An incompetent BCCI can't allow an imperial ICC to take India for a ride

Without cricketers like Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, Indian TV viewership will plummet.

 |  5-minute read |   04-05-2017
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When the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Panel tore apart BCCI’s opaque, clubby structure, the idea was to clean up the world’s wealthiest cricket board, make its administration transparent and professionalise its operations. So far so good.

The Committee of Administrators (CoA) appointed by the Supreme Court was meant to take stock, suggest the way forward and install a new board within the Supreme Court’s clearly articulated parameters.

Uprising

Meanwhile, a Machiavellian uprising was bubbling in Dubai, the headquarters of the International Cricket Council (ICC) which administers the game globally while the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) frames the rules. It’s all very democratic but the underlying ethos is imperial.

For over half a century, the ICC was called the Imperial Cricket Conference. England and Australia made the rules. Their players sledged and abused but were rarely called to account. Indians and other non-white cricketers were punished for the slightest misdemeanour. All that changed 20 years ago.

icc_050417091022.jpgICC HQ in Dubai.

Indian cricket began to generate large streams of television revenue. Jagmohan Dalmiya became the first Indian to head the ICC. Its name had meanwhile been quietly changed to the non-colonial International Cricket Council. The Anglo-Saxon countries (led by England and Australia) bided their time.

With the mountain of TV revenue generated by the IPL from 2008, India had become the superpower of world cricket. It accounted for 70 per cent of global revenue. All cricket-playing countries benefited from the largesse with India justifiably, as the main fount of revenue, getting the lion’s share.

A “Big Three” formula comprising India, England and Australia was set up to co-opt the old Anglo-Saxon powers in the new India-centric governance structure of international cricket and the preferential sharing of revenue. It was always a bad idea. The English and Australians have more practice in co-option than Indians.

They co-opted former BCCI president Shashank Manohar. It’s always better to get a native to put other natives in their place. (That’s how the British ran their Raj in India, co-opting Indian sepoys and princes with the lure of money and the threat of cannon.)

With Manohar established as the ICC’s first ever “independent” chairman — not nominated by any one country — the Machiavellian plan was in place. Manohar promptly reduced India’s share of global revenue from $570 million (Rs 3,700 crore) to $293 million (Rs 1,950 crore). The Big Three formulation was scrapped.

The BCCI, decapitated by the Supreme Court and harrangued by an effete CoA, was at its most vulnerable. The Anglo-Saxons had chosen the moment wisely. Their Indian import, Manohar, had done an exemplary job, even offering with an air of innocent, injured pride to resign last month as ICC chairman, an offer that was naturally turned down by the ICC board.

shashank_050417091045.jpgShashank Manohar

Opaque

The BCCI has proved not only to be opaque but incompetent as well. Its representative at last week’s ICC meeting in Dubai, Amitabh Chaudhary, was comprehensively out-manoeuvred by Manohar. India lost the voting 9-1 (on revenue sharing) and 8-2 (on governance). Manohar deliberately disallowed a discussion on India’s counter-revenue sharing proposal.

Instead he tabled, as if he was doing India a favour, an additional $100 million (Rs 640 crore) to take India’s total revenue share to $393 million (Rs 2,500 crore; over eight years).

That’s still less than 40 per cent of ICC’s global revenue. India’s rightful share should be between 60 and 70 per cent. BCCI has hired a British law firm and drafted a notice to the ICC for violating the Members Participation Agreement (MPA) by making revenue sharing and governance changes without BCCI’s consent.

What next? The BCCI has called for a special general meeting (SGM) on May 7. The option to withdraw from the Champions Trophy, which begins on June 1 in England, will be debated. Run as a personal fief by politicians for decades, the BCCI now has to show both spine and tactical intelligence. It must get the tournament’s lead broadcaster for the Champions Trophy, Star Sports, onside.

Without cricketers like Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, Indian TV viewership will plummet. So will sponsorship revenue.

Audience

The global cricket audience is predominantly Indian. The lead broadcaster can’t make money if Indians don’t watch. And if it doesn’t make money, neither will the ICC’s other member-nations who live off Indian sponsors. Cricket boards like Pakistan’s are starved of funds. The new sharing revenue agreed by the ICC — which still needs final approval — will provide Pakistan a financial lifeline.

Money made from Indian viewers will in effect be used to save the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) from bankruptcy. The BCCI must stand firm (even if the clueless CoA doesn’t) and call the ICC’s bluff. The ICC has threatened India that if it boycotts the Champions Trophy, it could be disqualified from other ICC tournaments like the World Cup.

That’s an empty threat. The ICC is desperate that India play in the Champions Trophy. It also knows future disqualification of India would be legally challenged — and meanwhile cost member-nations heavily as sponsors flee in the absence of India. The IPL is a financial success because hundreds of millions of Indians watch it. The world’s best cricketers like Steve Smith put aside their arrogance to play in it for the money it earns them.

India has the financial muscle to sculpt a fair world order in cricket. It now needs a firm spine to stand up to, and defeat, the Machiavellis — both foreign and home-grown.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: BCCI got a well-deserved slap in Dubai

Writer

Minhaz Merchant Minhaz Merchant @minhazmerchant

The writer is the biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. He is a media group chairman and editor. He is the author of The New Clash of Civilizations

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