Indian cricket’s growing clout has been worrying the world for a long time and, if one man has made all this possible, it is N. Srinivasan.
From president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India to becoming chairman of the International Cricket Council, there is no stopping this shrewd industrialist from Chennai.
Even as detractors still try and find flaws in the way Srinivasan governs the sport in India, his rise to the new post in the ICC is a clear sign of how he handles challenges.
On a day when the ICC approved changes to governance, competition and financial models, Srinivasan ensured he managed to get one of his strongest opponents in South Africa on board as well.
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In recent weeks, Cricket South Africa had spoken extensively about how the new model of India, England and Australia coming together will be bad for the cricket world. Things polarised to such an extent that South Africa, together with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, could have made things difficult in the ICC meeting.
Call it smart manoeuvring or South Africa and Bangladesh seeing sense in the new proposals, they had a quick rethink and supported the changes.
It’s no surprise that the financial muscle of the BCCI is something which scares the rest of the world. News filtering in suggests Srinivasan made it clear to South Africa they would be suitably rewarded for their support.
At a time when the Future Tours Programme is being done away with and Test-playing countries can decide who they want to play bilateral series with, South Africa possibly needed an assurance that India would offer them a full tour in the future.
Everyone knows how much India’s tour of South Africa last year was hacked, thanks to differences between the BCCI and CSA over the latter’s CEO, Haroon Lorgat. It basically became an ego tussle and Srinivasan showed who the boss was.
If South Africa has come on board, it must have realised it makes good business sense as any series featuring India brings in much more money. If a country like South Africa is now willing to toe the line, obviously Bangladesh, another bitter critic, was not going to be left behind.
As the minnows in every sense, Bangladesh had also expressed reservations about the proposals. Quite obviously, they have been convinced there’s money and reward for every team under the new financial model and how the new fund to sustain Test cricket till 2023 makes sense.
The ICC proposals have drawn flak for over a month now, and Srinivasan was seen as the brain behind it all. But, no matter how bitter a critic you may be, today you have to grant credit to him for pulling these drastic changes through.
The man from Chennai who bulldozes any opposition has a much larger role to play. Now, the world will increasingly look at him with a magnifying glass.
He has made many promises and got countries on board. But the real challenge will be how he delivers in his two-year stint at the top, starting July 2014.
To be sure, even the one-year extension for Srinivasan in the BCCI was seen as a bonus. But the shrewd man that he is, his ability to claim leadership of the ICC is a fascinating story in itself as the world watches in awe.
I am sure for associate members who aspire to join the league of Test-playing nations, the new proposal provides a clear pathway.
Having said that, how Srinivasan now deals with Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be watched with interest.
Many people at home think Srinivasan is vindictive and has a dictatorial approach to cricketing matters. Yet, for someone who will now be seen as the father figure in the ICC, Srinivasan needs to convey to the Pakistan and Sri Lankan boards there is time for them to have a rethink on the proposals so that they do not get alienated.
As it were, Pakistan is at the mercy of other cricketing nations. Everyone knows that in the current climate, an Indo-Pak series is next to impossible, but it is in the PCB’s own interest that it does not adopt a hard stance.
Contrary to what PCB chief Zaka Ashraf says, the board’s financial health is not good. There is money for Pakistan as well and they need to realise nobody wants them to suffer in isolation.
As regards Sri Lanka, the island nation too abstained from voting but has promised to come back after discussions. Then again, if Srinivasan needs to charm the Lankan board, it will not be difficult.
As one who has been in the eye of so many storms, Srinivasan becoming the big boss of the ICC is a reminder that he just cannot be written off.