If the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) didn’t already control the International Cricket Council (ICC), its ongoing push to restructure cricket’s governing body in tandem with Cricket Australia (CA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) would be as close to a coup as it’s possible to have in sports administration. As it stands, the draft proposal to be presented to the ICC’s executive board at the end of the month is more in the nature of a coming out party: the three cricket boards doing away with the tedious pretense of the ICC being run, even nominally, in a democratic fashion. How far they will succeed will be known only when the executive board has voted on the proposal. But so far at least, the South African cricket board has been the only one to truly voice its concern.
Starting from the fact that the proposal has been drafted solely by the big three — there was no consultation with other ICC members — there is very little about the entire affair that places the interests of the cricket fraternity as a whole above the interests of the BCCI, ECB and CA. The proposal to rejig the formula for sharing the ICC’s surplus revenue among member nations, for instance, is weighted towards those that least need the extra money. Certainly, the current situation — where the BCCI generates the bulk of the revenue but the surplus is split equally – is not optimum. And the new formula indicates that as the surplus grows, so will every board’s share. But there no logic save financial greed to the BCCI’s share expanding far faster than that of smaller, cash-strapped boards, particularly when it is already sitting on vast cash reserves.
Similarly, the scrapping of the Future Tours Programme (FTP) benefits the bottomlines of the big three at the expense of the others.
But the most egregious examples are the creation of a new body controlled by the big three for handling most executive decision-making and the proposed two-tier system. The latter will divide the Test-playing teams and top Associate nations into two leagues with relegation and promotion providing context and value to Test matches. So far so good — except that the proposal also pencils in a clause excluding the English, Australian and Indian teams from relegation. The reason, naturally, is that it would be harmful to the game’s financial interests. This is no longer sport. It is fixing on a grand scale, reducing Test cricket to a spectacle, the equivalent of the televised wrestling federations.
The ICC has had a plethora of problems for years now. Urgent reforms were needed to keep it relevant in light of the seismic shifts in global cricket — from the IPL to the struggles facing Test cricket. And as the people behind the curtain, there is nothing inherently wrong in the most powerful boards leading the charge. Nor would it be realistic to expect them to behave in a purely altruistic fashion. But what they are attempting now betrays a fatal flaw in their vision for the game; they look upon global cricket as a business with profit maximisation as the goal. The BCCI, in particular, has failed its charge. For decades, it railed against the manner in which England and Australia controlled the game. Now, with its financial clout, it has merely resurrected the cosy old club with a new member.