If the bans on the 30 English cricketers had not been enough, the BCCI has continued to deny journalistic privileges to members of the foreign media in further demonstrations of flagrant arrogance and monopoly. Arunabha Sengupta relates how the traits are remarkably similar to other mafia organisations.
As far back as 1889, the Italian doctor, professor, senator and folklorist described the defining characteristic of a specific organisation as: “The exaggerated concept of individual force as the sole arbiter of every conflict, of every clash of interests or ideas.” The group he was so accurately defining was the Sicilian mafia.
Before being killed by the Mafioso in 1982, the Italian communist leader Pio La Torre extended the Penal Code of the country to include a new crime known as “mafia conspiracy”. The Article 416 of the Code defined a group as demonstrating Mafia-like nature when “those belonging to the association exploit the potential for intimidation which their membership gives them … which lead to the committing of crimes, the direct or indirect assumption of management or control of financial activities, concessions, permissions, enterprises and public services for the purpose of deriving profit or wrongful advantages for themselves or others.”
When one considers the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), both these descriptions make immense sense in vividly sketching the increasingly boorish, arrogant and high-handed bosses of the game in this country.
The recent upsurge of near criminal atrocities – performed in broad daylight, in full view of international eyeballs, and with absolute nonchalance – takes the resemblance to almost uncanny proportions.
Increasing list of crimes
For a long time now, the lasting obstinacy with regard to Decision Review System (DRS) has underlined the tendency to be a law unto themselves. The ridiculously petty action taken against the English cricketers, training in India to familiarise with the conditions,speak of a near fanatical obsession for control of their own territory that resonates with the traits of the Mafioso.
Joe Root benefitted immensely from the sterling enterprise by Sachin Bajaj, founder of the Global Cricket School. He proceeded to take his preparations to their logical conclusion with important performances during the recently-concluded series in India. In retrospect, there were two options available to BCCI: One was to be positive and emulate the excellent strategy, to ensure keenly contested series in the future at home and abroad, moving away from the increasing number of showdowns dictated by home advantage. The other alternative was to foam at the mouth and ensure that the entire cricketing world took a couple of steps back, through puerile, punitive measures that would gain them few friends in an already isolated terrain. BCCI unerringly opted for the second scheme.
Indeed, like the high flyers in the world of organised crime, the BCCI seems undaunted by the universal condemnation of their action. At the same time, the centrally contracted players of the Indian team continue to be bound by clauses that prevent them from playing county cricket, while they are given all the leeway to turn out in as many Indian Premier League (IPL) fixtures as possible. Hence, if Indian batsmen continue to limp to low scores abroad, and belt the covers off the offerings in the IPL circus, it is a course thoughtfully charted by the Board.
A touring side waging a brave and commendable fight, adjusting their game to the unfamiliar conditions, makes cricket a noble game and turns Test matches into delightful viewing. Routine humiliation of hapless foreigners on designer pitches is hardly the way to take cricket forward.
Marking one’s territory
And if this was not enough, the disgraceful hoarding of journalistic privileges from the foreign media has infringed severely on ethical and professional dictums.
The BCCI had already been criticised for denying accreditation to international photo agencies such as Getty Images and Action Images from covering the English tour. The British and international news agencies had retaliated by refusing to report from India, not buying the images of the series from BCCI.
The Board carried on by refusing accreditation to commentator Jim Maxwell, which led the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to retaliate by deciding not to broadcast live from India. The ABC also refused to cough out the high rights fees sought by BCCI, along with additional charges of hiring commentary facilities at the grounds.
Now, Fairfax media has termed BCCI’s tactics in selling images as “Orwellian”, referring to the arrogance of BCCI as “breathtaking.” Australian new agencies have also joined the protest, which means images of the tour will not be carried Down Under.
The words from the definition of mafia reverberate through their acts: “Direct or indirect assumption of management or control of financial activities, concessions, permissions, enterprises and public services for the purpose of deriving profit or wrongful advantages for themselves ….”
Finally, the umpteen financial irregularities – from tax evasion to being registered as an NGO to murky franchise deals on IPL teams – complete the perfect profile of the mafia.
And even as they lose friends, burn bridges and are left to wallow in their cash-rich isolation, the BCCI seems least bothered to get a facelift for their image. Once a much required challenge to the supercilious snobbery of the Lord’s Long Room, the Board has long over-run the race for the survival of the fittest, has grown too huge, greasy and stagnant, and has tripped and tottered on the threshold of ethics. One can foresee the immense body vanishing like a distressed mammoth into the quagmire of arrogance.
In the past, autocratic cricket boards, when too overbearing and unpopular, have been challenged and brought down to their knees. In 1977 media tycoon Kerry Packer famously divided the cricket world into two when troglodytic rules and measures stood in the way of the progress of the game. One wonders if such fate awaits around the corner for an overly- conceited body that has successfully alienated almost everyone associated with the game.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)