Monday, February 10, 2014

Why criticize the BCCI?

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Sachin Tendukar was once accused of ball tampering in South Africa. I personally thought at that time, it was rather unfair. This was the early 2000s. Match referees back then tended to be more lenient towards the western nations and Indians in particular used to be banned for such things as "excessive appealing". Had it been Ricky Ponting in place of Sachin Tendulkar, I doubt if the late Mike Dennes would have bothered to even issue a warning for the same misdemeanor. 

There was a huge uproar as Mike Dennes issued a one match suspension to Sachin and a few other team mates.

That was the first time the BCCI bullied its way to right, what in their eyes was a wrong. 

BCCI refused to honor the ban. ICC, for their part, refused to give "Test" status to the subsequent match. between the 2 sides. India and South Africa played anyway. 

All was well...and the BCCI lived happily ever after... as a bully..

The most blatant act of BCCI bullying was Sydney 2008. After losing a Test fair and square, the BCCI and the Indian players sulked and flexed their financial muscle and threatened to leave the tour mid-way if Steve Buknor was not removed as the umpire. Cricket Australia and the ICC obliged. There are dozens of games every year that teams lose because of bad umpiring. But the BCCI know they have the means to do something about it. 

So, yes.... I do believe the BCCI is a bully.

And now once again, we are being told by most opinion dispensers that the BCCI is bullying again. By wanting more control of the ICC and "forcing" Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board to demand more of the ICC revenue.

This time however, I am not entirely certain the BCCI deserves as much of the criticism as they seem to be getting. The BCCI have been pretty clear; as clear as they possibly can; that they would be better off playing cricket in a manner than maximizes their profits and that some of the cricket the ICC wants them to play isn't aligned to their goals. For the BCCI the Future Tours and Program is a hindrance.

The BCCI wants to do what every board is doing. Play the game for higher and higher profits, yet a disproportionate amount of abuse is hurled towards the BCCI only because they are one of the few boards actually succeeding in the pursuit. 

All cricket, every where, from the beginning of time, be it the Ashes, the Pentangular tournaments in pre Independence India, India's tour of Australia in 1977-78 to counter Kerry Packer, the IPL, county cricket, was and is played because at the core it makes or protect money for the people involved. 

From what I understand what the BCCI has proposed is this...
  • "We don't need the ICC to tell us whom to visit and host and when. We can manage that perfectly well". In this arrangement, India may never play the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Instead they may play a 7 ODI series with Australia. This is already happening today. So what's new.

  • "We need more money from the ICC revenue because we help you make more money". This will mean that countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the likes will get even lesser money than they get today.  (N. Srinivasan insists that everyone will get more money in this deal. This is only possible if the pie itself increases substantially) The way I read this is that these boards have failed to properly invest the money they receive from the ICC to make the cricket they play sustainable. As a consequence they are being held accountable and penalized (in a way and in a matter of speaking) by the BCCI, CA and ECB. I am of the opinion that the BCCI is in a better position to use the money more wisely and grow the game and the pie for everyone. However much we would like to believe; a billion people did not watch Sachin Tendulkar bat... and bring "joy to their lives". The Indian market is still a work in progress. Growth potential is immense. Instead of giving the money to Sri Lanka to waste on a Test Series with Bangladesh that no one watches, the BCCI will use it to play cricket that converts more Indians to cricket fans. It is one thing to appreciate and like Test cricket and want to preserve it, its entirely foolish to believe that the BCCI would be okay with wasting money (generated largely due to India's brand) just so that a Test match is played in Bangladesh that 300 people watch. 

  • "If you do not agree to our proposal, we will walk away from ICC tournaments". Essentially the BCCI is saying we don't need ICC tournaments. You need India to participate in ICC tournaments. Remember the 2007 World Cup. India crashed out and suddenly all interest in the tournament evaporated. Even in bilateral series's, outside of the ICC ambit, why do you think we don't see a repeat of the 2002 New Zealand tour? Because it does not make financial sense to beat India in a Test in 2 days. You cannot make money in an ICC tournament or a bilateral series, unless India lasts long enough

I won't criticize the BCCI for wanting to do what administrators have always done. Ensure more and more profits. To blame just the BCCI for this unjustified. Criticism by Mike Atherton against the Big 3 for wanting greater control over the ICC is rooted in noble ideals without much understanding of the practicalities as seen by the BCCI. If the BCCI feels that the ICC is limiting its potential to earn revenue and if the ICC can offer no counter incentive; then the current arrangement, where BCCI has more control over the global game; is the most realistic.

Where else have there been examples of organizations giving up control over something as lucrative, for the "greater good"? 


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