Will 'new order' benefit world cricket?

The power to control world cricket now has come irrevocably to the hands of India, England and Australia after the International Cricket Council Board approved the ‘Position Paper’ without any serious opposition. Of course, the responsibility will be divided among the three boards – The Board of Control for Cricket in India, England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia – but it is clear that India will indisputably be in control. 

For a long while now, the major chunk of ICC’s revenue – about 80 per cent – is being generated by India, and as such its desire to have more share in that, many feel, is vindicated. Now in the changed set-up, India will be getting a little more than 21 per cent of the ICC revenue. 

It indeed is substantial amount of money, but along with it comes huge responsibility as well. Till this date, many cricketing nations have viewed India (read BCCI) as a cantankerous bully, which used its immense financial clout to have its way in almost all matters pertaining to world cricket. 

Perhaps, the BCCI too was not worried about its image across the globe but the time has come for an image makeover. It can no longer afford to be viewed as an irresponsible, irksome, immature body having powers that itself cannot manage. The conditions in the Position Paper, even in its slightly tweaked form – make it clear that the BCCI is the world leader now, and from this moment all its decisions related to world cricket is expected to be inclusive in nature. 

Betting trouble

That responsibility lies with the BCCI president N Srinivasan, who will be the chairman of the ICC for the next two years starting this June. Srinivasan is facing a troubled time because of his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan’s alleged involvement in betting during the Indian Premier League, and the Supreme Court will announce its verdict on the findings of the Mukul Mudgal committee findings on March 7. That’s a topic for another day, but a heavy job awaits Srinivasan assuming that the Tamil Nadu strong man takes over the reins of world cricket in three months’ time from now. 

His primary job will be to take Sri Lanka and Pakistan also on board as it will be embarrassing to leave them skulking outside the tent. Both Lanka and Pakistan abstained from voting on the ‘Position Paper’ and that shouldn’t be used as a reason to keep them away from the group. 

Conspiracy theorists have already attributed the low demand for Sri Lankan players in the IPL auction to the island nation’s reluctance to participate in the voting, while the truth behind the cold response was the limited availability of Lankan players due to their tour of England. 

So, the BCCI should clear the air around it, and after all, both Lanka and Pakistan have supported India’s stand on a variety of issues at the ICC in the past including the Decision Review System. India had dangled the carrot of more tours for South Africa – another strong critic initially of the structural revamp of the ICC – and it will not be surprising if the entire IPL is shifted to the ‘rainbow  nation.’  

Short-term benefits

It indeed is a plan with short-term benefits in mind. While there is nothing wrong in pursuing immediate goals, the BCCI should be a lot more far sighted in the coming days on how they want to play the role of the chief protagonist. India would be expected to show large-heartedness to let go things of past ensuring that the ICC becomes a vibrant body capable of strengthening the roots of cricket.

By no means, it is an easy task. Cricket in the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand and Zimbabwe are in dire need of some outside help to reconstruct the infrastructure. The new ruling troika can contribute immensely in rejuvenating cricket in those nations. 

The ‘Position Paper’ has made it clear that the BCCI will play the central leadership role in the new governance system. 

Having powerful entity at the top would do no harm to the growth of sport, and cricket is no exception. But the success of such cabals depends entirely on the peaceful and mutually understanding existence between the members. It is an easy job to set guidelines on paper, but working according to it in a formal environment is a far tougher task. 

Both England and Australia must admit that the leadership role has come to India for a reason, the world order has changed, and it has been formalised. 

However, they shouldn’t allow India to have a free run on issues related to world cricket, else it will become the fiefdom of one board. It wouldn’t be a pleasant scenario within the ICC and for cricket in general. 

Next few months will give us a clear answer to the lingering suspicions about the viability of such an arrangement. Till then let us dream of a thriving cricket world based on equality. 

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