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A (likely) post-BCCI scenario of the cricketing world

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“We should kick BCCI out of the ICC”, is a refrain that is often heard whenever the haters are disgruntled. “That’ll serve them right”, they say. Well now that the ICC seems to be granting their wish for an ICC without a BCCI after amending the 2014 so-called “Big 3” financial & governance model much to the delight of many of the BCCI critics in the western and Asian world. But they forget that BCCI got to a position of strength for a reason & now they’re angry & you won’t like what happens when they’re angry (just ask CSA/Lorgat). Just like when Obi-Wan Kenobi was struck down by Darth Vader, BCCI will come back stronger in another form. Many critics will say that the BCCI is more like Vader than Obi but that’s a discussion for another day.

If ICC doesn’t realize the folly of what they’re doing & BCCI do invoke the MPA & exit ICC tournaments beginning with the Champions Trophy (which is what I hope they will do if the changes are not reversed) then that’ll have repercussions beyond the immediate. With the BCCI currently handicapped by the Supreme Court & the CoA (which includes a “historian” who – just like the family he idolises – would rather sell out his country than have his image amongst the western world sullied) that may not happen immediately. But if it doesn’t happen now then the real powers behind BCCI will simply bide their time and strike back when they are unshackled from the chains of the Committee Exemplifying Judicial Overreach (CEJO). A Sports Bill is in the works, which may help reinstate some of the old guard sooner than you think.

Whether it happens immediately or in the not-too-distant future the following is what I think will be the scenario in a post-BCCI-exit cricketing world.

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But first some facts-

(a) India generates the overwhelming bulk of ICC revenue. Estimates vary from a minimum of 70% to even close to 90% but let’s consider it to be the conservative 70%.

(b) Pulling out of ICC doesn’t necessarily mean that India pulls out of international bilateral series as those are decided between individual boards & not by the ICC.

(c) Except for when India, England & Australia tours them all other bilateral series are loss making for all the non-BCCI boards. So for e.g. when S.A host S.L they actually lose money. Even a supposedly well-run CA are not immune. This past year when Australia hosted S.A & Pakistan they lost a whopping A$68 million. In contrast when India toured them in 2014-15 they had a A$98 million surplus for that year (this also includes the money they made from hosting the World Cup, but even very conservatively pegging India tour’s contribution to just 30% of that figure and compare a $30 million profit from a single 4-test series to a $60 million loss from 2 series). Even the Australia & England tours aren’t as lucrative for other boards as an India tour. Basically India tours bankroll the boards so they can withstand the losses from other series. Why do you think the PCB has been crying for so long & why do they keep putting their begging bowl out every few months? Because they’re deprived of India tours even though on simple principle they should want nothing to do with us just like we don’t want to engage them more than necessary.

(d) IPL is the biggest money spinner for the BCCI & for TV broadcasters. Even though India matches in ICC tournaments & select bilateral ODI/t20 matches in India’s series against some teams get high viewership numbers many other bilateral series get only ok numbers. & while a non-final IPL match’s numbers can’t compare to, say an India-W.I t20 World Cup semi-final they get consistently good numbers across the board. Basically the IPL rights carry a lot less risk than the vagaries of international matches which is why every broadcaster in India is at the moment building a significant war chest so that they can get the rights for the next 5 years of the IPL. It would not be a stretch to say that they might not mind losing out on bilateral and ICC rights as long as they get the IPL’s.

(e) Nation vs. nation sport is a dying breed. Club vs. club is the future. Look at all the popular American sports & the most popular sport in the world, soccer.

While test matches barely get a few thousands into the ground in India, that too only for top opposition, IPL matches are consistently packed in. This when there are 7 matches in the same stadium in a matter of weeks, sometimes even 2 games in a single week, sometimes in the daytime, in the worst of the summer heat.

Even in Australia the Big Bash t20 league has now become more lucrative for CA compared to most other (non-England/non-India) bilateral series.

So whether it happens now or in the future don’t be too surprised if league cricket is the dominating force & nation vs. nation cricket is reserved purely for the World Cups.

So now for my speculation of what could happen if ICC & BCCI don’t come to an agreement & if the CEJO & Supreme Court don’t come in the way —

(1) BCCI invokes the MPA, doesn’t send a team to the Champions Trophy. ICC broadcaster Star Sports stands to lose many many millions due to advertisers pulling out because no India = no viewership (ask the 2007 World Cup if that seems like a stretch). So either Star Sports refuse to broadcast the tournament, as they’re allowed to as per their contract, or they negotiate and pay a minuscule fraction of what they would have otherwise (a 70-80% deduction is not inconceivable). So straightway that’s a huge loss to ICC & remaining boards. Add up the losses from fall in revenue for future ICC events held without participation of India.

(2) To ‘punish’ BCCI all boards get together & collectively decide that they will not conduct bilateral series with India so as to pressure BCCI to accept the 2017 model. BCCI says ok you don’t tour us we won’t tour you.

(3) Without incoming India tours the losses for all boards mount exponentially (see point C above). To cover up some of their losses Australia & England schedule Ashes series once a year if not making it a biannual affair. If some Ashes fans are salivating at that, remember the charm goes out of it when something happens that regularly. The sting went out of India-Pakistan series when they played regularly in the 2004-2008 period. There’ll also be pressure on Australia & England to tour other countries to make up for their shortfall. How long can this carry on?

It’s fair to estimate that Zimbabwe, W.I, S.L will be the first boards to go under in the post-BCCI world.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, N.Z, S.A may survive for a little longer but it will be a touch- and-go affair keeping in mind that their monies from the reduced ICC revenues will fall drastically.

(4) BCCI will try to host bilateral series by sweetening the pot for the other boards. But if by some miracle they refuse, IPL will go the EPL way & become a 9-month affair with more teams & matches only on the weekends.

This will result in better quality cricket as the players will not be playing in brutal summer conditions, run ragged with travel & having to play in the daytime & in a compressed schedule.

Fans will not suffer from viewer exhaustion as they will not have to binge watch, instead it will be regular meals which will not overload the appetite as can happen currently.

The TV broadcaster would also be happy as all the non-prime-time matches would now be at the peak prime-time so the average viewership of each match would automatically go up.

Now, some may argue that fans would not follow an extended IPL but if lakhs of Indians can passionately follow a similarly lengthy EPL where the only Indian faces are in the crowd then why wouldn’t Indian fans follow the game they love. Some Indian fans may be lost (esp. the kind that pompously declare that t20 is not “real” cricket) but it would draw many others into the game that don’t have the free time to follow a 5-day game which is played during the day on weekdays but will love to follow a team that only plays on the weekends for a few hours.

(5) Many have stated that boards will not allow their players to play in the IPL. Yeah, I give that rule one season max. Two words – Kerry Packer. How many players will be willing to give up lucrative contracts just to play what will essentially become a Australia vs. England game? Australian players are currently negotiating their contracts with the CA & by all reports are quite unhappy with what is being offered. Keep in mind that an extended IPL will bring more money with it, teams will pay more for exclusivity in their contracts, and salary caps will either be increased or be done away with completely. In that scenario even $10 million+ yearly contracts for the A-list players will not be unthinkable. How many players will be willing to give that up?

The only non-BCCI boards that pay decently – CA & ECB – will have less to distribute in the post-BCCI scenario so the players that do stick around will have to suffer drastic pay cuts. What is likely is that most players will not sign any contracts with their boards that limit them in anyway, become free agents & would make themselves available to their national boards only for the premium series like the Ashes.

Players from S.A, N.Z, S.L, W.I would probably be the first to exit their contracts with Australia & England following. Starved of its stars, nation vs. nation cricket will be inflicted with another nail in its coffin. ECB & CA will read the writing on the wall & embrace their leagues & club cricket will become the new normal with the IPL being King of the hill. These clubs will become responsible for talent hunting & will be the new breeding grounds for future stars.

A few thoughts —

  • In a scenario where 1 body contributes 70% of revenue how is asking for 20% unfair? Ask yourself that if you worked hard, had a large family to feed & had very limited sources of income would you be willing to forgo 50% of your rewards to fund people that have squandered theirs or are known to be financially corrupt or despise you only because of your progress or whose country sponsors terrorism against you?
  • In the 2017 model the other two of the “Big 3” who have so successfully painted BCCI as chief villain through their cheerleaders..Oops, I meant press…have also taken a huge financial hit. That’s right, while BCCI has lost a mere FIFTY percent the charitable ECB have taken a FIVE percent cut & the CA have taken a laudable ZERO percent cut. So kind these lovely people are. Not to mention that these are boards from developed countries with barely a handful of stadiums & a few 100s of cricketers to administer unlike the BCCI which is from a still-developing country where other sports are miserably managed, gets no financial assistance from the government, has 45+ international stadiums, 100+ domestic stadia & 1000s of cricketers to administer & you can see that BCCI are almost being too kind by just asking for the 20% that they are.
  • The double standards of  the west – in areas where it’s at an advantage they strongly advocate capitalism & its various forms, in areas where they are at a disadvantage they want socialism & its various forms; if the other countries disagree they’re branded as “coming in the way of progress/obstinate/blind/dictatorial”.
  • BCCI is criticised for not doing enough to spread the game by many including the western press. So when the ECB & CA were running the game & did nothing to spread the game everything was fine & dandy but now BCCI should do what CA & ECB weren’t asked to and they should achieve this in 1/5th of that time. This is like the Congress berating the BJP for India’s supposed lack of progress since Independence when they were in charge for most of those 70 years.
  • Besides the argument that BCCI hasn’t done enough to spread the game is fallacious. They helped S.L in its infancy; Jagmohan Dalmiya fought for Bangladesh’s inclusion as full member against vociferous opposition from the western boards (its another matter that they have repaid India by stabbing them in the back but that is their nature & nothing can be done about it); Afghanistan are playing their home matches in India. What for e.g. has England done for Ireland who once showed such promise but are now declining? Oh that’s right, my bad, they have done a lot for Ireland. By poaching their best players. So that a decent team has now become a struggling one. They also offer kolpak deals to South Africans so that the likes of a promising Kyle Abbott are lost to international cricket so he can play county cricket in front of 2 old men eating cucumber sandwiches in lovely 5 degree summer. Remember BCCI got to where it has on its own. Neither the ECB nor CA went out of the way to grow the game here. Tours to India by them were more infrequent than their tours to Bangladesh even now.
  • BCCI have been sustaining Zimbabwe, W.I, S.L & Bangladesh with regular tours. Would be amusing to see in the post-BCCI world how often ECB & CA tour these countries which they have toured once in a decade if at all. Btw, BCCI is criticised for not playing against Pakistan but not a peep is said about ECB not playing Zimbabwe. While ICC makes sure that all ICC tournaments have India playing Pakistan in the group stages they also seem to ensure that England never have to play Zimbabwe. Has Zimbabwe beheaded some of England’s soldiers like Pakistan has ours? And then people have the gall to say that ICC is run like BCCI’s fiefdom. While BCCI may be the most financially strong member of ICC fact remains that the establishment i.e. the real power is very much in the Old World’s hands.
  • To those pontificating that there should be a fair distribution of revenue; this 2017 model is not fair either. If ICC truly wanted a fair distribution then they would come up with a calculation based on contribution to ICC’s revenues, cost of administering game in that country, efficiency of resources used, financial irregularities in the boards etc. But they didn’t. Because what is happening here is a cabal looking to rob a guy when he’s fallen on the ground & is temporarily vulnerable because they wouldn’t have the guts to go against him if he were not on shaky ground. A truly fair distribution may end up giving a BCCI a share even greater than the 2014 model.
  • The world doesn’t respect ‘nice guys’; they respect power so it’s time to learn how to gain it, maintain it and use it. Start with BCCI getting back its rightful share or this will be the first step on the downward slope to Indian cricket going the way of hockey.
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