No Hype Even After Revised Cricket World Cup
The revised schedule is set to throw more plans in disarray
Disgruntlement over the scheduling seems just one of the problems dividing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) at the moment. Is it team India’s muted expectations or the BCCI’s vested interests behind the lack of hype over the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 which should be a homecoming given that the trophy is returning to the soil where India last tasted top tier success?
In another confounding gaffe, that is only undermining the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, the BCCI and the ICC released a revised schedule that is set to throw more plans in disarray, further fuelling the discontent between even the most influential cricket board and the governing body, money matters once again coming into play.
Where in the past, there has been a heavy investment in promotion, advertising and marketing in the lead up to the World Cups to cash in on India’s fanatical cricket population not to mention attract a huge international force field of NRI’s, as well as foreign visitors to boost India’s tourism economy, even when the World Cup was held abroad, this time there is such a lull and silence around it, that the signals are practically deafening.
The bonhomie is to be seen to be believed. In an unprecedented move, there are visible divisions in the operations and indeed, the agenda of the ICC and the BCCI and it seems the World Cup is bearing the brunt of it.
India and the BCCI could have cashed in on the fact that ten venues will host the cricket world cup matches, spanning the length and breadth from Dharamsala to Chennai.
Yet, there have already been rumblings behind the fanfare in June when the ICC was reportedly not happy about the idea of having matches in Dharamsala, given that it cannot host even a crowd of 50,000 which translates to fewer ticket sales compared to the more prominent metros, and even fewer when one considers matches where the hosts are not playing.
Ticket sales and broadcast revenue are the most obvious ways the ICC recoups money from this flagship events for purposes of disbursement not only to the participating teams but also, to the associate member nations with a view towards development and globalisation.
If the ICC held the issue of tax exemption from the government of India over the BCCI’s head, one wonders if this is some kind of reverse retaliation where the BCCI knows that even if it gets a lion’s share, it is a drop in the ocean compared to what it would earn, plausibly in the case of some bilateral series and undoubtedly from the Indian Premier League (IPL).
It is a dangerous case of flexing one’s muscle while squashing the behemoth that is the World Cup that keeps cricket on the roster of international sport. It comes at a time when the pitch for cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics has never been louder, although there is still little consensus on the current format representation as well as the form.
This could not be made more prominent in the fact that not only was the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 schedule, arguably the most prestigious of all ICC World Cup/ multi team events, was absent even 90 days before the start of the tournament in October. Dates of as many as nine matches have been revised on the schedule, further making logistics and ticket sales a nightmare with less than 60 days to go.
Considering the fact that there are 48 matches, revision of nine matches is taking a huge chunk out of prepaid plans and fans and hospitality would be pressed to make logistical changes, even if only recently.
In a breakaway from the last two World Cups, when fans and cricketers knew the World Cup schedules at least six months to a year in advance, there were already tell tale signs that the ICC Cricket World Cup was slipping on India’s priorities when the BCCI put everything into the Indian Premier League early in India’s summer. There was no sign of the World Cup schedule anywhere on the horizon, leave alone the idea of combining promotion activity as a blockbuster move to boost revenue even in the early winter.
It hasn’t even been touched upon why the hospitality industry is not up in arms. Or even the government of India for that matter that floats the idea of tourism uptick post pandemic. Wouldn’t something of this World Cup stature boost India’s economy as much as the ICC and the BCCI revenue when companies usually invest heavily not just in air time advertising during the matches but even six months before the World Cup with ticket lures and marketing gimmicks that encourage consumer spending?
Why not combine forces when for all practical purposes, the BCCI is as much as a political entity with deep ties rather than the autonomous body it claims to be?
Those rumblings might have been drowned but the deep divide remains as it has been argued that Gujarat and Motera is being pushed ahead of other prominent venues or those qualified enough to host international matches, but being overlooked and whether this is the case of Jay Shah being the son of the politician second only to the Prime Minister?
With little time for plan and organise, it leaves hotels and flight tickets to shoot up prices at will but also, does not even leave them enough time to maximise their own options, when people often do take planned family vacations around the World Cups boosting tourism and economy, which is why countries clamour to host these events in the first place anywhere in the world.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that the BCCI gave little heed to the fact that the schedule for the IPL 2023 edition left little time for preparation and conditioning for team India ahead of something equally prestigious though perhaps far from commercially viable in early June. Instead, team India now have the ignominy of having qualified for two ICC World Test championships and coming home in a whimper on both occasions.
While even top tier cricketers have faced the wrath of fans with their motives and priorities questioned, the BCCI would have to take the responsibility for giving players and captains like Rohit Sharma an early cop out when he did voice his concerns about leaving the onus to the IPL franchisees to manage the player workload. He stopped short of setting the precedent of opting out of IPL matches even in the latter stages of the tournament in preparation for the ICC World Test championship.
It is as loud a statement from a player of such stature as it is about what the BCCI perhaps expects of its own players when it does not put its own foot down and prioritise commercial value over national duties that come with unprecedented honours.
Unfortunately, in a case that has become all too familiar in the world of cricket, the governing body is, for the most part, a toothless body, at best a proxy for the BCCI, who cannot afford to go against the richest, most powerful cricket body in the world. It has meant that while the argument of the ambiguity over Pakistan’s participation on Indian soil is being put forth in the public domain, there is plausibly more to it than what meets the eye at this point.
The ongoing tussle between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the BCCI since the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 has been blamed for this long delay and mayhem citing security issues. The paradox now is that the schedule needed another 40 days after the announcement to be revised. This is because the BCCI, it would appear, did not think it in their wisdom to consult with the local police to ensure protection for the matches against dates when there is a clash with festivals.
It has meant, for instance, that two of Pakistan’s matches, the most highly anticipated match arguably against India at the Narendra Modi stadium in Motera on October 15 has now been pushed a day ahead so as not to clash with the Navratri festival where the police protection has been cited as a matter of priority by the state government of Gujarat. Talk about a face palm.
Similarly Pakistan’s match against England has been shifted because Kolkata Police do not think they can provide adequate protection on the 12th of November which coincides with the Kali Puja. Virtually all other participating teams are going to have to make some adjustments, such has been the reshuffle that has also seen day and night matches becoming day matches and vice versa.
The irony is that it was no hidden secret that it was essentially a case of calling Pakistan’s bluff. This the BCCI could have done by arriving at an early schedule and forcing the ICC’s hand to call for a forfeiture if a team refused to play a match for any reason as was the case in 1996 when India co hosted the World Cup and Australia and West Indies refused to tour Sri Lanka.
The PCB is cash strapped and would have faced the deep end, not winning any favours if they did go ahead and kept their threat about refusing to the ICC Cricket World Cup if it was held in India.
Could the BCCI have not done their recce before such an international embarrassment, which make no mistake, is as much a blob of the face of the BCCI as it is on the ICC? If the BCCI was accused of being insensitive as the waves of the pandemic engulfed India while the IPL was played to the alacrity of fans and general population alike, this cannot simply be attributed as myopia on the part of the BCCI who hosts the IPL even abroad notwithstanding the logistics.
But then it fuels conspiracy theories. Could this be a deliberate attempt? As vicious as it seems, it is not beyond the realm of imagination given that the BCCI thought little of its own image when it sought to oust Virat Kohli as India’s captain in one of the most visible self-sabotages in Indian history.
If the absence of World Cup trophies was the loudest argument, they are not making a good case even now. Besides, the outcome is plain as daylight when Rohit Sharma has been left defending his own record with no obvious sign of India’s World Cup goals being realised.
It was team India led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni that lifted the 2011 trophy which also should have been Sachin Tendulkar’s swansong in the sense of it being a long cherished dream realised for him, as it was for millions who had lived on the stories of Kapil Dev’s men doing the first World Cup honours in 1983 at Lord’s.
But there are next to no air bytes as there is a significant dip in early advertising interests because of this confusion. If the common man, shockingly is clueless about the World Cup now being just around the corner, it says a lot about the way things have been functioning at the highest levels.
This should ring a huge round of concern about where board interests lie, some content to live off bilateral crumbs, others barely holding on without proper infrastructure, others withering with players seeing greener pastures and others having almost disappeared into oblivion. And this is only talking about the less than dozen that are considered permanent cricket nations.
With dubious selection policies that question why stronger teams are not being fielded in the run up to find India’s best eleven and why India is cooling its heels in West Indies against a team that is barely holding its head above water in international cricket, it all boils down to asking essentially the same question: where is the focus on the World Cup?
Who is responsible for this schedule, particularly given that India have a rather lenient luxury of time in the Caribbean, time that arguably could have been used as conditioning ahead of the ICC World Test championship? The argument that it could not have been predicted that India would qualify for the final at the Oval holds no ground, only undermining India’s status as a stubborn entity on the field and not just off it.