Many people have gone to Persia, stood in front of rocks and yelled “Open Sesame”. They’ve always gone away disappointed. But the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves endures, driven almost exclusively by stories of fabled treasures just waiting to be looted from caves.
Some of ICC’s member nations must have felt like Ali Baba’s brother Cassim when the crisis-ridden BCCI was at its weakest during the desert meeting of Arabia. In the Arabian Nights story, Cassim, who had learnt the secret of the cave from Ali Baba, took his donkey along to cart away as much of the treasure as possible. His greed killed him, for he forgot the password, could not get out and was trapped inside.
The member nations, like Cassim in the tale, decided that all they needed was the password ‘Yes’ (to ICC Board’s proposal) and they could enrich themselves with untold wealth from BCCI’s chest.
Hence, with undue haste, even as the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators was still finding its feet, the ICC member nations rushed to push through with the vote that would help carve up BCCI’s treasures for themselves.
Make no mistake, loot was what it was, this ICC Dubai meeting where member nations voted at hyper-drive speed to deprive BCCI of 34 percent – according to one calculation – of its share. A conservative estimate reveals that this loss would amount to each and every state association in India being deprived of at least Rs 100 crore.
The big joke is the ICC stating that the basis for the new financial model was developed based on "equity, good conscience, common sense and simplicity" among others. They probably forgot to add that Indians were idiotic and incapable of learning from history. Just as they had once lost an entire nation and its wealth to stealth and through Mir Jaffars, this time also the ICC could ensure the Indian board’s treasures were carved up and BCCI was brought to heel.
Lest anybody has any romantic idea of how the ICC functions, it would be prudent to point out that when India had a 100 percent chance of bagging the hosting rights for the 1996 World Cup, erstwhile ICC Chairman Colin Cowdrey of England refused to put to vote the issue of hosting of the 1996 World Cup until the hosting of the 1999 edition was handed over to England! So much for "equity, good conscience, common sense and simplicity".
In fact, over the past two decades England and Australia have been smarting that their veto powers in ICC were smashed by a strident, forward-thinking BCCI.
Now, with the turmoil within BCCI having weakened the Indian board’s decision-taking ability, the ICC moved in for the kill and presented it with a fait accompli. Additionally, it structured the revamp in such a manner that India would be boxed into a corner even if it attempts to ply away other nations by dangling prospects of bi-lateral series.
Here, mention must be made that India, along with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the southern hemisphere nations of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, have a domestic cricket season stretching from the month of October to March. Thus, these are the most sought after months for international cricket. England’s season on the other hand runs from mid-April to early September while the West Indies have a split season in the first half of the year.
India realised that it could make big money with a regular home series during the October to March months and therefore scheduled Tests, ODIs and T20 series for the 2016-17 season. Promptly various series were scheduled against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia.
These are huge money spinners and the Board is apparently keen on ensuring that its future annual home season is packed with plenty of such matches. However, ICC’s Test championship and its proposed format will play havoc with these plans. Of course India can host a few bilateral series; but just not as many as it would like.
Crucially, teams would be docked points if they failed to play each other. This clause could be used to minimise BCCI’s space to host bilateral series, for the points could be crucial for contesting Test Championship finals as well as entry to World Cup events, which are financially very lucrative to smaller countries.
Another proposal, of action against bad pitches, is loaded as well. Indian venues could be docked for providing spinning tracks but overseas pitches with excessive grass or abnormal bounce could get away. The whole concept sounds way too subjective for comfort.
But the most contentious of all is the ICC refusing to defer the vote for change to April. A postponement would have allowed India’s COA to settle down, get a grasp of the issue and plan strategies. Instead the ICC pushed through with the vote despite BCCI COA Vikram Limaye’s plea. This betrayed their nervousness at having to later confront an enlightened, empowered, and networked Board and the apprehension of what it could do to protect its interests.
Post the vote, which went 7-2 in favour of slicing away a large chunk of India’s share and distributing it among themselves, the ICC says the deed is done and dusted. Any nation was welcome to suggest tweaking of the decisions prior to the April meeting before the June-end meeting effectively ratified it.
However, this timeline minimises BCCI’s options. By the time the London meeting takes place in June, the Champions Trophy 2017 in England would have been completed and BCCI would not be able to utilise their participation in it as a bargaining chip.
Limaye, who now has firsthand knowledge of the desperate hurry with which the ICC wants to ram changes down an embattled BCCI’s throat, must goad the COA to do all it can to ring fence BCCI’s interests from modern-day Cassims – even if that calls for a boycott of this year’s Champions Trophy. Will the COA bite the bullet in the eternal interests of Indian cricket? Wait and watch.