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Indian domination of cricket (off-field that is – we all know they can’t dominate on it!) 1 May 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Howzzat!! (aka the 'Honourable Game'), Saaray jahan se acha...?! eh?.

The recent award of the 2011 Cricket World Cup to a joint bid from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh has received some flak in the usual quarters. Australia and New Zealand had a very good bid already on the table; did an excellent job when they last staged the tournament (1992 was the best-ever World Cup – that is the general consensus the world over); and should have staged 2011 if there was any 'rotation' policy. In any case, theirs was the only bid on the table and they met all the requirements – the ICC had to bend its own rules to even accommodate the Asian bid.

However, the big bucks offered by the sub-continent proved too alluring for the ICC members and money carried the day. What does this mean for cricket administration? Are we going to see an era of Indian-dominance? Controlling and managing cricket was once the exclusive remit of the MCC in Lord's and the Imperial Cricket Conference. Have we, after decades of the 'gora sahab' lording over us natives, finally replaced one tyranny with another? Many think so, including some sensible cricket followers on this excellent cricket forum.

I beg to differ. We are not entering an era of Indian domination over cricket; all we are seeing is that in cricket, as in most other things in our 'wonderful' capitalist and money-grubbing society, money talks. The main concern, of one country riding rough-shod over the wishes of everyone else, a la the old MCC/TCCB/ICC combine, is somewhat misplaced; the current scenario is one where 'money is king', and marketing diktat rules cricket. So whatever their colour, creed or nationality, it's the sponsors and the money men who call the shots. India just happens to have more money and more sponsors than any other country, but certainly not a majority of either; hence, its decisions have to be mutually beneficial for other countries and boards too, otherwise they will not accept them. The ECB, CA, PCB, etc only play ball with India because it is in their own financial interest to do so – the moment there is a better deal on the table, all these other boards are at complete liberty to go seek it, unlike the old system where everyone had no choice, theoretical or practical, of going against the ingrained institutional racism of the MCC.

Yes, if India/BCCI had unbridled power, where they forced everyone against their will to play by their rules, it would be a concern. That is not the case, however. The President of the ICC is not Indian, he is a Pakistani; the all-powerful ICC Chief Executive has been an Aussie for a very long time indeed; there are ten members on the Elite panels of umpires – not one is an Indian; there is no Indian Match Referee; and from chucking to sponsorships, there are a whole host of issues where the Indians would feel they have been getting a very raw deal indeed. I don't really see an all-encompassing Indian influence here, malign or otherwise. All this is far cry from 30/40 years ago, when the umpires, the administrators, the decision makers, the money men, the rule makers and the arbitrators were all from a very narrow strata of English society – those guys did not even represent England, let alone represent or speak for the whole world. Hence, the current situation is not comparable. It is a democracy, where like all other capitalist democracies, self-interest rules.

The World Cup issue also proves that India is powerless to act on its own; it needed the support of other South Asian boards even to bid for this World Cup; and if you know anything about South Asian politics, you will know that supporting India does not come naturally to Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis! In fact, they would only do so when offered some very substantial incentives indeed, such as the case here. PCB supported India because this was a good, nay a very good, deal for them. India cannot make decisions to the detriment of other countries, it needs their support; the key difference is that unlike in the dim and distant past, we have a democracy now.  

I am also not sure what this concern with the "late submission" of the Asian bid is – a red herring, if ever there was one. The World Cup is in 2011, ie over six years away! That's 2,200 days (almost) – what difference does late submission by 10 or 15 or 23 days make? It is completely irrelevant. There was only one bid on the table – it may have been excellent, it may have been atrocious – surely a fair appraisal could only be made once that bid was compared to another. As long as the decision was based on the merits of the bid, I see no issue.

And as far as we know, the decision was made on the merits. It would be a concern if the poorer bid won, or if the second bid missed out many key requirements; but if the only gripe against it is that some paperwork was delayed, then I am afraid that is just bureaucratic piffle.

So is there no cause for concern? Not quite. The influence of money or TV-men or corporate marketing is certainly not wholly benign; far from it. However, this influence is global and all-pervasive, and the BCCI is almost incidental to it. I do agree though that there are certain elements in the BCCI who would like to exercise such influence over global cricket, and such elements must be resisted and ridiculed; anyone got any good Lalit Modi/BCCI jokes? :-)