It is difficult to see why the Supreme Court, which took an enormous interest in the affairs of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), should not share a part of the blame for the diminution of India’s clout and revenues in the world of cricket.
This conclusion cannot be avoided given the sorry figure India has cut at the recent meeting of the International Cricket Council (ICC), where members voted 9-1 to cut BCCI’s revenue share from around $570 million negotiated some years ago to just over half that number, around $290 million. A compromise formula may still get the BCCI some more money, but it would still not be as much as what was agreed earlier.
This is about surrender when only tough negotiations were required.
The stage was set for India’s reduced clout when the court appointed a Committee of Administrators (CoA) – Vinod Rai, Ramachandra Guha, Vikram Limaye and Diana Edulji – to oversee the BCCI’s affairs after the organisation refused to accept some parts of the Lodha panel’s reforms. However, much one can accuse the old BCCI bosses of poor transparency and conflicts of interests, the one thing they had going for them was that they had skin in the game – and a history of administering cricket in India. How did the court expect a former CAG, a former cricketer, a CEO of the National Stock Exchange and a political historian – none with any skills in cricket administration – to somehow do better than the old outfit?
Vinod Rai got famous for exposing the 2G scam by estimating figures of revenue loss at Rs 1,76,000 crore; maybe he should now compute the revenue losses to the BCCI from this 9:1 slap in the face that could cost Indian cricket up to $280 million in lost revenues (around Rs 1,800 crore at current exchange rates).
Since 26 per cent of BCCI’s domestic revenues accrue to state cricket associations, any loss from the ICC’s determined efforts to cut BCCI down to size means a loss for Indian cricket. India’s cricket craze is what makes the sport viable in the world.
From a position of dominance, which is the result of India’s huge cricket fan base and advertisers willing to spend big bucks on the sport, the CoA (and the Supreme Court which helped create it) has pulled near defeat from the jaws of victory. The CoA deserves to be sacked, if the revenue loss becomes irreversible.
In the world of realpolitik, nobody gives up a position of power and dominance without a fight. Our CoA has given up our control of the cricket world without even a semblance of a fight.
Take an example from another field. In the UN, there are three measly powers (UK, France and Russia) who wield the veto merely because of an accident of history that found them on the winning side of the Second World War. But today, even with their diminished clout in world affairs, they refuse to give up their veto power. In contrast, Nehru was foolish enough to decline the permanent seat occupied by Taiwan on the moral ground that the seat should rightfully belong to mainland China. Now, China will use its own veto to keep us out as long as it can. Today, even US support is not enough to get us on the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.
Power has its own logic and comes with great responsibility. But we have had a CoA happily handing over our dominance without a second thought or even a mea culpa.
India has the clout to let ICC go to hell and start its own World Cricket Council (WCC), if it chooses to do so. Even if the official cricket bodies in the nine countries that voted against us decide not to play with us, we have enough resources to buy cricketers from England, South Africa and Australia to create new unofficial national teams to compete in a new ODI series or T20 tournament, and generate enough viewership to rival the ICC.
India has the clout to take on the world, and thus it is essential that it stare down the ICC on this one. The Supreme Court should make amends for its foolhardiness in weakening Indian cricket by insisting that nothing less than the old revenue formula can be accepted by the CoA.
If it does not do that, it will have failed to protect Indian cricket’s interest. Which is what it set out to do when it started meddling with the BCCI.
Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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