Friendless BCCI choking the goose that lays golden eggs

Airtel, Kochi Tuskers, Nimbus and now Sahara. The BCCI has lost many of its allies in recent months. There is much to worry for BCCI President N Srinivasan (left), seen here with Anil Kumble. Incidentally, Kumble also resigned as chairman of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) two months ago over, expressing unhappiness © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

In two years, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is back to eight teams. As of now, the Sahara group has pulled the plug on its team Pune Warriors as well as sponsorship of the national team. Sahara has left room for “adjustment” and negotiation in a subsequent statement. But the fact that they chose to make it public on the day of the auctions for IPL 5 suggests a point of no return. At the moment, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) seems to be on the fast track to choking the game in India. 

 

This is not the first revenue stream the BCCI has found itself deprived of in recent times.  In August last year, Airtel terminated its arrangement as title sponsor of the Champions League Twenty20 (CL).  Fortunately, the BCCI found another sponsor in the nick of time, Nokia. In September, the Kochi Tuskers Kerala franchise was terminated after they allegedly defaulted on the payment of franchise fees to the BCCI. In December, BCCI scrapped the broadcast contract with Nimbus Communications for fixtures played in India.

 

It remains to be seen whether the BCCI can now find takers for the Pune franchise. IPL 5 was scheduled to be played without the Kochi team, so the revenue base, in terms of matches, has already shrunk in comparison to IPL 4. The BCCI would feel more assured of finding interested parties to pick up the broadcast rights as well as sponsorship of the Indian team. What it may not feel so confident of anymore is whether these deals would match the astronomical precedents set by Nimbus and Sahara respectively.

 

Nimbus’s four-year deal with BCCI was worth a whopping Rs 2000 crore or nearly $400 million. Sahara paid Rs 3.34 crore per international fixture of the national team under the sponsorship deal. This deal was renewed in 2010 after the BCCI scouted unsuccessfully for a higher bidder for six months. The writing on the wall is clear: the board’s financial deals are all set for a downward revision. 

 

Where does all this leave ESPN’s $1 billion broadcast deal for the Champions League? The tournament has failed to take off and in retrospect may have been a portent of days that looked far away when the IPL was declared recession-proof in 2009. IPL 4 confirmed that at this stage, league cricket is still no match for international cricket, getting hopelessly overshadowed by the World Cup and generally appearing dull and fatigued. 

 

Alarm bells should have rung when this fatigue spread to the home One-Day International (ODI) series against England. But the BCCI has lived in denial for a long time, attempting to brush aside all problems with their favourite punchline: “The show must go on.”  Yeah, provided anybody is watching, I guess. Privately, they must curse the Men in Blue for their abysmal performance abroad in recent fixtures. But who’s to say things could have been different had they shown some foresight. 

 

Will the BCCI now do a double take and somehow attempt to get the Test and ODI series against Pakistan going in March?  Or will they invite their favourite guests Sri Lanka over once again?  They certainly need to demonstrate that the buzz around Indian cricket is alive and well and it is still one of the most marketable avenues of entertainment in the country.  Nothing short of a thumping home series triumph will do…and even that may not suffice, if the home series against England was any indication.

 

Since the days of Lalit Modi, BCCI has flown high in the stratosphere, perhaps vainly believing that the Indian Premier League (IPL) made it invincible and all powerful. It seemed to be supremely confident of deriving authority from its financial might and generally bullied the cricketing world. Perhaps, the BCCI should have heeded ex-ICC chief Malcolm Speed’s wise words, who said that Indian cricket needed performance to go with economic power to command authority. If the BCCI’s pockets don’t run as deep as they used to, many of its so called ‘friends’ may shift allegiance overnight and its wings may be brutally clipped.

 

And so it is that the BCCI desperately needs to do something about its rapidly-declining revenue streams. It needs to fetch some feed from the market before its golden goose chokes to death. Sahara could not have bid goodbye to the BCCI at a worse time. The future of Indian cricket hinges on the events that will unfold in the coming months, off the field.

 

(Madan Mohan is a 26-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)