What’s cricket?: On BCCI’s approach to cricket

The BCCI must take the message from the ICC’s course correction on revenue-sharing

The last few months have been a chastening spell for the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The Justice R.M. Lodha reforms punctured the bubble of entitlements that some BCCI officials lived in. Even as the sport’s administrators struggled to come to terms with the diktats of the Supreme Court, a big shock wave has emanated from Dubai with the International Cricket Council voting overwhelmingly in favour of changes to its governance and revenue model. All that remains is a formal ratification at the ICC’s annual general body meeting in London in June. The decisions of the Dubai meeting effectively negate the BCCI’s ambitious move initiated by its then president, N. Srinivasan, in 2014. The proposal had envisaged a “Big Three” governance and revenue-sharing structure that co-opted Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board. It offered a maximum of 21% of the ICC’s revenue share to the BCCI, contingent on the parent body earning $3.5 billion. It was mooted against the will of other cricket-playing nations, who are equally dedicated to the game and reluctantly resigned to playing second fiddle on account of their poor finances. In an ironic twist, it was an Indian who broke the monopoly mindset and set the wheels of change in motion.

ICC chairperson Shashank Manohar had first told this newspaper in November 2015, “I don’t agree with the three major countries bullying the ICC.” The latest episode in Dubai is a validation of his position that cricket cannot be held to ransom by a select few. Many years ago, social theorist Ashis Nandy wrote, “Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British.” Since then cricket has been recast as a yet more Indian sport. There is no denying that India, its fans and diaspora power the sport’s commercial heart. Yet that is no excuse for the BCCI to demand an inordinately large share of the pie or to ram through its own version of the Future Tours Programme. The BCCI’s was a lone dissenting voice, and it is a matter of regret that it remains narrowly obsessed with fattening its treasure chest. India needs to strengthen cricket globally, not enfeeble it. For all the talk about the phenomenal popularity of the game in India, cricket is also periodically convulsed with anxiety about the very survival of the Test and one-day international formats. Being cricket’s powerhouse may give India more leverage to call the shots — but this clout comes with the responsibility to play a greater role in nurturing and spreading the game worldwide. Even a scaled-down revenue model will yield $293 million to the BCCI over an eight-year cycle. This is in addition to the Board’s other revenue streams, including the profitable Indian Premier League. Dubai has offered a mirror. The BCCI must have a hard think and course-correct its approach to cricket.

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