By Razi Iqbal
Edited by Sanchita Malhotra, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
Recently, the world of cricket was flooded with news regarding the organisational revamp of the International Cricket Council, the international governing body in cricket. The case was this that- earlier the voting power vested with ten member nations (also known as test playing nations) who also provided funds to the ICC, though the amount of funding varied from country to country. The money was used to run the ICC, organize various international series and tournaments, provide financial help to weaker members and most importantly spread the game to other non cricket playing nations. This was the old system built on the premise of ‘developing the game’ but this was until the idea of ‘fair returns’ and ‘financial viability’ hit some of greedy member countries.
The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) was the first cricket board to come with the idea of doing away with the old financial and organizational structure of the ICC. The BCCI argued, and quite correctly, that why should they receive only 3-4% of ICC revenues when they account for nearly 70% of the funding provided to the ICC; thanks to India being the major market in world cricket (oh yes! the freak cricket fan inside us has to show up somewhere!). They also demanded a bigger share of voting rights on the same account. India persuaded England and Australia, the two other notable bulls in world cricket, to go ahead with their plans. And here it was. Not after much deliberation (other member boards lacked any kind of muscle), the present system of ten member nations was done away with, in came a new four nation organizing body with India, England and Australia having permanent seats with one non permanent rotational seat (with a likewise revenue distribution model). Talk about concentration of power in the hands of a few.
From a personal point of view of respective cricket boards, this was a perfectly fine decision. They just forgot one simple fact. The interests of an individual might not always overlap with the interests of the public at large, which is to say that individual cricket boards filling their coffers and uplifting their own structure will hamper the overall development of the game. The money which should have been invested in Zimbabwe will now pile up on the bank balance of the BCCI. Not a very attractive proposition anyways. Then there are other dynamics to deal with regarding the scheduling of matches and their venues.
The FTP (Future Tours Programme), gave details of series and tournaments to be held in the future has been done away with under the new structure. The FTP made sure that each member played a series with other members on a regular basis irrespective of the revenue that particular series generates (hosting a series against India is a mouth-watering prospect for every opposition team). That means a weak team like Bangladesh gets to play with a team like Australia every two years. This was necessary for the betterment of the weaker teams with the view of making international cricket more competitive over a period of time. Under the new system, a series will only be played if it’s financially viable for the home board to host. With this, international cricket will become increasingly monotonic with teams like India, Australia and England playing with each other more frequently than ever whereas other teams will have to scrap tours after tours surrendering to financial compulsions.
There is also a fear of cricket’s most primitive and prized format dying a slow death. Test cricket is the pinnacle of our sport and it cannot be allowed to make way for monetary aspirations of a few. The newest format i.e. T20 cricket is lucrative for cricket boards around the world because of the large crowds and huge sponsorship deals it generates. Many T20 leagues (which often lack any meaning) have come up in various parts of the world, most notably the IPL in India. These leagues often eat up the time which should have been allotted to test matches. Cricket boards often show laxity regarding this because the financial prospects of a T20 league are enriching. Even in cases of bilateral series, cricket boards wish to play one day cricket and T20s because hosting a test match is considered a financial burden by many. Within the new structure, funding which was earlier allotted to test cricket will now be diverted elsewhere. An example is the scrapping of the 2017 world test championship and replacing it with a champions trophy (a 50-over tournament).
Times look gloomy for the fans who watch cricket for their sheer love of the game. The serenity of The Lords on the first day of a test match, a fifth day dustbowl at the wankhede stadium in Mumbai, the calypso music in the west indies … all these give an identity to the game without which it won’t remain the same. World cricket needs a life saving injection to save it from its paranoia. Sometimes all that is needed is to look beyond the Benjamins.
Razi is a first year economics student at Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi university. A cricket fanatic and an avid reader, Razi believes that ‘the big bang theory’ and his passion for biking provide him the necessary fuel in his life. His interests in economics lie in psychology based subjects like game theory and behavioral economics. His focus in life right now is on the subject ‘how to best enjoy college life’.