Cricket continues to be the overriding passion for most Indians while India is indubitably the commercial heart of world cricket. It took decades for Team India to pull its weight even though its overseas record could do with some improvement. And it took longer for India to get its voice heard in the corridors of power in world cricket administration. Things changed after Jagmohan Dalmiya in 1997 and Sharad Pawar in 2010 headed the Intertiol Cricket Council (ICC) as president; after its magement was revamped in 2014, ICC was headed by N Srinivasan as chairman, to be succeeded by Shashank Manohar. India has come far from the days when it was contemptuously ignored or barely tolerated as an upstart in the ICC hierarchy. Instead of only a few stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar and Bishan Singh Bedi once taking up cudgels against injustices to India on field and in ICC boardrooms, the interests of the country has been well served by a succession of no-nonsense skippers and strong administrators. But winds of change are once again buffeting Indian cricket, both from within and without. Under fire over blatant conflict of interest and lack of fincial accountability, the Indian cricket board BCCI has had its president and secretary sacked by the Supreme Court only last month for obstructing reforms suggested by Justice RM Lodha panel. The apex court has constituted a four-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) headed by former comptroller and auditor general Vinod Rai to run BCCI’s day-to-day affairs while it gets overhauled. The CoA is scheduled to submit a status report to the Supreme Court soon on the implementation of Lodha reforms across BCCI. It does not promise to be smooth sailing with only the cricket associations of Tripura and Vidarbha so far implementing the reforms in toto, while other state associations are adopting a wait and watch policy.
Meanwhile, the BCCI also finds itself isolated in ICC over a new model of governce and distribution of revenue in world cricket. The ICC has used some persuasive words to justify its proposed model, saying that it is based on ‘equity, good conscience, common sense and simplicity’ among guiding principles. It seeks to replace the current ‘Big Three’ revenue model operative since 2014 when N Srinivasan headed the ICC. According to this model, the top three cricket boards – BCCI, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia (CA) – get a lion’s share of the revenue because they generate most of the world cricket body’s income, and thereby also have a bigger say in choosing lucrative bilateral series. Specifically, 20.3% of the total revenue goes to BCCI, 4.4% to ECB and 2.7% to CA, with the surplus divided equally among all member associations. In 2014, when BCCI’s share was calculated, it was generating the most revenue (around 80%) among all cricket associations. Interestingly, present ICC chairman Shashank Manohar has been at the forefront of changing this model and getting the new fincial-governce structure endorsed by all 105 ICC member tions in April this year. If it goes through, BCCI’s share will be reduced to 10-10.2%. Calculating in terms of the ICC’s present earning of around 2.5 billion dollars, BCCI would stand to get around 260 million dollars (still the highest earner). But this means a loss of around 185 million dollars (Rs 1,236 crores), as BCCI gets around 445 million dollars presently. Last week when the matter was put to vote in the ICC Board, BCCI expectedly opposed it and was supported only by the Sri Lankan board. Other Test playing tions, including England and Australia (who both stand to lose under the new system, though not as much as BCCI) voted in favour of the restructured model. Six members Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and Bangladesh will be the real beneficiaries, as they each stand to get 110-115 million dollars. In a veiled message to the BCCI, Manohar has said: “Change is not always easy to champion nor is it easy to digest, but we must think of the global game when taking decisions and only then will history judge us kindly.” With the ICC planning to expand the global reach of cricket, it needs to put in place a more equitable distribution of revenues, streamline membership levels and ratiolize game rules in the three formats. It remains to be seen whether the BCCI, being pushed to become more transparent and accountable in its ways, gives up its hubris as the world’s richest cricketing body. Only then can it make the sacrifices to embrace the winds of change.