Cricketing Turnaround

Tags: Knowledge
The bid to “overhaul” the International Cricket Council along a framework jointly evolved by the Indian, English and Australian cricket boards threatens to become something of a long-drawn battle between those for and those against. In the matter of days, the cricketing word has been split between those who are for the proposals, and a group dead set against “handing over control” to the “big three”, as the grouping has come to be known.

In themselves, the ideas put forth are unexceptional given the fact that cricket as it is increasingly having to struggle for mindspace — and dollars — in a market that is getting more crowded by the day. Not just other sports, the mind-boggling array of time activities available at no great cost these days makes it imperative for any entity in the leisure space to constantly evolve and come up with ever more innovative ideas to snag the eye (and purse) of the potential fan.

In countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, where cricket is the only sport that provides success and other national teams are pretty much useless, it is not a major problem, In others, particularly the west, there is a battle to retain followers and T20 cricket is increasingly been seen as a way out. The problem is that barring India as a draw card, and the occasional Ashes series, pretty much all other cricket ranks low on the list of things to do.

Hence, for those who know how important the money is to keep the sport alive, it has not been a hard decision to accept the new ideas. Besides India, England and Australia, New Zealand — where current ICC chief Allan Issacs comes from — the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have fallen line eyeing the new revenue model proposed that will trim the bloated expense sheet of the ICC itself and thus spread more revenue around between the national boards themselves.

It was always on the cards that Pakistan would stand in opposition — out of sheer cussedness if nothing else. While its senior administrators accept that there is need for cricket to evolve a more streamlined schedule and revenue-sharing model, India’s taking the lead in the matter seems to have stuck in the throat. Similarly, Sri Lanka, till recently on the fence for much of the deliberations, seems to have come down on the side of the “opposition” camp along with cricket South Africa.

Then of course, there is the matter of Narayanswamy Srinivasan, who raises hackles with almost anything he touches, much like Lalit Modi and Jagmohan Dalmiya used to do before him. Given all this, the BCCI president has launched something of a charm offensive in trying to give the proposed changes some perspective. “I would say then people have not understood the proposal,” he told a prominent cricket web site recently. “I do not think that the proposal envisages a take-over of cricket by three boards. The proposal deals with a lot of the issues that the game faces today. And it has suggested improvements by way of changes to the way the game is structured today.

“If I had to sum it up I will say the proposal gives financial stability to nations who play cricket. It addresses the concerns of associates and affiliates, provides a way forward, provides a future for the associates. It provides greater funding for the top associates, which was not there before to this extent, and there are also improvements in the governance structures.”

One of the touchy points is the suggestion that India draw a proportionately larger share of revenue earned than the current sharing system. “It’s clear that India brings in most of the money in world cricket, and even in these proposals it’s not taking as much as it gets, Srinivasan pointed out.” But the distribution formula is not based only on the contributions made. It took into account the history of the game, the participation of the boards in various tournaments, the achievements of these boards.

“For example, England and Australia have been playing cricket the longest, so that was taken into account. So we tried to address a lot of attributes and that is how we came up with this. A kind of scorecard was made, giving points for all this and this distribution module came out of this.” He also defended India’s leadership in the matter. “A strong India with a vibrant commercial structure is good for world cricket. The proposal has to be seen as a whole. It evolved from the discussions about the next rights cycle and the procedures and timelines etc. And then we started looking at all other aspects of International Cricket Council and we said that a lot of things need to be done that could be part and parcel of this.

“For example, we recognised the fact that the FTP (future tours programmes) had flaws. So this proposal now looks at a more reliable and dependable FTP, because there will be bilateral agreements between members. It looked at a financial model in which the Associates and Affiliates will get far more than they got before.” In any case, the matter comes up once again in a few days at a Singapore meet of the ICC where many of the concerns aired by the anti-group will come up for discussion. While members of the big three and the ICC are sanguine that what is being put on the table will benefit the sport as a whole, it will be enough to bring the holdout group on board as well.

(Rahul Banerji is the sports editor of The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle)

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