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The anti-Srinivasan: Shashank Manohar says Big Three should not bully ICC

Shashank Manohar is on a roll. The new BCCI president, and ICC chairman, has already ushered in slew of reforms for the BCCI. Now he has gone another step further and slammed the Big Three takeover of the ICC that was masterminded by his predecessor, N Srinivasan, last year.

Srinivasan had defended the changes that gave India, England and Australia all the power, and the greater share of the money, by claiming they secured the financial future of the game and the nation’s that play it. It was spin, of course, as Manohar’s comments make clear.

“I don’t agree with the revenue-sharing formula, because it’s nice to say that India (BCCI) will get 22 per cent of the total revenue of the ICC, but you cannot make the poor poorer and the rich richer, only because you have the clout,” Manohar told The Hindu in an interview, remarkable for the frankness of his answers.

 The anti-Srinivasan: Shashank Manohar says Big Three should not bully ICC

BCCI president Shashank Manohar. PTI

“Secondly there is another angle to it which nobody has thought of. India generates money because the other countries come and play in India. If you do not have a fierce competition, the broadcasters are not going to pay you and the sponsors are not going to sponsor your events.”

Manohar’s comments are a hurricane of fresh air after the obfuscation and opacity of the Srinivasan-era. And he makes a crucial point. If the quality of cricket is poor, why would people watch? And if people don’t watch, broadcasters are not going to pay exorbitant sums to televise matches. That’s why sports has to be run more like a socialist republic than a capitalistic one. Redistribution and limits on growth help create a level playing field, which is essential for sports to be compelling. There’s a reason Zimbabwe and Bangladesh tours to India don’t generate the kind of excitement and revenue that Australia, England or South Africa do. The quality of cricket is better (though judging from the current India – South Africa series, that’s not a given either).

It is in this contest that an India vs Pakistan series gains even greater importance. Pakistan is a team without a country and the PCB constantly struggles for funds. Yet somehow under Misbah-ul-Haq, the team has climbed to No. 2 in the Test rankings. A full series against India would not only go a long way towards helping Pakistan financially, a Test series would also offer a number of mouth-watering contests – imagine Misbah and Younis Khan against R Ashwin, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan against Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, and Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane against Yasir Shah. It is a mouth-watering prospect.

During Manohar’s first tenure as BCCI president, India regularly played Sri Lanka when their board was in financial trouble because it overspent on constructing stadiums for the 2011 World Cup. The BCCI knew it also benefitted if it helped out its island neighbour. No wonder then that Sri Lanka currently appears to be the likeliest destination for a shortened India-Pakistan series. Should it take place, three Asian countries coming together to help each other out would be a nice example of how co-operation can improve the game.

Manohar also took aim at the Big Three’s grasp over world cricket.

“I don’t agree with the three major countries bullying the ICC,” Manohar said. “That’s my personal view, because as I have always said, an institution is bigger than individuals. You cannot guarantee which individual will occupy the top position in either of these countries. And, the ICC constitution, as it stands today, says that in all the major committees of the ICC, these three countries will be automatically there. So all the financial and commercial aspects and the executive committee will be controlled by the representatives of these three countries which according to me is wrong.

“You should have the best man, whether he comes from Zimbabwe, or West Indies, or even from an associate or affiliate to work on a committee, who will promote the interests of the ICC.”

The irony here is that the BCCI did away with the system of rotating its presidency by zone primarily because of the same logic – the best man for the job might not belong to that particular zone. And Srinivasan was instrumental in pushing for that change. Yet at the global level, that logic went out the window. Here again, Manohar’s comments expose the changes for what they really were – a way for Srinivasan to retain control of affairs.

He also pointed out that he is now in the peculiar situation of having to protect the interests of the BCCI and ICC. In the past, whomever was elected ICC president had to resign from their member board, but that is no longer the case.

“If there is a conflict between the interest of the BCCI and the ICC, I will have to protect the interest of the BCCI,” Manohar said. “Then I am failing in my duty, sitting there as chairman of the ICC and not protecting its interests. “

To be sure, Manohar made it clear that these are his personal views and since he has only six or seven months left as chairman, he can’t promise change. But just by speaking out, he has already made a difference. He has removed the fig leaf that shroudded the Big Three’s takeover and left it exposed for all to see. It also sends a powerful signal that the ICC is flawed and needs to be fixed (the ICC is hardly in a position to disavow the comments of its chairman).

If Srinivasan is the villain of the piece, then Manohar is fast becoming the hero who rides in to save the day.

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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2015 07:37:43 IST