Sahara's parting with BCCI indicates serious problems in Indian cricket


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


It was an emotional decision for us to start this sponsorship but our emotions were never appreciated and many genuine situations, were not given due consideration at all. – Sahara press release.


The withdrawal of Sahara India Parivar from all cricket under the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) comes as a humongous blow to the game’s financial powerhouse. The might of the BCCI has clashes with various foreign bodies over the years and emerged victorious, but the latest collision is an entity with the country – a long-standing supporter at that. While the BCCI has flexed it muscle to get its way around things on the world stage, the Sahara situation brings into sharper focus BCCI’s handling of men and matters. The perception in the cricketing world that the BCCI is a big bully that believes in “my way or the highway’ philosophy just got a heightened sense of acceptance by the decision of Sahara to severe a famous partnership. It’s a monumental Public Relations disaster.


Over the past decade or so, the BCCI has used its financial clout to build relationships with various boards and form strong political and strategic alliances. With that support, their stature and standing within the International Cricket Council (ICC) grew to a point where they could control almost every move of the governing body. Since the Sydneygate of 2008, it has misused its position on a number of occasions and rubbed wrong shoulders with other authorities – even those who supposedly backed them.


One can see that the power of money has created a special seat for the Indian board in world cricket. Sitting on their throne of gold they can dictate terms and make exceptions for themselves. Be it the Decision Referral System (DRS), the Future Tours Programme (FTP) or the cases of various T20 leagues from around the world, the BCCI’s stand has been hypocritical and annoying.


The DRS debate has been raging right since its inception a few years ago. While one must agree that technology hasn’t been infallible and there have been quite a few shockers, it is the duty of all the national boards to work with the ICC to chalk out a near fool-proof system for the future. In the midst of this, the BCCI stood out and stalled proceedings. It didn’t agree to implement the DRS in its series, something that could hamper the ICC’s quest to create a full-fledged system. The BCCI’s unshakable stand was a major irritant and it foiled attempts to make DRS mandatory.


The subcontinent is the hub of the game with BCCI at helm of affairs. The Boards of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have supported the Indian board in the past, who have reciprocated on a few occasions. It is an open secret that India played a decisive role in Bangladesh getting Test status, but since then its support has fallen short.


Bangladesh became a Test playing nation in the year 2000 and played it’s first-ever Test against India at the historic Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. Since then India has toured Bangladesh in 2004, 2007 and 2010 for Test series. It is interesting to note that Bangladesh have never toured India for a Test series since they entered the big league. To add to all that, Bangladesh will not play Test matches in India till 2020 under the FTP. Furthermore, Zimbabwe too wouldn’t have the opportunity to play Test cricket in India. It is clear that BCCI is avoiding its responsibility to the world game by not hosting these weaker sides.


On the other hand, a debt-ridden Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) bore the brunt of the BCCI’s arrogance last year. The SLC had announced the initiation of the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) which was set to feature various international stars including a few Indian players. Even as the other Boards backed this tournament and permitted its players to participate, the BCCI took the opposite cue. Ultimately, this move turned out to be the coup de grace for the SLPL as it was postponed. The SLC admitted that it fell through due to BCCI’s withdrawal of support. It was an astonishing development considering SLC’s flexibility regarding the Sri Lankan player’s participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL) season four, even as their tour to England commenced.


The Big Bash League (BBL) also doesn’t feature Indian players as India’s domestic season clashes with it. This argument is still understandable, but if the BCCI continues to find a plethora of excuses to prevent its players from participating in various T20 leagues, the concept of their own IPL could come under threat in the near future. On the one hand, they encourage the participation of foreign players in their own tournament, and on the other they take a contradictory stance with regards to similar leagues.


The BCCI must realise that even though they may have all the money, they are still dependent on the co-operation of other boards in world cricket. It is a symbiotic relationship with proper give and take. But, going by Sahara’s press release which said “we never found BCCI believing in genuine give and take,” the Indian board doesn’t believe in a healthy bond.


While Sahara’s seem to have numerous grievances and held on long enough due to an “emotional” attachment, it is clear that things had reached a boiling point. The frequent ignorance of their demands has frustrated them to a point where they ended a 12-year long relationship. When a bond that has lasted the test of time snaps, it is indicative of serious problems which threaten to create more damage to Indian cricket. At this rate, the BCCI would lose friends – not just abroad, but also at home.


Meanwhile, Sahara’s altruistic intentions should be lauded as they intend to pump all that sponsorship money into welfare activities and sports development at the grassroots level. It is undoubtedly better than fuelling the ego of the BCCI!


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)