<b>Close-in:</b> Game On
ICC must realise that India is the centre of cricket wealth and pinning it down can lead to a complete disruption of the sport
Indian cricket is at present flourishing with wins against England in all the formats of the game. Winning the historical Test match against the spunky relatively new entrant, Bangladesh, should not be a major hurdle in their present ominous form. Cricket can be very unpredictable, but Test matches are won by taking 20 wickets and so the element of a surprise result playing the conventional format is drastically reduced.
The off the field activities around Indian cricket is playing a far more significant part than the on-field ones at present. The Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) is in the centre of it all. An important battle is brewing between them and the International Cricket Council (ICC), the controller of world cricket. Furthermore, the BCCI is in the throes of reforms as the Supreme Court of India have finally rung the bell and appointed a four-member panel as the Committee of Administrators (COA) to run the board.
The ICC, led by Shashank Manohar, the former head of the BCCI and a prominent face of the institution over the years has shaken the solid foundation of Indian cricket. It took many years for Indian cricket to break through the shackles of dominance of the British and Australian Raj over the game. Indian cricket’s freedom fighters, Jagmohan Dalmiya, NKP Salve, Bindra and finally N Srinivasan not only made the one time cashless ICC into a financially stable body but also ignited the shift of control to the Asian countries. The prime reason for this was the popularity of cricket via the medium of television was largely in their domain. India, fortunately, became the golden goose and so rightfully demanded their share. An acceptable formula was finally worked out between Australia, England and India. The internal feud in India between the senior stalwarts of the BCCI finally landed them on the door steps of the Supreme Court. History, one says, always repeats itself and India has always been a country that thrives on this saying. The Dutch, the Portuguese the French and finally the English established their domain through internal battles and misunderstandings among the Indian rulers and one of the richest countries in the world was left in tatters.
The ICC versus BCCI is heading very much in the same direction. A substantial reduction in the sharing of the finances is only one part of the issue, but more importantly the introduction of a league for all the formats of the game by the ICC will deprive India of the money that they make from International matches at home. The ICC will control the complete cricket playing activities and will, therefore, become god almighty of the game. This would then leave India with just one glamourous property, the Indian Premier League (IPL). The 20-20 format of the IPL is now being played in nearly all the cricket playing countries of the world and the early sheen of success that India had by being the first could gradually dwindle.
Indian cricket is now feeling let down by their own man at the helm of the ICC, who now feels that 100 other countries need to be nurtured to make cricket into a global sport. The money earned on account of the enormous Indian fan following, instead of it being used for the betterment of the sport in India will get distributed to some unknown cricket nation around the world.
The USA has shown how, American football, a game played only locally can become a huge success. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The ICC needs to realise that India is the centre of cricket wealth and operations and pinning it down through votes can lead to a complete disruption of the sport, if India decides to show its might. One just hopes that sense prevails between ICC and the BCCI and acceptable commercial terms and solutions are arrived at before it flares out of control.
In India, the BCCI is facing a stage of complete reforms. The administrators appointed by the Supreme Court have taken control. One gathers from their initial findings that they are just stunned and shocked by the extravagant expenditure and unnecessary operational costs that were prevalent at the BCCI. So the inevitable task of restructuring has seen many employees get their marching orders. Their first task was to ensure that the successful IPL is conducted in a timely and successful manner. This seems to have been put into motion as the dates of the auction and other related issues have been announced. They will now need to structure a common plan that the affiliated associations and the BCCI will need to put into place as regards the constitution and operation as spelled out by the Lodha committee. This in itself is an arduous task that may take months to accomplish. In Maharashtra, I am a part of over a 100 cricketers who have got-together to support the reforms that need to be carried out in the association. Maharashtra, one of the oldest member of the BCCI had a well established cricket programme, which unfortunately has been eradicated through more off-field activities rather than on-field ones. Similarly, Cricketers and cricket lovers from all other associations need to come out to join together to put Indian cricket into a well governed, transparent and inspiring establishment.
Indian cricket needs all the concerned bodies to come together and form a citadel that will not only make them a force internally but also one that can establish their rights at the ICC.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Indian cricketer)
Yajurvindra Singh