The recent episodes involving the ICC and the BCCI are eerily reminiscent of the manner in which the erstwhile colonian power England tucked into India. England enriched itself by looting India for two centuries, while sadistically hailing it as its "jewel in the crown". Of course, to facilitate this, they had to build roads leading to railway stations, and from there lay railway lines leading to ports, from where they transported the loot.
The Indians were beaten into submission, while a few collaborators were richly rewarded with titles, posts, land and money.
However, if the International Cricket Council thought that it could now treat the Board of Control for Cricket in India as a doormat while exploiting its substantial resources, it has another thought coming. Despite being hampered by the Lodha Committee report, hanging like a Damocles' sword over the head of some of its office-bearers, the BCCI has stirred itself in an effort to protect the interests of Indian cricket.
India contributes over 70 percent to the revenues of world cricket, and does so because of the systematic manner in which successive BCCI administrators have gone about nurturing the market. Even in times of extreme hardship, many former office-bearers revealed exemplary vision and leadership in steering the ship, and this is the main reason why cricket is as popular as it is among Indians.
This sustained drive, along with numerous initiatives, including the IPL, yielded rich dividends and should be seen as a feather in BCCI's cap.
It would not be out of place to point out that in the not so distant past, Indian cricketers were handed out a paltry daily allowance of five pounds on tours to England and had to depend on a generous expatriate population to finance their meals on non-match days.
That the BCCI has finally managed to go from a relatively impoverished board to an infinitely richer one whereby it looks after its cricketers handsomely is a tribute to the administrative skills of some of its past office-bearers.
Internationally too, the BCCI mounted an intense campaign to break the veto powers of England and Australia and made the ICC a far more democratic body. But obviously, old habits die hard.
The ICC, probably emboldened by the fact that the Lodha committee interventions would have the BCCI at its most vulnerable and indecisive phase, shut it out of the finance committee and even the executive committee.
A peeved BCCI saw this as a deliberate insult. "These are the committees where all important decisions are taken — finance, commerce and chief executives committee; India not having a representative (in those committees) is a humiliation for us. We will tell the ICC, 'Either you amend this or we will decide what to do to protect India's cricket interests globally'," BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke is reported to have told The Indian Express.
He hinted that the BCCI might pull out of the Champions Trophy to be staged in England next year. Such a move would certainly be a body blow for the ICC, as most of the big sponsors would simply stay away or negotiate a substantially lower price if India did not take part.
Additionally, the BCCI has also objected to the $135 million earmarked for the 18-match event, as against the $45 million budget for the 58-match ICC-run World T20 Championship held in India earlier this year. The difference in costing per match is humongous: $7.5 million per match against $ 776,000.
Of course, the World T20 event in India was run on a shoestring budget. One official revealed that things were so bad that they were sent only 30 towels to be used by cricketers over six matches and were asked to launder the towels for re-use after each match. One livid state association procured dozens of towels on its own to augment the 30. Another said that the look and feel of hospitality areas were below average, while the fare served was frugal. When this was pointed out, they were told that "this was not the IPL"!
More recently, the ICC was beaten back when the BCCI saw its two-tier Test ploy as an effort to snatch away its overseas television rights. BCCI insists that bilateral series rights rests with the two engaging countries and it will not sign it away.
It is obvious that the ICC, by these recent manoeuvres, has unnecessarily triggered a controversy that might well engulf world cricket. Whoever is responsible for initiating this latest affront to Indian cricket did not possibly think it through. If it leads to the BCCI pulling out of the Champions Trophy, it would set off chaos the likes of which the ICC has not seen since the days of Kerry Packer's raid on cricket.
The ICC, for the good of the game, must come down hard on whoever plotted its latest misadventure and eject such persons from the system. The game has no place for such subversives. Meanwhile, as for our man, ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, he must have realised that there is much truth in the Shakespearean line "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown".