The overlord of the cricket world has struck again, and this time the message is loud and clear - tow our line or we shall pull the financial rug from under your foot and include an unscheduled home series to really hurt you.
Cricket South Africa is paying the price now for defying the BCCI's diktat and appointing Haroon Lorgat as its chief executive officer by hurting them where it hurts the most. The BCCI in one swift move at its working committee meeting on September 1, re-worked the Future Tours Programme (FTP), and announced that it would host a previously unscheduled home series against West Indies and bring forward the dates for starting its away tour to New Zealand in January.
This unilateral move means that India's tour of South Africa, which was supposed to be from November-January and had been marked down in the FTP for quite a few years, and was supposed to have 12 matches is now all set to be drastically trimmed and have an adverse effect on CSA's bottom line and schedule.
The BCCI, however, had no qualms about making arbitrary changes in the FTP and squeeze in an unscheduled home series to boost its already overflowing coffers.
“If we don’t have a home series, we face a deficit of almost R 300 crore, hence we are keen to have a series in India,” a Board source told the Hindustan Times.
It's just another validation that the BCCI is only interested in making money and decisions that are in its best interests, even if it is at the expense of scheduled series in the FTP or against the game's best interests.
The home series against West Indies also serves a dual purpose in that it would mean that Sachin Tendulkar will reach the landmark of 200 Tests in India as opposed to Cape Town. It was initially speculated that Tendulkar would call time on his glittering career after the series against West Indies, but he has refuted that, thus only emphasising that he is currently a prisoner of his own fame.
That being said, an away Test in South Africa would have made a grander stage for Tendulkar's 200th Test, than a match on home soil against a mid-table Test team like West Indies.
At its working committee meeting, the BCCI approved three forthcoming series, proposed zonal academies and announced steps to curb corruption during the upcoming Champions League T20. It also saw N Srinivasan announce he wants to chair the annual general meeting at Chennai on September 29, where he will also seek a one-year extension as BCCI president.
There was no further discussion or decision made with regards to the spot-fixing scandal in IPL-6 that tarnished the reputation of Indian cricket, except a statement that "the disciplinary committee would consider the observations made by Ravi Sawani about the scandal". However, there was no time frame announced for this, but the working commitee found ample time to play truant with CSA.
The proposed schedule by CSA in July included three Tests, seven ODI and two T20 International matches. The revised schedule, as a result of this "We will do what we want to" attitude of the BCCI, is now likely to include two Tests, three ODIs and two T20 games. And, all this, only because the BCCI, which should have minded its own business and put its house in order, instead chose to dictate terms to another member board, and then threw an almighty tantrum when CSA appointed Lorgat.
Lorgat had rubbed the BCCI the wrong way during his tenure as ICC CEO as he tried to do his job, but for the power mandarins at the Indian board, the South African's actions were in defiance of international cricket's money machine.
However, it is mighty ironic, but not out of character that the BCCI, which had [unfairly] accused the CSA of being unilateral when it announced the proposed itinerary in July, has now gone ahead and acted in the way it’s known best - dictatorial.
Ultimately, the losers in this ego battle of the BCCI's ego mandarins and their success in hacking down a marquee series are going to be the players, the sport and the fans. A two-Test series between South Africa and India is as good as no series; if the series is being ruthlessly hacked down, the limited-overs formats should have been done away with to accommodate a four-Test series.
A day after the BCCI turned the FTP inside out and knocked the winds out of CSA's sails, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced that India will play five Tests in England for the first time since 1959 during next year's tour. The five Tests, however, would be played in just over a month.
Such a tight schedule certainly isn't in the players' interest, but if it suits the BCCI's, nothing else really assumes prime importance.
Dictating terms, throwing its financial wealth around, diluting the FTP for its own interests, might well work just fine in the fish bowl world that the BCCI exists in. The reality, however, is that while it is cricket's economic powerhouse, there may come a time (or not) when other ICC member boards have had enough of the BCCI's high-handed attitude; especially when its own house is far from being in order.
The BCCI and its officials would do themselves and world cricket a huge favour if they accept the spirit of the Spider-Man phrase "with great power comes great responsibility"; and finally realise that they are meant to serve the game and its stakeholders and not vice-versa.