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India, Australia, England’s power hungry boards set to change balance in world cricket

BCCI led by N Srinivasan is also set to rule the world game along with ECB and CA © PTI
BCCI led by N Srinivasan is all set to rule the world game along with ECB and CA © PTI

BCCI, CA, and ECB are all set to start a ridiculous Orwellian phase in ICC. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a farce of a decision that will definitely go on to change the balance of the sport. After all, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Just in case the reader is not aware of the changes, here is a draft of a non-exclusive list of how the administration of International Cricket Council (ICC) is going to be revamped in the coming years:

-  ICC is going to have a new Executive Committee (Ex-Co); it will allow permanent memberships to Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Ex-Co will have the rights to overrule any decision taken by ICC.

-  Once the two-tier Test cricket structure is initiated India, Australia, and England will not be a part of it; in other words, these teams will always remain in the top tier and never be relegated.

-  The entire concept of Future Tours Programme (FTP) will be eliminated: all bilateral tours will be decided on bilateral agreements between the countries.

-  Positions like ICC Chairman, Ex-Co Chairman, Finance and Commercial Affairs (F & CA) Committee will have to be nominated by BCCI, CA, and ECB.

When Jagmohan Dalmiya and Co. Had managed to break through the Australia-England dominance over the world of cricket, it was aimed at the improvement of the sport. It is true that the current BCCI oligarchy had a lot to do with Dalmiya’s tenure, but whatever the mid-1990s did was aimed at the improvement of the sport.

Admittedly, some of the decisions benefited the sport while others did not. ODIs scaled new heights, and the Champions Trophy was conceived (does anyone remember that it was called the Mini World Cup?); it was aimed at providing finances to the emerging nations, with Bangladesh and Kenya hosting the first two editions of the tournament.

Things have changed since then: the lesser nations were forgotten with time; Kenya, despite reaching the semifinal of World Cup 2003, now languish in a state of ignominy; almost nobody turned up to watch the 2007 World Cup thanks to the overpriced tickets (not to speak of the pandemonium that ended the final); acres of Test grounds remain empty in the grounds of UAE; Ireland, unquestionably worthy of a Test status, are still vying for their rights; and nobody knows anything about the future of DRS.

Then came Indian Cricket League (ICL) that made a positive impact on cricket. The tournament promised financial insurance of sorts to the relatively nondescript cricketers. Then came Indian Premier League (IPL), with almost the same rules and players became instant heroes backed by BCCI.

Let us not digress, though: the simple fact that an attempt to improve the sport is not good enough unless you make a financial impact. There is nothing wrong with trying to make money: however, something is not right when the sport itself is being compromised in the process.

As BCCI grew in power the greed increased: the Champions League (quick quiz: How many teams took part in the 2013 version? Who were they?) can involve as many as four IPL teams while some of the other countries can have at most one representative each. The muscle-flexing continued, but as long as BCCI kept it to a nondescript tournament that nobody cares for things did not go out of hands.

Of course, the Decision Review System (DRS) issue has always been there: ICC had forced everyone to bow to accept DRS in World Cup 2011 (they had even managed to do strip Eden Gardens — for a reason quite valid — of a match), but they could not do the same in subsequent series involving India. BCCI grew.

Earlier, BCCI was a voice fighting against the hegemony of ECB and CA; it rose through the ranks at a rapid pace, establishing itself as a behemoth set out to make money at the cost of the sport. It did not improve the sport and made money out of it; it made money out of the sport and modified the sport likewise.

BCCI’s power and the domination in ICC were evident; however, there was one small matter to deal with. ECB and CA were still going strong, and with very strong bases of the sport in their own countries they might have the fire in them to challenge BCCI’s supremacy, if things got out of hand. If it was beyond their scope, they might have even combined to form an alliance to counter BCCI.

Somewhere a truce was formed: the three boards have decided to become one and rule the world of cricket, eliminating the others from the scenario completely. A tripartite force is set out to rule the sport. This might have very, very dark implications for cricket.

What can this mean?

-  If Ex-Co decides that all World Cups will be held exclusively in India, Australia, and England it will continue to do so. The reason that few people are aware of the fact that over a hundred countries play cricket is the fact that cricket is not a popular sport in these nations. Ex-Co might obliterate the sport from these countries.

Threat: This may make the popular words “only a handful of countries play cricket” true.

-  India, Australia, and England may even decide not to host nations other than themselves (besides giving South Africa a chance or two at times); this will imply that the “lesser sides” will never get a chance to improve their skills.

Threat: The chasm between the better and the lesser sides will increase.

-  Countries like South Africa (ranked first in Tests) and Sri Lanka (finalists in the previous two World Cups) may be restricted to touring only the countries like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in future.

Threat: This may make the words “only a handful of countries play cricket” true.

-  If Test cricket changes to a two-tier format (consisting of five teams each) India, Australia, and England will always remain in the top rung irrespective of how they play: this would mean only two spots will be fought for every year. If there are two promotions and relegations every year we will see South Africa playing in Tier Two next season even if they beat everybody (while West Indies may play in the first if they win a couple of series).

Threat: Merit will no longer play a role in deciding the champions of the sport.

 

-  With the FTP being done away with and the promotions and relegations not being dependent of merit coming into play the Test ranking – the only way to decide the best Test team in the world — will probably be abolished.

Threat: New Zealand or West Indies may never get to see the likes of Mitchell Johnson or Alastair Cook in future. India-Sri Lanka ODIs, however, will probably continue till the end of time.

-  One may see IPL (along with its Australian and English counterparts) taking up three two-month windows in every calendar year, leaving the remaining six to international cricket (if Champions League isn’t extended, that is).

Threat: The entire concept of globalisation of the sport will vanish, as will be the concept of international cricket. Chris Gayles will become the norm, not the exceptions.

-  Of course, the phrase DRS will never be uttered.

Threat: Cricket may be moving backwards in terms of technology. We may even see only Indian, Australian, and English umpires and match-referees officiating in all international and “premier league” matches.

After all, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. One might wonder whether the ICC Headquarters is already equipped with a Room 101.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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