Four years ago, Team India won the Champions Trophy in England. A remarkable win that seemed unlikely at one moment, when Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara were in complete control. Most cricket fans remember the 18th over of the rain-curtailed game, bowled by Ishant Sharma, where he picked up two crucial wickets and turned the tide back in favour of his team.
A lot of us would also clearly remember the winning moment, with Ashwin bowling the last ball and MS Dhoni leaping in pure joy. The celebrations went on with several players showing their dance moves and a number of us replicating the same in our living rooms late that night. Such wonderful memories.
But, how many of us remember the prize money the team got for winning that tournament? How does it even matter you may ask. Hold on to that thought.
Over the past decade or so, a narrative has been built by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that cricket is thriving in India, reflected by the huge amounts of money that the sporting body has earned and put back in. Nothing could be further from the truth. While pumping money back into the game does help, cricket’s growth in India is fuelled mainly by the love and support of the fans.
In the 1990s, television saw an unprecedented growth in India and private channels started showing cricket round the clock to an eager fan base, making the game even more popular and filling the BCCI’s coffers.
While BCCI would claim that it gave its blood, sweat and tears into taking the game forward, their only contribution was being there to sell TV rights to the highest bidder, shake hands, and collect the cheque.
If you have ever been to watch a Test match in an Indian stadium, you would be quick to admit that cricket’s growth in India is despite the BCCI, not because of them. A lot of stadiums are in desperate need of renovation and better facilities; and, even though BCCI doesn’t own them, they can still put some money into improving their condition.
The fans, who turn up at the stadiums to support their team, are routinely at the bottom of BCCI’s priority list. We all remember the ticketing fiasco during last year’s T-20 World Cup, when BCCI started selling tickets less than two weeks before the tournament.
When the tournament started, some fans who turned up at a game in Nagpur to buy tickets were hurled back unceremoniously. If BCCI claims to represent the strongest cricketing fan base in the world then surely it can do something to make sure that they also provide them with the best cricket stadiums in the world.
Coming back to the point about prize money, BCCI has made it their full-time job to earn money and maximise their profits. They are supposed to be the guardians of the game, but they act like its proprietors, leasing out their players in exchange for cash.
The recent turn of events, where BCCI has been asking for a larger share of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) profit is just another example of the body's greed. If ICC is making money by selling a product to Indian television audience, does it give the BCCI the right to bully them for a bigger revenue share?
Do we have to hail BCCI and sing paeans, thanking and admiring them every time we see some cricket on TV? Cricket Australia earns money by selling TV rights for the Big Bash to Indian channels. Will BCCI ask for a cut in Cricket Australia’s share as well, since an Indian audience helped them earn money?
BCCI’s main job is to nurture the game and make sure that more and more young boys and girls take it up. If the game is healthy, money will automatically come. Women’s game is a huge opportunity that is constantly ignored. If Cricket Australia can do a women’s Big Bash League, why can’t a cash rich BCCI do the same, even if it doesn’t make them much money in the short term?
India is a cricketing behemoth. BCCI has the resources, now, to be the global leaders of the game. Instead of taking a protectionist approach, they should evangelise cricket to create new markets and fans.
Globally, a lot of sports recognise this. English football's strength doesn't lie in their FIFA standing, they get stronger when kids in Seoul wear Manchester United jerseys and try to emulate Wayne Rooney. A few years back, Major League Baseball sent its coaches to Manipur to spread the game and scout for new talent.
They know that their league prospers if the game is taken to newer markets. Even if it is unlikely that they will gain traction in India, they try. That’s how you grow your game. BCCI should look to play a similar role in cricket with or without ICC's help. They should look outside ICC's boardroom if they really want to grow.
And yet, instead of acting like a leader and statesman, BCCI behaves like an insecure despot. It tried to arm-twist the Supreme Court before the Rajkot Test against England last year, by claiming that they don’t have the cash to play in the Test. Now, there are reports that they plan to play hardball with ICC by pulling out of this year's Champions Trophy.
BCCI must do everything in its power to make sure Indian cricket fans are never deprived of the sport they love. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t negotiate more agreeable terms for them with the Supreme Court or ICC.
They can look at legal angles, make alliances, and do everything in their power while not letting the game on the field get affected. Cricket fans will thank them for not having to read about legal cases and boardroom deals. It makes us uncomfortable when administrators start making headlines in cricket news, we are much happier following the players.
Updated Date: May 05, 2017 17:17 PM