Is the BCCI president in South Africa?

Shashank Manohar hates international travel. The president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India takes great pride in the fact that he has stuck to his simple way of life despite rising high in his career. Stories of how he barely uses a mobile phone and does not go abroad unless avoidable are fashionable and perennially in vogue, but just for once you wish it wasn’t so.

At a time when Indian cricket has lost its most glitzy administrator – Lalit Modi – the Board would do well to send some emissaries to South Africa when the football World Cup is on. In India, for the best part of the year, cricket dominates the sporting landscape, with fans of other sport cringing when they open the sports pages of newspapers only to find cricket everywhere. On television it’s no different, with cricketers’ exploits on and off the field leaving little airtime for other sports.

But, every four years, for a month or so, something strange happens. For a country ranked a lowly 133, the population is disproportionately taken up with the beautiful game. Everyone with any interest in sport has childhood stories of how they stayed up late to watch one South American legend or the other hold the world in thrall.

When the IPL happens, there is a media blitz, with all franchises going into overdrive on marketing their teams and players. There’s a noise level that makes it impossible for anyone to avoid looking at the tournament.

But, with the football World Cup, there isn’t such a cynical or orchestrated drive to push the game down consumers’ throats. It’s genuine interest and eagerness – made doubly special by the fact that hardly anyone follows inter-country football inbetween tournaments – to watch matches and discover fresh stars.

The tournament itself seems to be an incredibly special affair, with anyone who has been present at the venues returning touched in one way or another. The logistics and organisation are at a scale matched only by the Olympics and the kind of fan support – and nothing is cheap at a World Cup venue – has to be seen to be believed.

For their part, the BCCI believe the world begins and ends with cricket. Through the year they talk about what they have achieved and how the game is growing almost uncontrollably in India. While this is true in most aspects, there’s certainly a lot the Board can learn about an event, a game, its stakeholders, and the relationships that bind them together.

For that reason alone, the Board, who enjoy an excellent rapport with their counterparts in South Africa, should have been at Johannesburg and Capetown and elsewhere, just to get a feel of what a tournament like this can do. With the cricket World Cup coming to India (and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) next year, any opportunity at advance learning would have been welcome.

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