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
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.
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...