India’s ignominious exit from the World T20 championship in Australia has less to do with the quality of the players chosen or their current poor form, and more to do with the structure of membership at the International Cricket Council (ICC), the body which regulates cricket globally.
ICC has no understanding of size, scale and potential as a prerequisite for membership. And its India member, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has no interest in promoting cricket outside its own monopoly.
For example, in its mission to popularise the game all over the world, ICC has created lots of associate members, and has few full members.
Asia has five full-time members (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka), and 16 associate members, ranging from China (huh?) to Bhutan (really?)
Africa has 20 members of whom only two are full-time (South Africa and Zimbabwe). Europe has 34, and only two full-time ones (England and Ireland).
This is ridiculous.
The first rule, if you want to expand the market, is to focus on markets that are already booming and brimming with potential, and not try to sell the idea to no-hopers like Turkey or Gambia.
Africa is largely a football continent, and trying to popularise cricket will take much more than just enrolling bankrupt countries as associate members.
This means that the market for cricket is best expanded first in South Asia, which is the global hub of cricket and commercial spends on cricket, apart from Australia, England and South Africa.
It follows that you need more teams from these hubs, and not from central Africa or eastern Europe or south America. But apart from Great Britain, which has two full-time teams, with Scotland bidding fair to become a full-timer at some point, the rest of Europe is focused on football.
Scotland is already playing T20 and ODI championships with some degree of success.
Which brings me to the Indian question raised at the start of this article.
The problem for India is that though it is brimming with talent, it can pick only one team, and if that team selection goes more by reputation than performance – not always, but that is often the case – then we will fail. Or rather, not succeed more consistently.
Now consider what happens with the BCCI and its highly successful Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, which added two new teams last year, one of whom became champion (Gujarat Titans).
IPL is the most successful and profitable cricket franchise in the world. It draws a huge amount of talent, with 10 teams having more than 200 players between them, of whom around 150 are Indian nationals.
If we assume that the uncapped players and those yet to make it to the IPL playing elevens are even larger in number, it is a travesty that we have to choose only 14-16 players for a national team.
The point I am getting at is this: if cricket has to prosper, it has to have more Indian teams, and the problem here is the BCCI itself.
As the monopoly owner of the national cricket team, it cannot send more than one team to play abroad.
The only real option lies with the corporate world, which can set up other rival leagues after breaking their ties with the BCCI.
If two or three cricket boards are created parallel to the BCCI, they will surely attract many more players than the BCCI, and, at some point, seek direct ICC membership.
According to ICC membership rules, it can accept new members, as long as they have the “appropriate status, structure, recognition, membership and competence recognised by the ICC (at its absolute discretion) as the primary governing body responsible for the administration, management and development of cricket (men’s and women’s) in its country.” (Watch this video on ICC entry rules; it's in Hindi)
The way ahead for Indian cricket has to be determined by the government of India, and not the BCCI, which will obviously want no rival in Indian cricket.
If the Union Sports Ministry were to announce that it will recognise any state or corporate cricket league for national championships, and provide them with tax and other support to create stadia and new teams, surely new leagues will develop.
There is no reason why India should not have a Bharat XI, Hindusthan XI, or even a Karnataka-XI, Mumbai XI, Reliance XI or Tata XI participating in world cups five years from now.
India has talent, but the BCCI has no interest in growing it beyond what it can itself profit from. India is too big a country to have only one cricket monopoly running (or ruining) the show.
The real problem probably is that both the government and the BCCI love the power they wield in the ICC. It is short-sighted.
India’s future in cricket does not need a monopoly to take it to the next level. Competition is what creates big winners, and right now there is no competition to the BCCI.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.