You reap what you sow

Big Three model was un­fair, but by vot­ing to cut In­dia’s share of ICC’s broad­cast rev­enue this week, other boards have risked iso­lat­ing cash-rich BCCI

The National - News - Sport - - PREMIER LEAGUE - sports@then­

Al­most a decade ago, as In­dia con­tem­plated aban­don­ing a tour of Aus­tralia mid­way after Harb­ha­jan Singh had been banned for al­leged racial abuse of An­drew Sy­monds, Cricket Aus­tralia (CA) bent over back­wards to make sure that the two re­main­ing Tests and a tri­an­gu­lar ODI series, also fea­tur­ing Sri Lanka, went ahead as sched­uled.

Even as its own play­ers felt be­trayed, the board did all it could to smooth ruf­fled In­dian feath­ers.

The cyn­i­cal looked at the bot­tom line.

The fig­ure be­ing bandied about was US$60 mil­lion (Dh220.4m) – that was how much a cur­tailed tour would have cost CA.

And in the years since, it has not been un­com­mon for other cricket board to cite sim­i­lar num­bers when talk­ing of the ben­e­fits of an In­dian visit.

Later that same year, a dis­grun­tled Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) of­fi­cial gave this writer ac­cess to the agree­ment that the board had signed with its broad­cast part­ner.

The clause that had so of­fended him clearly stated that SLC would guar­an­tee X num­ber of days of cricket against In­dia.

Fail­ure to do so would re­sult in only a par­tial pay­ment be­ing made.

It spoke vol­umes of the vice-like grip that the Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia (BCCI) had over most of its coun­ter­parts across the globe.

In that con­text, the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil (ICC) vote from ear­lier in the week – which cut In­dia’s share of the ICC’s broad­cast rev­enue nearly by half ($570m to $290m) – could be seen as the weak tak­ing a stand in their own in­ter­est.

For now, with In­dian cricket ad­min­is­tra­tion in con­sid­er­able dis­ar­ray – an in­terim Com­mit­tee of Ad­min­is­tra­tors re­mains in charge, tasked with im­ple­ment­ing the re­forms sug­gested by a Supreme Cour­tap­pointed panel – they need not fear a back­lash.

But at some point, once the un­cer­tainly lifts and the un­hap­pi­ness per­vad­ing the cor­ri­dors of In­dian cricket power crys­tallises, there could be a hefty price to pay.

Even CA could feel the heat, even though the Big Bash, its an­nual Twenty20 club com­pe­ti­tion, is thriv­ing.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions with its own play­ers over a new frame­work for cen­tral con­tracts is not go­ing well, and the Ashes are hosted only ev­ery four years.

In re­cent years, some In­dian cricket of­fi­cials had spo­ken of cul­ti­vat­ing their own do­mes­tic sea­son, and not tour­ing Aus­tralia and South Africa dur­ing the Christ­mas-New Year hol­i­day sea­son.

That was mostly idle talk, but hav­ing staged 13 home Tests in 2016/17, In­dia know there is enough ap­petite for the game on home turf.

Tele­vi­sion rat­ings were high, and mil­lions tuned in to the livestream on­line as well. And that is with­out the golden goose that is the In­dian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 com­pe­ti­tion, go­ing strong in its 10th sea­son.

If In­dia re­assess those Christ­mas-New Year tours, ei­ther for purely com­mer­cial rea­sons, or in a fit of pique at what they see as oth­ers gang­ing up against them, some cricket boards could be in se­ri­ous trou­ble.

Cricket South Africa, for ex­am­ple, stands to gain $39m from the over­turn­ing of the Big Three fi­nan­cial model (which was drawn up to en­sure the BCCI, CA and the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board earned a ma­jor­ity share in the ICC rev­enue).

That works out to roughly an ex­tra $5m a year for South Africa. As­sum­ing that the eightyear stretch would in­clude two po­ten­tial In­dian tours, that is a huge risk to take.

But it is not just the fi­nan­cial con­se­quences that cricket lovers ev­ery­where should be wor­ry­ing about.

The votes, which BCCI of­fi­cials see as In­dia be­ing iso­lated, strengthen the go-it-alone fringe in cricket ad­min­is­tra­tion.

For a while now, some of­fi­cials have ad­vo­cated a longer IPL or two sea­sons of it, at the cost of in­ter­na­tional cricket.

The blue­print for them is US sport, in which teams fight for do­mes­tic brag­ging rights, with lit­tle thought given to in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

The Big Three model was day­light rob­bery – with Aus­tralia and Eng­land will­ing ac­com­plices – but this course cor­rec­tion which risks alien­at­ing In­dia is no bet­ter for the game’s fu­ture.

ICC chair­man Shashank Manohar, who once de­fied In­dia’s captain to pre­pare a pitch that led to a crush­ing In­dian de­feat (against Aus­tralia in Nag­pur, 2004), has never been a pop­u­lar man in cricket cir­cles here.

Right now, he is bet­ter off tak­ing up per­ma­nent res­i­dence in Dubai.

Prakash Singh / AFP

Mumbai In­di­ans crick­eters con­grat­u­late Jasprit Bum­rah, fourth from the left, as they cel­e­brate vic­tory in the su­per over against Gu­jarat Lions last night. Rev­enue from the In­dian Premier League, now in its 10th sea­son, is one of the rea­sons the BCCI...

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