Cricket and the power of money

Tuesday, January 28, 2014    

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THE move by India, in collusion with England and Australia, to "hijack" international cricket, as Mr Tony Cozier has so graphically described it, sounds callous.

Hurting cricket fans shouldn't take it personally. It's all about money, and he who pays the piper calls the tune.

India, one of the word's fastest-growing economies with a population of 1.27 billion people, hundreds of millions of whom watch cricket on television, is calling the tune.

India's powerful financial sway over international cricket is not new. Those intimately involved, as well as those who followed the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean, will recall the absolute consternation when the Indian team was eliminated in the first round.

In the twinkling of an eye, huge, anticipated revenues related to television had disappeared.

Since then, India's power has grown and solidified. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is, by far, the richest in global cricket. It's now being suggested that 80 per cent of the money flowing into the coffers of world cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), is of Indian origin.

Not even in the days when England, at its height of imperial power, ruled cricket were the revenues -- modest as they were in those days -- so singularly concentrated.

Today, impoverished cricket administrations, including the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), rely heavily on Indian tours for financial survival -- which means they must walk softly.

As a consequence of their financial clout, the BCCI has grown increasingly high-handed. In many respects it has emasculated the ICC. Note the BCCI's flouting of the ICC's cricket tours programme and its rejection of the ICC-recommended Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS).

England and Australia have come in for strong criticism for deciding to stick with India in this latest contentious proposal to essentially share the running of international cricket, and the bulk of the revenue; as well as to make themselves immune from relegation under a proposed two-tier playing system.

But it could also be that, had England and Australia not agreed, India would simply have picked up its marbles and started its own international cricket syndicate, using its financial muscle to divide and rule.

Hopefully, the strong and powerful arguments being presented for India to relent will result in a modicum of moral decency at the ICC meeting in Dubai this week.

We shouldn't hold our breath.

Going back many generations, cricket has been a universal metaphor representing honour, integrity and fair play. The mounting evidence suggests that aspect is at the 'end of days'.

It's now only about money.





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