Has the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) CEO Rahul Johri been rushed to Jamaica following Cricket West Indies' inability to part with guarantee money?
A large section of the media had reported on Thursday morning that the CEO had rushed halfway across the world to Jamaica (a journey that necessitates two long-haul flights) just to consult with skipper Virat Kohli on the choice of the new coach. The agency that fed the story also quoted a 'BCCI official privy to the development' as saying, "Yes, Rahul has left for Jamaica with permission of the Committee of Administrators (CoA). He has been instructed with the task of getting feedback from the captain and the team. The team's feedback will then be passed to the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) to take all parameters into account."
Naturally, this didn’t sound right to others in the media. Veteran journalist Lokendra Pratap Sahi clarified in The Telegraph with a quote from acting BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhary: "The CEO has travelled only because the national team happens to be playing there. Nothing more, full stop."
Of course, Choudhary is the same person who had said that there were no issues between erstwhile coach Anil Kumble and Kohli during the run-up to the Champions Trophy. He’d then said that "he couldn’t see any smoke".
Nevertheless, as the Kolkata newspaper rightly points out, the Indian team manager to West Indies, Kapil Malhotra was qualified to send feedback if the BCCI so desired. Also travelling with the team was Dr MV Sridhar, an old BCCI hand who has been general manager of operations on either side of the RM Lodha Committee report. He too could get feedback if required.
Interestingly, the media did not pause to ask if former BCCI chiefs N Srinivasan, Sharad Pawar or Jagmohan Dalmiya would have flown thus to get feedback from a skipper. It is perhaps an acceptance that the BCCI was now bereft of heavyweights and that the worst scenarios are being accepted as normal.
Incidentally, if the CEO was expected to run around and get feedback, what is the role of the CAC members? But that’s another matter altogether.
The money angle is an interesting one. BCCI has had issues with Cricket West Indies (the erstwhile West Indies Cricket Board) for some time now. It is no secret that the CWI is broke and just does not have enough money to run the game in a better fashion.
Most of the islands have negligible populations by Indian standards. The last thing these locals want is to pay good money to watch their team getting walloped time and again. The first four ODIs have been played to empty stands, with even the Indian diaspora in North and Central America opting to stay away. Additionally, this is not winter time in the Northern Hemisphere. Otherwise, plenty of tourists from England and the US would have flocked to these islands during the January-April period in search of a tan. Many would have bought expensive cricket tickets and worked on their tans while taking in the match.
All the advertisement displays are Indian and targeted at the television audience in India. Thus West Indies has nothing to offer by way of revenue generation. On the other hand, this short series will be a bonanza for their board, especially the millions of dollars they would make from television rights.
It may be recalled that the West Indies players aborted a tour of India in 2014 over a pay dispute with the then WICB. A miffed BCCI sought $42 million to compensate the losses suffered. That claim was hanging like a sword over CWI’s head until the BCCI, headed by Shashank Manohar, dropped the claim for damages last year. Manohar stated that the Windies would return and play the remaining matches at a later date. The fact is that the West Indies would have dropped everything to come and play in India anytime the BCCI wanted, simply because a tour of India or by India is very lucrative to other cricket boards. So they are not exactly doing Indian cricket a favour by "coming back later" to complete the schedule!
More recently, in March, the CoA cleared guarantee money payments to Cricket South Africa and the West Indies. These had been held back by former BCCI office-bearers for non-performance of agreement.
Thus, it would be very embarrassing for the BCCI if CWI once again chose to delay or renege on payments. Johri’s trip to the Caribbean is expected to dwell on this too.
Of late, Indian cricket has taken a lot of financial blows. The new revenue sharing formula of the ICC is expected to hit BCCI to the tune of $205 million; the disastrous termination of IPL team Kochi Tuskers might lead to a pay out in excess of Rs 538 crore. Besides, the Pakistan Cricket Board has said it will take the ICC’s help in penalising India for not playing against Pakistan. And so, the last thing the BCCI would want at this stage is another deferred payment or a default on it.
Hopefully, Johri’s strenuous trip will not have been in vain.