICC instituted a permanent trophy.