The ICC Position Paper to change global cricket administration has come in for a lot of criticism, but if one flips through the 21 pages not everything in it is so bad.
From neighbours Pakistan to former International Cricket Council president Ehsan Mani, they have one fear that the rich Boards will get richer and the poor ones poorer.
Let me make it clear at the outset that the draft paper has been prepared by none other than the ICC’s Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee. Carping critics believe that the BCCI, the ECB and Cricket Australia play an important role in this committee but if that is so, there is nothing wrong in it.
The draft paper, which has been leaked selectively, comes up for discussion at the ICC meeting in Dubai on January 28 and 29, and there is no certainty that it will be accepted in part or in toto.
Dalmiya feels making profit isn’t wrong
Most people know that in the old days, England and Australia controlled global cricket. Times have changed and today people need to accept it as Australia and England, the first two countries to play Test cricket and cricket’s commercial superpower India have got together.
As of now, New Zealand has said openly that it will side with India but there is silence from the other two neighbours - Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – on the draft paper.
There is logic in the draft where it talks about the Futures Tour Programme (FTP) being done away with and countries deciding who they want to play and when. If memory serves me right, it was during Jagmohan Damliya’s tenure as ICC chief that plans were made for an FTP where teams had to play each other even if they did not want to.
It is well known that a series between India and Pakistan has now become next to impossible thanks to bilateral relations being at a nadir. If you think India should be playing Bangladesh just because it is a Test playing nation, it’s bad commerce.
Let’s be honest about one thing, cricket today is not a gentleman’s game played by men in flannels. The commerce in cricket has grown so huge and TV rights mean such huge moolah, to think of an India-Bangladesh series is laughable.
It is well known that whenever India plays a series abroad, the host nations makes huge money by way of TV rights. It is not necessary that India provides the best cricket, but the sheer mention of India means the money being made by the host nation goes up.
So if India is going to tell New Zealand - where the team is currently playing - that it deserves to get more money, there is nothing wrong in it. The truth is, today anyone who buys TV rights for an India series generates big money. What is wrong in India demanding such money as it is because of India such money is being raked in?
People like Mani, a former ICC president, are shouting from rooftops that India, Australia and England will hijack the ICC. This is indeed laughable as Mani needs to know the ICC has been in existence for decades and a few Boards cannot take ownership of it.
Whether you like it or not, cricket has become a huge economy in itself and if India is driving it, there is nothing wrong in it. Just take a look at the business side of Indian cricket and you will see how it is soaring despite global recession. A prime example of it is the Indian Premier League.
Today, the world and people like Mani are jealous that India is doing so well – off the field. Such is the situation that even if the team loses, the commerce angle is not getting affected. India is in a position to dictate and that is how we managed to get a short series arranged with the West Indies.
Looking ahead to the next week, when the ICC meets in Dubai, seven Test playing nations have to approve the draft proposals. As of now, only New Zealand has openly come out in India’s favour. They know that the ‘big players’ – India, Australia and England – coming together means something and it cannot be ignored.
And if you think that the West Indies is not going to side with India, it would be foolish.
I am convinced, that if India, Australia and England come together and the way the ICC is run undergoes a sea change, it will be for the better. To think that weaker nations will get wiped out is absolutely wrong.
The revenue model in the draft has something in it for smaller nations as well though to imagine that India and the minnows should get the same money is bizarre.
If you take some examples from other sport like football and tennis, the FIFA or the International Tennis Federation does not pay the same money to all countries.
If it is the World Cup, what big teams gets from FIFA is a whopping sum and what the ITF pays to World Group nations in Davis Cup is different compared to an Asia-Oceania team.
So to even think that Zimbabwe or Bangladesh should get the same money as India in cricket is rubbish as every cricket lover knows what the difference is in brand equity.
Looking ahead, I am against the draft paper suggestion that in the existing Test set-up, India, England and Australia cannot get relegated. In every sport, performance is what matters and no team can say it will be placed in the top permanently.
Let performance count as that is what sport is all about.
As regards the decision to do away with the concept of a World Test Championship, it is a good one. The way Test cricket is being played, there is no scope for such an event to be held and then decide who the champion is.
To think that a World Test Championship will compete with an Ashes series for sheer thrill is impossible. And let’s not forget when India toured South Africa for a short series last year, the quality of play in the two Tests was riveting.
Going back to hosting the Champions Trophy from 2017 is a good idea as the ICC is aware the 50-over format needs to be preserved as it makes for good viewing and means good business as well. A four- year cycle for the ICC World Cup and Champions Trophy plus the World T20 is a good formula for fans.
And lastly, for all those who wonder what makes the BCCI such a strong body, let’s give some credit to president N. Srinivasan. After all, it is his business acumen and ability to deal with Cricket Australia and the ECB which has resulted in a draft paper like this! (CYCSPL)
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