If BCCI is kicking the cricket world around, so what? Every Indian should support it
I’m loving it – BCCI’s dominance of world cricket is making me feel good.
I’m also getting very angry – at the Indian media blindly replicating the angst of the recently disenfranchised English and Australian cricket establishment.
I can’t, for the world of me, understand why Indians would want to object to a world cricketing order dominated by India.
After all, what’s the alternative?
Reverting to an order dominated by England and Australia? These two founding members of the then Imperial Cricket Council had run cricket the way Britain ran its Empire – with utter disdain for the opinions of other nations.
So, their criticism of BCCI and its methods strikes me as rich.
But why am I surprised?
No ruling elite anywhere in the world has ever surrendered its privileges without a squeak.
Why should England and Australia be different?
Admittedly, the BCCI shows off its clout with as much finesse and subtlety as a herd of wild elephants in a sugarcane field but there’s little any of the other ICC members can do about it.
Except whine, all the time!
And growl, occasionally!
From what I’ve gathered from people who know, none of the other cricket boards like the BCCI or its ways. But they keep quiet because they know which side of their bread is buttered.
At least, playing ball with BCCI ensures an occasional tour by the Indian team, which virtually guarantees millions of dollars in television revenues – and provides the wherewithal to sustain the game… till the next Indian visit.
Playing along with the English and Australian boards will only get them lectures, but no material benefits.
It’s an axiom: He who pays the piper calls the tune.
India generates 75-80% of global revenues for cricket.
So, it’s just fair that the guardian of cricket in this country calls the shots in the game globally.
Let’s look at the world.
* When Britannia ruled the waves, Whitehall didn’t issue any apologies for machine gunning unarmed natives and aborigines from Africa to Australia, from Jordan to Jalianwalabagh;
* The United States has never said sorry for bullying everyone to submission at the United Nations;
* China doesn’t seek anyone’s permission before hectoring its neighbours;
* And the former Soviet Union didn’t seek anyone’s permission before occupying east Europe and imposing its will across its sphere of influence.
That’s the way the powerful behave.
It’s the guiding principle of the natural world. The big fish eat the small fry.
And if the world is always going to be divided into rulers and the ruled, I know which side I want my country to be.
I agree that it’s repugnant… that we need to change an unjust global order, treat all nations as equals and all that idealist kind of stuff…
But it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.
I’m sure the global order will some day resemble a round table – where no nation dominates. But till that happens, I want to see India at, or near, the head of every table it sits on.
It’s the only way it can set, or, at least, influence the agenda to its advantage.
It’s the way the world has always functioned. It’s the way the world will always be.
India is still some distance from achieving this status in the United Nations and other global bodies.
But it has attained it in cricket.
The English board, in particular, and Cricket Australia, to a marginally lesser extent, and players, commentators and former administrators from these countries, however, haven’t yet come to terms with the new reality.
They continue to froth in their mouths because the BCCI has refused to allow the decision review system (DRS) to be used.
The latest salvo: Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has said that the Indian board would be convinced of DRS’s utility if “some awful decisions” went against MS Dhoni’s team.
He is only repeating the harangue launched by the English media, during Team India’s disastrous tour of Ol’ Blighty last summer.
The DRS issue is only incidental. What they resent is India’s dominance of the game.
Some familiar gripes:
“International cricket as we know it, won’t survive.”
“ICC is concerned only with money.”
“There’s too much money going around in IPL.”
“Indian superstars are pampered and overpaid.”
The sub-text: India dominance is working to the detriment of the game’s traditions. Left unsaid is the fact these traditions were loaded heavily in favour of the ICC’s Anglo-Australian founders – to the visible disadvantage of all others.
Till last summer, another favourite complaint was that India didn’t really deserve its No.1 tag in Test cricket. The methodology, said self-appointed wise men like Ian Chappel, David Lloyd, Nasser Hussain and others of that ilk. But
* No one questioned the methodology when Australia dominated the rankings for close to a decade.
* No questions were asked when South Africa became No. 1 for a brief while.
* But the moment India became the top-ranked team, based on a decade-old methodology, influential commentators from England and Australia began to question the system.
* But voila: when England thrashed India last summer and wrested the Test crown (actually, a mace), all these objections about the methodology vanished – as if swept away by a magic wand.
There are other instances as well when BCCI was wrongly criticised for standing up for what was right:
* The global press wasn’t very critical of Mike Denness’s decision to sanction six Indian players in the Port Elizabeth test
* Instead, BCCI was criticised for standing up for Indian players
* In Sydney in 2007, the international press was almost unanimous in pronouncing the Indian side guilty in the Monkeygate scandal
* Very few foreign writers, with the notable exception of the late Peter Roebuck, supported the Indians, both on Monkeygate as well as on the completely inept umpiring of Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson
* When a regular judge, schooled in the intricacies of jurisprudence, overturned the ruling of match referee Mike Procter, the foreign press implied that the verdict was fixed.
Soon after these incidents, Denness and Bucknor faded away. The world press blamed BCCI.
It may be politically incorrect to suggest this, but there is an element of leftover racial arrogance in this. Why?
* All those English and Australians who criticise BCCI had/have grown up in an era when India was considered a Third World basket case, feeding its hungry poor with the grain that the US gifted under PL 480.
* Till the 1980s, many senior players from England declined to tour India.
* Australia visited this country, and hosted India, only very infrequently till the late 1990s.
* The world was used to the sight of poor Indian cricketers looking longingly at this or that English county for a contract.
* And, I remember former South African great Ali Bacher saying in an Indian television interview that he (and, presumably, they, too) remembered when Indian cricket administrators, overwhelmed by the thought of attending ICC meetings at Lord’s, were too scared even to open their mouths.
Yesterday’s cricketing superpowers, naturally, resent the fact that yesterday’s subaltern has not only found its voice, but also gained the confidence and the clout to bark out orders that they have to follow.
A large part of the credit for this should go to a much reviled figure: Jagmohan Dalmia.
Using funds generated from television rights, he turned BCCI from an also ran to the powerhouse that called the shots at ICC and even became the first person outside England, Australia and the West Indies to head the world body.
That’s when the allegations against India began to began to surface.
They completely ignored the fact that England, in particular, had blatantly and brazenly misused its clout (veto, two votes, etc.) in ICC till it was stripped of those powers. Here are a few examples:
* In the Bodyline series, it used the bouncer as life-threatening weapon to tame the Don Bradman-led Australian batting line-up
* In the mid-70s, faced with Clive Lloyd’s invincible four-pronged pace attack, it got the ICC to restrict bouncers to two per over
* After losing two consecutive (home and away) series to India in 1971 and 1972-73, it forced the ICC to place restrictions on the number of close-in fielders a team could place on the leg side. Why? To reduce the effectiveness of India’s famed spin trio of Bishen Bedi, BS Chandrasekhar and EAS Prasanna.
* When John Lever was accused of using Vaseline to generate abnormal swing, no one even bothered to investigate the complaint.
* Bedi, who was the Indian captain then, suddenly found his county contract not being renewed. The stick was never far behind the carrot.
* In 1994, when England captain (expected by the English media to be whiter than white) Mike Atherton was caught on television seemingly tampering with the ball by allegedly rubbing dirt on to it, he got away with a fine of 2000 pounds.
And remember, this was a period when the English players, backed by their media, unable to fathom the reverse swing of Pakistani greats Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, were levelling completely unsubstantiated allegations of cheating against them.
The odd critical article apart, I can’t remember any breast beating about the so-called “spirit of cricket” being killed when all these incidents took place.
But the moment, Messrs Jagmohan Dalmia, Sharad Pawar, Shashank Manohar, et all, began calling the shots, the hand wringing started.
Though I don’t agree with them, I can understand the angst of the British and Australian media. What I can’t figure out is the Indian media’s eagerness to side with them.
I accept that the BCCI has a lot to answer for, especially within the country.
* It should be more transparent in its dealings
* It should open its finances and administrative procedures to greater public scrutiny
* And it should drop its arrogant take-it-or-leave-it attitude that reeks of arrogance.
I’m glad the Indian media highlights all the warts in its functioning. That’s how it should be.
But I also believe that we, as Indians, should support BCCI in its quest to dominate the ICC and the cricket world abroad – even if the means aren’t always universally liked.
After all, no one shed tears for India when England and Australia were kicking us around. Why should we care for their feelings now?
Some of my friends say sports and politics don’t mix and accuse me of doing exactly that.
To them I say: look at history.
Sports and politics have always gone hand in hand.
* Mohun Bagan’s victory in the 1911 IFA Shield final was one of the early building blocks of Indian nationalism
* South Africa was boycotted by the sports world for more than two decades because of politics
* The US and most western powers boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest over the Soviet invasion and conquest of Afghanistan
* The USSR returned the favour four years later when its was Los Angeles’s turn to host the quadrennial sporting showpiece
* Closer home, India has, more than once, called of sporting ties with Pakistan over that country’s backing and support for terror attacks here.
I can almost hear the Aussies, the English and politically correct lot at home scream: Two wrongs don’t make a right.
That’s like saying: Yes, what happened in the past was wrong. But it will be wrong to subject the former tormentors to the same fate.
Only former tormentors and apologists who don’t like being served their own bitter medicine when the boot is on the other foot
forward such arguments.
India is the new 800 pound gorilla in the ICC boardroom. Why be apologetic about it? It’s the first time we’ve achieved that status in any global body. The endeavour should be to try and replicate this model in all other spheres – and, maybe, in a few decades from now, in the United Nations Security Council, too.
I know that day is still far, far away… but there’s no harm in dreaming.
After all, who could have imagined 20 years ago that India would one day rule the cricket world?