If cricket has to live in India, the BCCI's monopoly must die

After six straight and humiliating defeats on overseas soil, it is clear that Indian cricket needs a complete overhaul. It is a shame that a country of 1.2 billion people cannot produce 11 competent cricketers who can take on the world.

No one is expecting an unbeatable champion team forever, but a team like the one we sent to England and Australia we can do without.

There are, of course, many suggestions for improvements. Some have said we have too much cricket (so the players are tired). But if cricket is a vocation, a job, why do cricketers expect a long vacation? Some say we pick the wrong teams (too many oldies, and not enough young blood), and some say Indians are not mentally primed for being winners.

All these points are valid. But they miss the big picture. There is a structural problem at the bottom of it all: the monopoly of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

If this monopoly survives, Indian cricket is as good as dead.

The one lesson that is true for all times is that monopolies don't produce the best products or results. State monopolies did not give us efficient energy, telecom or aviation sectors. We got loss-making SEBs, BSNL and Air India. Microsoft's domination of the desktop computer through Windows operating systems did not produce the best software. The US's monopoly of geopolitical power during 1990-2010 only brought us more war and political strife.

The purpose of a monopoly is to retain power — and use that power to make money. It is not about serving customers. And this is exactly what the BCCI is doing – using its monopoly in India to perpetuate its power and money-making abilities. Whether it is at the level of the International Cricket Council (ICC), or in India, the BCCI has stopped being a force for the good of cricket.

There is only one remedy for this: break the monopoly. This can be done either through government fiat, or by big business investing in a rival organiser of cricket in India, which can then lobby the ICC to allow more teams from India to compete.

 If cricket has to live in India, the BCCIs monopoly must die

The government should step in and tell the ICC that BCCI will not be the only representative of cricket in India. Reuters

One such threat emerged five years ago when Subhash Chandra of Zee TV launched his Indian Cricket League (ICL). It flopped because it was the right idea with the wrong strategy.

There are only two ways to challenge a monopoly: either outspend it consistently for years till you succeed, or to not challenge it at all and focus on the fringes — like school or college cricket, with the hope that one day this will become as big as the big league cricket which is the BCCI's monopoly.

What Subhash Chandra did was neither. His ICL failed to put in the big bucks to entice star names for its T20 championship. ICL roped in retired stars like Kapil Dev to run the show, but did not invest at all in a Sachin or a Dravid or a Sehwag. Without star power, public interest did not sustain.

In fact, BCCI jumped in quickly to capitalise on ICL’s bloomer. With Lalit Modi at the helm, it launched its own Indian Premier League (IPL), complete with all the razzmatazz of a Bollywood event and big cricket stars. In less than three years, ICL was dead.

The death of ICL has actually made BCCI more arrogant. Which is why it is even more important to break its monopoly.

At the very least, the government should step in and tell the ICC that BCCI will not be the only representative of cricket in India. It can back this threat by either backing a rival league, or refusing political permission for ICC events in India.

Other corporate backers — even state backers — should be allowed to play with their own teams in international cricket. If an ICC can accept three teams from Britain (MCC, Ireland and Scotland), or even a Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Holland, or Kenya (all sub-par teams), there is no reason why India cannot field four to five international teams.

In fact, BCCI’s India XI can be complemented in international games with a Bharat XI, or even a state-level team backed by the right resources. Consider the possibility of a Mumbai Indians team, bankrolled by an Ambani, playing at an international event and competing with the BCCI XI, Australia or England.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the second eleven did better than BCCI's jaded teams. But I wouldn't be surprised if BCCI suddenly started doing the right thing and began to think money and promote cricket.

Cricket in India needs more internal competition. India is where the money to promote cricket lies. It is the wrong place to bury cricket.

 

 

Updated Date: Jan 07, 2012 13:06:04 IST