The first reaction to Shashank Manohar’s decision to quit as the International Cricket Council (ICC) independent chairman was “oh! No. Not again.” There was no curiosity as to the reason he quit or even the timing of the decision. The only thought that sprung to mind was that of a habitual quitter, although to be fair he has quit only twice in the past one year and even those only when confronted with overwhelming adversity.
Last May Manohar quit as president of BCCI at a particularly awkward time. The apex body had locked horns with the Lodha Committee following its resistance to carrying out suggested reforms in toto and various affiliated state units were looking forward to guidance and leadership from the BCCI president, a lawyer by profession.
But Manohar gave the impression that he was deserting a sinking ship when he declared his inability to carry out the reforms and opted to move to the safer confines of the ICC.
It was in his role as ICC Chairman that he particularly infuriated BCCI members. He had openly stated that the BCCI had to look out for itself and he would not do that as he was an independent chairman.
However, many believed that he had a hand in ensuring that BCCI was not in proposed key ICC committees, including the finance committee. This snub to the BCCI was despite India contributing 80 per cent of the revenue to world cricket.
He claimed that he had big plans for the ICC but a lot of that was designed at reducing revenue distribution for India. He dismantled the ‘Big Three’ concept claiming that it was unfair to other ICC members. It deprived India of millions of dollars of its share of revenue.
Indeed the ICC’s proposed redrawing of revenue rights hit India the most. The Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators who had just taken over the task of administering Lodha reforms to BCCI were shocked at ICC’s haste to bring in changes despite being told that the COA were very new to the job and needed time to study the issues.
ICC’s proposed changes were approved 7-2 in that Dubai meeting but they still needed to be passed at the London meeting of the ICC scheduled for June. India, meanwhile, were furious that their request for a postponement of the reforms was not accepted.
Over time it became clear that the ICC wanted to strike at India’s power base at a time when the Board was rudderless. And it thought that the time was now.
But a series of events caught them on the back foot. Sections of the Indian media who were rooting for slamming the BCCI, gradually realised that a weak BCCI was not in the interests of Indian cricket. Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh who were literally bankrupt realised that being on the right side of the BCCI would be more beneficial to them.
South Africa who sought to launch their own T20 league on the lines of the IPL needed Indian support and help with franchises, sponsors and others and the goodwill of the BCCI was key to all these. The Australian Cricket Board which had made huge profits when India toured them last wanted them over for a series of ODIs after the Ashes series next season. They too needed BCCI’s goodwill.
South Africa’s Haroon Logart camped in India last month for a series of meetings while ACB’s James Sutherland is currently building bridges with the BCCI.
In fact the winds of change are favouring BCCI so strongly that it is widely believed that the ICC’s proposed Test Championship, constitutional and financial reforms awaiting voting in England in June will be hit for a six!
Any proposed change in format requires a 2/3rds majority for it to be carried and BCCI sources believe that they can count on at least six votes to stymie it.
Shashank Manohar probably read the direction of the winds in time and decided to tuck in his sails. He quit again, when just ten months into a two-year term.
However, Manohar’s quitting might be good for Indian cricket. Theoretically the ICC can choose an interim chairman from the executive committee to run the show until the next elections. BCCI is not in the executive committee and hence the Chairman would come from elsewhere. But would he follow a stridently anti-BCCI line? Unlikely. If anything Shanshank Manohar’s quitting would have alerted the interim chairman to the dangers of working against Indian interests. That’s good for sure.