BCCI Consensus, Not Confrontation, Needed
Trust the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).There is never a dull moment while writing or reporting on and about it. The World’s richest cricket board is always in the news some time for right and mostly for wrong reasons.
In a small club which forms the International Cricket Council (ICC), cash rich Indian board’s domination is very pronounced and loud. The Indian Premier League (IPL) run by it has become such a successful financial brand that every cricketer and official (from across the globe) wants to be a part of it.
Several cricketers have become “freelancers”, with the clear intent of playing only in the IPL like tournaments and are ready to risk their place in their own national side. Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga is the latest example. Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi who after a bitter feud with PCB has announced that he will not play for his country but has expressed his desire to be a part of the IPL and same is the case with controversial Shoaib Akhtar.
It is no secret that apart from India, only three other boards, South Africa, Australia and England are financially sound, rest all other are facing crunch. New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Pakistan and Bangladesh are looking at either the ICC or the BCCI to bail them out.
BCCI despite its clout is not known for diplomatic finesse. There is no love lost betwee n it and Pakistani and Bangladesh boards and now it is heading towards confrontation with Sri Lankan Cricket Board. BCCI has decided not to allow any Indian player to participate in the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) though initially the Indian board had given this league its approval saying: “It had no problems with the proposed league and that Indian players are free to take part, as long as there is no conflict with India’s international or domestic schedule.”
Sri Lankan cricket which is facing a grave financial crisis decided to organise a T20 league featuring their top players as well as internationals from India, Australia, Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa to improve its bank balance.
The two-week long SLPL schedule from July 20 will be conducted by a Singapore-based private company, Somerset Entertainment Ventures (SEV) which will issue the player contracts, something the Indian board believes could lead to complications for the players. According to the BCCI, the decision was taken to protect the players from finding themselves in a tricky situation. BCCI president Shashank Manohar said: “In the IPL, the players are contracted by the BCCI, but the SLPL is offering contracts with the event management company. So, if there is any goof-up, Sri Lanka Cricket Board cannot be held accountable. As a result, the board [BCCI] would not like to take any chances. He added: “The board’s policy is not to allow players to take part in private party-organised tournaments.” Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Manish Pandey and Paul Valthaty, are the 12 Indians who were to play in the SLPL.
Manohar said that he did not expect the Sri Lanka board to retaliate by refusing permission to the island nation’s players from taking part in the BCCI-owned and run IPL. However there are no takers for this BCCI explanation because everybody knows that Indian board has suddenly become suspects that the SEV to be a front of ‘disgraced” former IPL czar Lalit Modi as several of his close associates are working in this company.
The BCCI is not prepared to give any lifeline to Lalit Modi which may enable the former IPL chief to return to cricket’s centre stage even through back door. The tournament, which will have five regional teams led by senior Sri Lankan cricketers, is the latest in a series of Twenty20 leagues, with some degree of international participation, that have been created over the past few years.
It was known from the very start that the league will be run by the Singapore-based Somerset Entertainment. It approached around 35 international players including Yuvraj Singh, Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Yusuf Pathan and Shahid Afridi, and most of Sri Lanka’s leading cricketers.
SPINELESS PEOPLE RUNNING THE BCCI: LALIT MODI
Former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi has rubbished the charge that he is the master mind behind the organisation of the Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL) and criticised the BCCI for barring the Indian players from participating, in it.
“It seems best way to scuttle any plans to say Lalit Modi is behind it. Good to know that just mentioning my name can send a shiver down their spines,” Modi wrote on his Twitter page. “Guess they are a bunch of spineless people running the show. Who have no clue as to what to do not that they ever had. I had to do it for them,” he said.
Media reports had claimed that the reason why the BCCI refused to permit Indian players to participate in the league was because it believed that Modi might be involved in its organisation. “It just shows that Mandarins at BCCI have no clue what is happening in the cricket world. They can’t see beyond their own shadow,” Modi wrote.
Modi also accused the BCCI of arm-twisting International Cricket Council (ICC) into changing its constitution in order to derail the ‘rebel’ Indian Cricket League (ICL). ICL was financed by Essel Group owned by industrialist Subhash Chandra and India’s 1983 World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev was its executive board chairman.
“When I was at BCCI—the mandate given then was to scuttle ICL. BCCI arm twisted every cricket board and ICC to change there constitution,” Modi wrote on his ‘Twitter’ account. “ICC set up a three-member committee with me, Giles Clarke (England and Wales Cricket Board president) and Norman Arendse (of Cricket South Africa) to draft the new constitution,” Modi tweeted. “ICC used Bird and Bird, a UK-based law firm, to ensure regulations to stop ICL.
The three-member team worked with them. We drafted the same and then BCCI ensured it was approved and implemented with lightening speed. Result: Demise of ICL,” Modi tweeted. He admitted that played a big role to scuttle the ICL. “Yes, I was part of BCCI and ICC when these decisions were taken. Yes, I admit it was a mistake to have systematically used everything in BCCI’s arsenal to finish ICL. Yes, we as BCCI called all and sundry to oppose ICL. Cricket associations were told not to give their grounds,” he said.
“The constitution of every board was changed and ICC made ICL redundant by its act—by making it unauthorized cricket. Worldwide anti competition laws were studied and finally thou against most Laws—the ICC changed there constitution to protect its members,” he wrote.
“Advertisers were called and told if they advertised on ICL then they would have been barred from all BCCI cricket. Players were told do not play for ICL or risk being blacklisted. BCCI had to implement this through a change of constitution,” Modi disclosed.
“BCCI even terminated Zee Sports’ contract unfairly as they had launched ICL and BCCI wanted a window for IPL. Commentators were called and told not to associate with ICL or BCCI will ensure we will not take you… BCCI even went to the extent of blacklisting suppliers like TV production companies and event managers.” (HSB)
It is also likely to draw in several players who are no longer active in international cricket. Shoaib Akhtar is one player who is understood to be a certainty for the tournament and Herschelle Gibbs is also believed to have been approached.
The BCCI’s stand has left the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) seething with anger. It has rejected Indian board’s claim that the SLPL is a private-party organised tournament, saying that the SLPL is owned and approved by SLC—and so, automatically, by the ICC—and that Singapore-based Somerset Ventures only owns the commercial rights to the tournament.
“This tournament is approved by SLC,” Its secretary Nishantha Ranatunga said, adding “And Somerset is the marketing arm, having won the rights through a tender process. Nobody can say it is owned by Somerset. Somerset is responsible for the logistics and marketing of the tournament, a role similar to the one IMG plays for the IPL. And unlike in the IPL where the teams are owned by private franchises, it is SLC that owns the seven teams in the tournament and will determine which players are assigned to which teams, thereby giving them a substantial degree of control over the event.”
The sudden volte-face by the BCCI has left SLC surprised and hurt. Ranatunga said, “Whatever the concerns that they have, we need to give them an explanation. It is very important to have those [Indian players] as they add a lot of value and glamour to the tournament.”
However the BCCI’s contention that SLPL will be organised by a “private party” has been put into sharp focus with the winner of the SLPL being included in the 2011 Champions League Twenty20 tournament – an event that is jointly owned by the boards of India, Australia and South Africa. A press release issued by the CLT20 said a six-team qualifying tournament this year would feature a team from Sri Lanka and teams from India, West Indies, New Zealand and England. According to Nishantha Ranatunga, as far as SLC is concerned, it is the winner of the SLPL that will play in the CLT20.
However, SLC was candid enough to accept the fact that it is India on which it is banking on to stay afloat financially adding that it would need “two or three tours” by Team India to manage its finances.
“There is no financial crisis,” asserted Sujeewa Rajapaksa, the SLC treasurer. He said that slight problems arose when the SLC was forced to incur additional expenditure on hosting the World Cup after Pakistan’s games were shifted to the island nation. Rs 4.4 billons were spent on the three World Cup venues—well above the estimated Rs 3.2 billion.
This shows India’s cricketing prowess. But again the general view of the cricket’s buffs is that India should welcome the new T20 leagues in Australia and Sri Lanka. Cricket would be far better off financially if each of the leading cricket nations had a high profile league (as is the case in soccer) and it would increase the game’s appeal to the public around the world.
India need not fear the prospect competition—the IPL will surely remain the premier T20 league in the world since no other nation can match them financially.
The SLPL can still be a success without Indian players. It is still going to have most of the Pakistan national team players and this should create a lot of interest in the SLPL in cricket-crazy Pakistan; and one has to wonder how much interest a few Indian would have created in India. However, the Indian board’s attitude towards the league is far more important to the league’s long term success.
It is high time the BCCI became more accommodative towards its neighbours. It needs to evolve a policy of consensus rather confrontation.
By Harpal Singh Bedi