By Manish Madhusoodan
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, multinational corporations took charge of the regime and political decisions of the country; they came to be known as the Oligarchs. The country was just out of cold war and was fighting to remove communism, it didn’t have a stable economy as everything was focused on war. During that time these Oligarchies not only took the economic decisions, but also political decisions and mended rules to suit them.
Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) together in essence are the modern day Oligarchs of world cricket, they are the top three richest boards that generate revenue to the International Cricket Council (ICC). Almost every cricket tournament that doesn’t feature India, Australia and England fails to generate crowds, with the lack of audience, the televisions rights are low and so are the TV advertisements and hence, the revenue generated is low. This isn’t something new, and as much as BCCI wanted to host a home series for Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test and retirement, West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) equally welcomed the gesture, as it helped them financially.
So, when the news broke about ICC proposing a restructure, it took many by surprise, though this was what was happening in reality and ICC just made a formal announcement. Cricket probably is one such sport that is revenue and monetary based, all the decisions they take are primarily in the interest of the ad revenue and television rights.
First cricket is played by a very few countries at the international level though, one could argue that there are about 101 nations under the cricket fraternity umbrella. Traditionally, it was the Australia and England that shared the power and they took most decisions of logistics and revenue shares. India has recently emerged as the No 3 and in essence has taken over the role of revenue generator. The fact that BCCI has stamped it’s authority to such an extent that even Australia and England won’t use Decision Review System (DRS) when playing in India.
Cricket after tennis is one such game where the playing conditions have a say on the game, performance of a team or a player could be judged in his home and away records. One of the facets of the game is its Future Tours Programme (FTP); the concept of tours, comprising of Tests, One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20s (T20s) played over a period of two months built enough of curiosity among the fans from both the teams. The fact that there was a guaranteed return series in 2 – 3 years, makes the contest interest and meaningful. Ashes, Border-Gavaskar Trophy and India taking on England stirred interest in the public and the contest meant something, the words such as revenge, return were used.
In England and Australia, Test cricket is paramount and the board focuses on them and have shown no hesitation stating that Test cricket is their primary focus. Even the fans have supported them with packed stadiums; there was a record 90,000 turnout at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for the fourth Ashes Test against England. Though we might not have packed stadiums for the Tests in India; the ODIs, T20s and Indian Premier League (IPL) have staggering numbers, and hence, BCCI focuses on home ODI and T20 games by shrinking bilateral home Test series.
Apart from that literally the rest of the series or tours are inconsequential, one because of the lack of power within these boards and two, the inability of the teams to generate revenue on its own. If you don’t agree, take a look at the empty seats in the recently concluded Pakistan vs Sri Lanka series, where the home team chased down 300. The Durban crowd didn’t have the courtesy to show up and give a grand send off to their legend, Jacques Kallis.
There is a reason why Bangladesh haven’t ever toured India for Tests. Now, April 16 2006 wasn’t just Jason Gillespie’s last Test, but also Australia haven’t played since then in Bangladesh. England toured Bangladesh in 2009-10 for ODIs and two Tests.
The boards of smaller nations can be best served by hoping and relying on the ‘big three’ of the cricketing world to fill up their assets. Pakistan doesn’t have a home ground now, and won’t play India as part of tours; their board can count on the lost golden eggs. As per the writer, Cricket South Africa (CSA) is the leader of the Smaller group of nations. It’s the richest of the poorer boards. When CSA and BCCI had a tiff, it had to drop Haroon Lorgat and agree to play only two Tests and three ODIs against India, post Tendulkar’s retirement. Had India decided to scrap the tour, it could have counted the lost golden eggs like playing against Pakistan. This sounds very sick and disgusting, but that is what it is.
This is how cricket has been for a decade and this is how it’s going to be run, the only thing we as fans can do is talk, voice out our opinions and at the maximum write an article and share out our frustration. Now, with N Srinivasan contesting for the ICC position, surely the questions of DRS and other controversial topic might see an unidirectional results.
On the brighter side, if you look back and see how cricket has been run in this century, it’s no different from what might transcribe post the ‘big three’ nations, if and when they lose power.
(Manish Madhusoodan is a US-based software engineer who is a devotee of Test cricket. He blogs at desigiri.net)
Also on cricketcountry.com