26 November 2020 08:40 PM

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SREELATA S.YELLAMRAZU | 22 JUNE, 2020

Pandemic Fallout Kevin Roberts: The BCCI Stands to Gain

“It’s a bit of a moving feast” —Earl Eddings, CA chair


If Australia had it their way, it was curtains for the ICC T20 World Cup two months ago. But with the International Cricket Council still carrying a torch for the tournament at the heart of the controversy, the skewed state of the post-pandemic cricket world is revealed.

The ICC is fighting a losing battle. It continues to deny that the Twenty20 World Cup is in trouble. And it is in trouble because Cricket Australia, which has been dominating sports headlines since the pandemic for all the wrong reasons, is at it again: chasing money.

Their argument against staging a sixteen-team World Cup at the peak of the pandemic might have been bought, had CA not been so cutthroat with their own staff at the end of a reasonable financial year, nor gone to great pleadings with the BCCI to add a fifth Test to an already stiff overseas itinerary for the Indian cricket team.

The quid pro quo is so obvious between the two cricket boards that the ICC stands exposed once again, tossed helpless by the whims and fancies of the more powerful, influential and wealthy cricket boards.

It is a prominent display of how the pandemic is redefining an already imbalanced cricket world, and the ensuing desperate power struggle in which the sport’s governing body is neither kingmaker nor king.

The ICC can barely hold its own head above the water, World Cup in hand. Fighting for the revenue shared across the Board of permanent and associate cricket boards, the ICC could well have called off the tournament in March itself, buying time to rearrange the cricket calendar.

But given how Cricket Australia exposed themselves over the financial bottom line, cancelling the T20 World Cup outright would have meant an end to its ability to harmonise the cricketing world.

CA chairman Earl Eddings, and Kevin Roberts who recently resigned as CEO, called staging a World Cup ‘unrealistic’ and ‘risky’. Both have seen controversy, with the Australian Cricketers Association fighting back vociferously through their chairman over matters of financial doomsday projections:

“The ACA expresses a lack of confidence in the (Cricket Australia) forecasts. They do not appear to be reasonable or consistent with an obligation to good faith, as required. From what the ACA has been able to determine so far, cricket is yet to suffer a significant adverse revenue event and the outlook for the game remains positive.”

Cricket Australia is locked in a bitter image battle —not only with the ICC, which is being constantly undermined— but back home with its own cricket fraternity: the cricketers’ union has demanded greater transparency after staff were dismissed and salaries cut, and it faced an uproar for asking players to take huge pay cuts when it has yet to lose a single penny due to the pandemic, with virtually a full season played before the travel restrictions and lockdowns.

If the BCCI is being unusually silent about this proxy war in the media between CA and the ICC (with the latter stating it would initiate an independent investigation to unearth the source of the leaks) it is only because in this fight amongst the pigeons, it stands to gain significantly.

CA has made no bones about the fact that it is eyeing the India tour as a way of making upwards of 300 million dollars. It hasn’t suffered significantly in the unrolling pandemic – only two one-day internationals in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy were called off – and even the state cricket boards are up in arms about its claimed and projected losses.

The money stakes are obvious as they are blatant.

CA has corresponded to the effect that it would have to shell out close to 10 million dollars for the T20 World Cup, while making 20 million dollars: peanuts in the context of the India tour. Cricket Australia is chasing those 300 millions, armed with the excuse of the pandemic.

With the ICC left to play a losing game, CA and the BCCI have colluded to form a mutual admiration club since December 2019, when its chief Sourav Ganguly was unwilling to let slip that the BCCI was planning a rival four-team tournament to thwart the ICC proposal to hold a flagship tournament every year. Amongst the permanent teams were included Australia and England.

With CA suggesting the World Cup be deferred to next year, with claims that it would give India time to recover from the pandemic for the 2022 event, the BCCI opens a convenient window to host its much postponed Indian Premier League, which nets it anywhere upwards of half a billion US dollars, even in a recession year.

The reciprocity could not be more obvious, since India had even informally agreed to lengthening their tour Down Under at the end of the year, only suggesting more limited-overs matches instead of a fifth Test. The additional Test is how CA proposed to brandish the Australia–India contest on the lines of the Ashes, bringing in more sponsorship for high profile clashes.

With Australian cricketers very well represented among the international contingent since the inception of the IPL, it was a proposition CA could only win, twice.

Why won’t the ICC agree to this already deviously devised plan behind its back, and what explains its terse plans to investigate? The ICC has been in a long drawn bitter wrangle with the BCCI over raising the percentage of revenue slice, and also over the taxes it would owe the Indian exchequer, which it wants waived before it will host a tournament in India.

While the tussle has caused Kevin Roberts his post back home, the scenario is not much different on the cricket world stage.

With India calling off tours to Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and cancelling its informal agreement with South Africa – but staying conspicuously silent on the Twenty20 World Cup even as Sourav Ganguly rushes off a letter asking the state cricket boards to prepare for the IPL at the end of the last ICC teleconference on the 10th of June – the ICC and likewise the world of cricket lies exposed, in a rather fragile state, compassed about by colluding boards and financial powerhouses, more so as the pandemic expands.

Is it then any surprise that the fate of the ICC’s own World Cup continues to hang, suspended?

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