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Turmoil In ICC, BCCI Also Faces Flak

Updated: June 25, 2011 4:51 pm

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is again in the eye of a storm. After being criticised by former England and Sri Lank captains Tony Greig and Arjuna Ranatunga, now it is under fire from Pakistan Board. The BCCI’s only fault is that it is the richest cricket board in the world, that it runs hugely successful cash-rich IPL, which gives millions not only to its own but also to the foreign players.

            It is a fact that before Jagmohan Dalmiya took over as president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in mid 90s, the cricket’s governing body had few thousand pounds in its kitty and only the lounge of the Lords to showcase. At that time, none of the ICC member could even think of travelling in business class or staying in five-star hotels.

            Dalmiya changed all that and within three years of his being at the helm of the ICC, the Council had millions (of pounds) in its bank deposits. Yes, Dalmiya was helped by the Indian business houses that went all out to sponsor the ICC events such as the World Cup, Champions Trophy and later T20 World Cup.

            The Indians soon realised their financial clout and started calling the shots. It was the sheer money power of the BCCI that forced the ICC to allot three World Cup tournaments to the sub-continent in a span of 24 years. ICC also decided that every third World Cup will be held in the subcontinent—the next is due in 2023. Also, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are to host next two T20 World Cups.

            As the Indian dominance grew in the ICC, which was but natural, given its size and contribution (financial and otherwise) to the game, there were murmurs of protests against so-called Indian hegemony. Australia was in forefront of that surreptitious movement backed by Pakistan and England, but they were not very vocal given the financial health of their respective board.

            Though Pakistan pretended to support India in the ICC, it made no secret of its annoyance when the Council decided not to hold World Cup 2011 matches in that country due to security reasons. Pakistan alleged that ICC took this decision under India’s duress and announced that it will not play any of its league matches (of the World Cup) in India and made Sri Lanka as its base venue.

            Pakistan was also sore that none of its players were picked up for the IPL and described it as a deliberate and pre-planned conspiracy, hatched at the instance of the Indian board. Not to be left behind, Arjuna Ranatunga and Tony Grieg also joined the bandwagon and started attacking the BCCI and the IPL. Ranatunga called the Indian Premier League (IPL) a “monster that will go on to destroy international cricket”. The Sri Lankan did not stop at that but went a step further calling ICC a “toothless tiger”, alleging that world cricket body is presently under the thumb of BCCI.

            What was the provocation for making such a statement was not immediately known, but Ranatunga forgot that Sri Lanka Cricket Board owes a lot to the BCCI, and should have known that if the game in the Island is flourishing, it was because of the generous financial help by the Indian Board. Ranatunga claimed that ICC’s priorities should be to look after the well-being of the game rather than dancing to the tunes of BCCI. He obviously supported Greig’s statement that if he had a say in world cricket, he would have prevented India from controlling the ICC.

            The BCCI, its captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and star Sachin Tendulkar do not trust the Decision Review System (DRS) and despite the desire of the ICC and the unanimous recommendations of the Cricket Committee, will not use it in any matches involving the Indian team.

            To that end there will be no DRS in this summer’s Australia-India clash. In the player survey—which excludes Indian, Pakistan and Zimbabwean players because their boards refuse to deal with players’ associations—almost every single cricketer wanted the review system used in all Tests.

            According to reports in Australian media the majority of players, like many serious commentators, believe India has too much power in world cricket. Of course, all of those players are happy to line up for the Indian board’s rupees, come IPL time. In fact, one third of them said they would retire early to cash in.

            And therein lies the dilemma of modern cricket. Still, the issue of the BCCI’s power over the modern game is attracting criticism of late. The Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) survey of 45 international players revealed that the majority (69 per cent) are not happy with the way India uses its financial power to dictate to other boards and to the ICC. “Players have highlighted that the governance of the game is a serious issue,” FICA chief Tim May said.

            Now the Pakistan board has cried foul again after the reports that the ICC is

planning a significant change to the governance of the game by scrapping the rotation policy currently in operation for appointing presidents. The move is likely to be opposed by Pakistan and Bangladesh, who are next in turn to nominate a president and vice-president.

            The proposal was discussed at an ICC governing committee meeting in Chennai recently and is likely to be approved at the annual general meeting of the Council, scheduled to be held in the last week of June in Hong Kong.

            The idea behind changing the rotation policy is that ICC does not want to have a repeat of 2010, when the candidature of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard for the ICC vice-presidency was not accepted by majority of other members. Alan Isaac of New Zealand was named in Howard’s place. If the present system remains, Isaac will take over from incumbent Sharad Pawar, followed by a nominee from Pakistan/Bangladesh in 2015.

            In 2007, the post of vice-president, to be nominated by a pair of countries, was also created. Australia-New Zealand, West Indies-England, India-Sri Lanka, Pakistan-Bangladesh and South Africa-Zimbabwe form the pairs. Former ICC chief Ehsan Mani has sharply criticised ICC president Sharad Pawar for the move of scrapping the rotational policy for appointment of presidents after 2015, alleging that India might have initiated it.

            Nine out of ten Test playing nations have reportedly signed on the ICC’s proposal to change the rotational policy and Mani termed it unusual. The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) president Ijaz Butt fears that this may be an attempt to sideline it at a time when Pakistan cricket is struggling to come to terms with one controversy after another.

Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) chief Ahmed Mustafa Kamal also opposed the scraping of rotation policy saying: “We want one cycle of the president rotation policy to be completed. Pakistan’s Ehsan Mani already had a chance to be president and now we want one nominee from Bangladesh for the vice-president and then the president’s post at the ICC.”

            Another reason for PCB to worry is the move by the ICC to amend its constitution which would allow the governing body to suspend a member in case of government interference in the running of a national cricket board

The Pakistan board has sent a legal notice to the ICC raising questions—and threatening legal action—about a proposed amendment to the ICC’s constitution.

            According to wellknown cricket writer of Pakistan Osman Samiuudin, the amendment has been proposed at an ICC executive board meeting in February by the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt himself.

            The PCB is one of the boards directly affected by the amendment. Its constitution

states that the President of the country is the patron of the board and the sole authority in hiring or firing the chairman. Nor are elections of any kind held. A number of members of the governing board—the executive body—are appointed by the chairman and all must be approved by the President.

            This, the PCB argues in its legal notice, could result in its suspension, even permanent expulsion, for the changes are tantamount to asking the board to throw the patron out of the constitution.

            It’s not the Pakistan alone. Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is an interim body, whose major decisions are taken by the ministry, which also has the power to disband the board entirely. In Bangladesh, all board presidents are government-appointed. Thus, any given BCB administration reflects the prevailing political situation. The current president Mustafa Kamal is a sitting member of parliament. The BCCI would also come on the radar.

            The PCB argues the amendment is prejudicial because it affects only some members, “i.e., those member boards that are currently elected will not be affected,” the notice says. Also, the PCB says it has “nothing whatsoever to do with the objects of the company, which are promotion of … cricket. It is a nakedly political measure.”        It has also been pointed out that holding even domestic tournaments in Pakistan (or for that matter in India) often requires assistance from the provincial or federal government to provide security.

            The ICC says that there will be strict definitions of interference, to do with appointments in the board and its administration only. The ICC is keen to bring cricket in line with other prominent sports bodies such as FIFA and the IOC. However, the PCB feels that it being victimised, this is the fallout, from John Howard’s non-appointment in June 2010.

            Since October 2008, the PCB has steadily lost allies in the ICC. Relations with the

BCCI depend on political developments. The rest of the Asian bloc is not as solidly behind it as it once was, as the withdrawal of support from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh on this issue is also made clear.

            The England Cricket Board, at best, remains cool after the fracas last summer when Butt clumsily accused the England team of match-fixing, only to apologise subsequently. Cricket Australia were not happy after the Howard rebuff and now, after the thinly veiled accusations of the legal notice, their attitude is not likely to soften.

By Harpal Singh Bedi

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