The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is exasperating. Its president, Sharad Pawar, said on Tuesday that the board’s battle with Subhash Chandra’s rival cricket league was a media creation. A day later, his board changed tack again and asserted, in a fit of monopolistic arrogance, that anyone joining the new league would be disowned. This tells us two things: Cricket in India is run by personalities who follow no process to ensure that they speak and act as one voice, and that they come together only when their monopoly of the game is under threat.
This board, if you remember, had promised responsibility and transparency when it came to power in 2005. It went to town after selling various rights for more than $1 billion last year, keen to be recognized as a new entity, untouched by past scandals. But since then, it has been clear that its interests are not aligned with those of the game’s lovers.
The richest cricket board in the world has become even richer, but what has it done since to advance the game? For example, India’s cricket establishment does not seem to have any succession plan in place, even though the country’s last great spinner and four legendary middle-order batsmen will soon retire. Cricket is a complicated game with processes and people available to help develop players, but this board, like most others in the past, leaves the game’s development to chance.
This makes the board’s opposition to Chandra’s Indian Cricket League even more absurd. There are reports that the league has offered players close to half a crore rupees for a three-year contract. Many domestic players earn less than a 10th of that every year, and even deal with the politics and recriminations of first-class cricket in India, where state associations are a law unto themselves. But a player fighting for a place and battling away year after year to be noticed means nothing to the Indian board, whose members hold honorary positions, and who continue making bewildering decisions.
The board is a private body that plays the national card when it suits its needs. In warning players about the competing league, the board has behaved as a monopolist would.
There are two reasons why the average cricketer will be reluctant to move to the league: There is plenty to lose by way of pensions from the board after retirement, and the league has not yet established itself. The board has acted upon the first fear, and as for the league’s establishment, the board has already been backed by the global establishment, which has warned cricketers in other countries against signing up.
How the league will serve Indian cricket—as league officials claim—with 20-over games remains to be seen. But the Indian board perceives Chandra as a threat, and it has used its monopoly well to hamper the league’s formation.
What comes next?
That’s a question the board has to answer. The centre of world cricket has no direction, no purpose, no plan of action. This board and its members, under the guise of nationalism and transparency, have behaved with the arrogance and selfishness of bureaucracy. It is why private enterprise must stand up, and an effort such as Chandra’s league must be supported. A monopoly cannot use its resources effectively, and has no incentive to. For example, the world-class MRF Pace Academy in Chennai, which provides India its fast bowlers, is unused.
Recently, the Australian board disclosed that it was creating a virtual reality room in which players waiting their turn at bat could practise against a virtual version of the bowler they would face on the field. Meanwhile, the Indian board has announced that it will advertise for a coach in foreign publications.
Tells us a lot, doesn’t it?
(How should BCCI’s monopoly be busted? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)