Cricket

Asia Cup 2018: Broadcasters' interference in team selection a bad practice; BCCI must set rules to guard committee from corruption

  • Vedam Jaishankar
  • September 18th, 2018
  • 14:28:04 IST

If you thought ‘super selector’ was just a fantasy cricket game on television you have another thought coming. There is a lot more to the nomenclature super selector if a report in a Mumbai newspaper is anything to go by.

The bone of contention between the host broadcaster of the Asia Cup and the Board of Control for Cricket in India is the selection, or rather non-selection, of Virat Kohli for the Asia Cup cricket tournament currently in progress in UAE.

Kohli, as the broadcaster is at pains to point out, “has been the most prolific run scorer in world cricket in the recent past.” They rightly claim that “his presence in the Indian team and his aggressive captaincy has a dramatic impact on the outcome of each event.”

File image of Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli. Reuters

File image of Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli. Reuters

Certainly there is no argument on that. But what came as a bit of a shock is BCCI, through its CEO, having to justify its choice of team to the broadcaster and inform them that it “is the best available team.”

This brings us to a very crucial question: why was the remote control, sorry veto, of the selection of India’s players handed to the broadcaster?

The broadcaster writes that the media rights agreement of 2017 with the Asian Cricket Council “requires that the ACC ensures that the best available teams from each participating nation, including India, should form a part of the Asia Cup.”

It probably felt that it had to protect its property thus and went on to claim that his absence from the tournament “is a serious dent to us and will severely impact our ability to monetize and generate revenues from the tournament.”

The cynic would believe the broadcaster is positioning itself to get a reduction in media rights fees or even get another tournament or match thrown in to make up for any perceived loss. However that is not the issue here.

The astonishing aspect of the whole exchange of communication is that there is a clause in the media rights agreement that assures the broadcaster each country would field its best available team!

Is such a clause part of FIFA or UEFA European Championship or Davis Cup or International Olympic Committee’s agreement with their respective broadcasters?

Can the FIFA broadcaster, for instance, demand that Neymar should be included in the Brazilian team? Or IOC broadcaster demand that Usain Bolt must be part of the Jamaican squad?

Every country’s national body, including BCCI, could be expected to field its best possible team for big events. So why does BCCI have to vouch that it did so? Was it not a given that they would have the best interests of Indian cricket in mind and hence choose the best available team?

It may be recalled that Kohli was kept out of the Test against Afghanistan to give him time to heal from an injury and thereby get him fit for the England series. Could the broadcaster have demanded his inclusion even in that Test against Afghanistan?

Other things being equal, Indian cricket officials, including selectors, cannot afford to burn out Kohli. The Board would be hoping to give him sufficient rest and time to heal from niggles and pain before the Test series against Australia in Australia, his next big assignment. He might, of course, play the home series against West Indies next month. Even if he does not, India should still be able to put it across West Indies. But can the broadcaster claim that it will lose money if Kohli does not play and hence demand that BCCI include him in the team?

Certainly interventions by the broadcaster for inclusions or exclusions of players must not be tolerated by BCCI. It is bad in practise and could give rise to all sorts of challenges if left unchecked.

It is the selection committee’s responsibility to ensure that the right team is chosen to represent India. Any broadcaster or agent or sponsor having a say over and above the selection committee is ridiculous.

It should be left to BCCI to worry and do what is best for Indian cricket. They should not go around selecting Indian teams to suit the bottom line of broadcasters or sponsors or whoever.

In this regard BCCI must set firm rules for personnel in key committees like the selection committee, cricket operations, working committee, cricket advisory committee. If any of the members of these committees have a deal with any broadcaster they must be barred from the committee for at least two years from the conclusion of their deal.

BCCI cannot afford to compromise its committees and thereby Indian cricket. Conflict of interest is a serious issue and hence a lot of attention needs to be paid to individuals’ links with any broadcaster.

The recent exchange of emails must have raised enough red flags for BCCI not to ring fence its interests. Hopefully they will bat in the best interests of Indian cricket

Updated Date: September 18, 2018 14:28:04 IST

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