Just how do we begin to make sense of what happened in Dubai on April 26? To use the language of the streets, it was a king-hit. The dictionary refers to that as a knockout blow, often administered unfairly. Across the world, and even within India, there is much jubilation at the BCCI bully being brought to its knees. But retribution isn’t, and should never be mistaken for, justice. And the BCCI, once the ground beneath its feet has stopped quaking, will surely seek a dark alley of its own to carry on this seemingly endless cycle of one-upmanship.
Wisden India made its position on the proposed Big Three reforms very clear three years ago. It was grand larceny by another name. And we stand by that view. But what has happened subsequently isn’t really much better. Any proposed reform or restructure – financial or organisational – that’s pushed through without the consent of the most influential entity in the group isn’t really worth the paper it’s printed on. It has all the value of a UN resolution that has no support from the United States of America.
Most importantly, these things cannot be rushed through. Most constitutions take years to draft, and involve innumerable iterations. Why then this unseemly haste to push through this new vision in the space of a couple of months?
In the previous model, the BCCI’s proposed revenue during the eight-year cycle was supposed to be close to $570 million. That was a completely arbitrary figure, arrived at without any proper consensus. The current offer, which is a little over half that – though a $100 million top-up has apparently been promised as well – is also not based on any in-depth or third-party research. Each individual in the working group has his or her motivations and an agenda to push. Not one of them is an altruist or cricket evangelist.
Perhaps, Shashank Manohar arrived at this formula because he felt genuinely guilty about the Big Three’s ham-fisted attempt to control the game and its finances. But his erstwhile colleagues at the BCCI have every right to feel cut up about the way the new model has been foisted on them.
The timing surely isn’t coincidence. Not one of these administrators, roaring like lions now, would have so much as let out a peep if N Srinivasan was still monarch of all he surveyed. The BCCI is at its lowest ebb in decades, with two generations of administrators effectively airbrushed from the game’s governance by Supreme Court-approved reforms.
But that state of affairs need not last. And once the changes sought by the Supreme Court have been implemented, in part or in full, you can be sure that those men humiliated in Dubai, and the dozens back home they spoke for, will plot their own payback. And the more impoverished boards around the world, that have suddenly decided the time is right to stand up for themselves, could be the ones that regret these actions the most.
Let’s not forget that the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia were enthusiastic participants in the Greed Games of three years ago. Now, they have conveniently switched sides, safe in the knowledge that the hit to their treasure chests is nothing like as damaging as what their co-conspirator will have to endure.
English and Australian cricket will survive without regular Indian tours – their financial models aren’t so flimsy. But for others, the Indian team on their shores is often the difference between being able to pay salaries and the begging bowl. And several of those boards are so appallingly run – and riddled with corruption of the 1990s Nigerian oil-ministry variety – that you can be sure the enhanced funds from the ICC will not go where they’re supposed to. You only have to look at the audits conducted in Zimbabwe and at the thousands of imported chairs left on a dock in Sri Lanka to know how these things work.
This was a golden opportunity to strike out on a bold new path. The committee overseeing Indian cricket right now is not tainted by the power-hungry abuses of the past, nor are they jingoists given to chest thumping. These are reasonable men (and a woman) that you could sit across a table with, individuals who understand that consensus rather than confrontation is the way forward.
But with the BCCI now left red-faced by not one but two separate votes, consensus has left the room. India will not do anything stupid like pulling out of the Champions Trophy – the only global prize they now hold – because the administrators understand that there would be a backlash from millions of fans. But once June has passed, the empire – even what is left of it – will strike back. This king-hit has more or less assured that. And no one connected with the game will be the better for it.