Should anyone be surprised at the firm decision the International Cricket Council took in the bitter and protracted saga over India’s tour to South Africa?
The ICC didn’t order India to tour, nor did they promise Cricket SA any compensation for the vast amount of money they stand to lose because of the drastically downgraded schedule.
No, what the ICC did in facilitating a humiliating outcome for SA cricket was to set up an inquiry into the conduct of CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat about a letter written by a former legal adviser to the ICC.
That’s all the ICC did. They didn’t demand that the Board of Control for Cricket in India stick to the Future Tours Programme (FTP) – something to which all ICC executive members (the Test-playing nations) agreed in June 2011. They didn’t question the BCCI about making unilateral changes to the calendar that included drawing up a tour by the West Indies at the last minute. Nor did the ICC question the BCCI about unilaterally moving forward India’s tour to New Zealand.
No, the ICC stood by as one of their members basically pummelled another into submission, made an ass of the international cricket schedule and then set up an inquiry into the bullied affiliate, which led to the effective suspension of the ICC’s former chief executive.
The establishment of an inquiry into Lorgat’s role in the letter by David Becker – the ICC’s former legal advisor who pointed out the bullying tactics employed by the BCCI and their president, Narayanaswami Srinivasan, when dealing with other members – can be seen as part of a much bigger face-saving exercise on the part of the ICC.
In a recent interview, the ICC’s current CEO, Dave Richardson, said the ICC had no “authority to interfere in the FTP arrangements”. The trouble for the ICC is that they must ensure the FTP arrangements are adhered to, or else there would be chaos, and the much-hyped Test Championship due to take place in 2017, which had its logo launched by the ICC at the start of South Africa’s current tour of the UAE, will lose all credibility before it even starts.
So what if Cricket SA had thrown in the towel last Friday in London where the ICC held a board meeting at which India’s tour of South Africa was being discussed?
Yes, South Africa stood – and still do stand – to lose a lot of money if India didn’t tour here, but the ICC would also have been humiliated had matters gone to court, as some in Cricket SA wanted to see happen.
Chris Nenzani, in an interview with The Star this week, described Friday, October 18 as “the most difficult day” he’d experienced in his brief tenure as CSA president. His organisation was in a desperate position, caught between ensuring at least some change would come to CSA’s coffers, while not wanting to cower to the bully.
At the same time, the ICC were in a corner as they faced the real chance that their credibility as cricket’s mother body was being undermined. At the end, one could say CSA and the ICC lost. And that does world cricket no good.
The BCCI, of course, got what they wanted – an inquiry into Lorgat’s conduct. They also got a shortened tour, while nothing was done about their unilateral decision to shift the international calendar to suit themselves. All of that, of course, was done to ensure the BCCI achieve maximum income – from hosting Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th and final Test, to moving the New Zealand tour forward to ensure a big enough window for the Asia Cup, which had to take place before the IPL, the BCCI’s enormous cash cow.
Where are the rest of the members in all this, particularly Cricket Australia and the England Cricket Board? In bed with the BCCI, that’s where. On the side of last Friday’s ICC meeting in London, ECB chairman Giles Clarke and Srinivasan were discussing how they could reduce the powers of a proposed ICC chairman, a position which they are apparently afraid will reduce the influence of ICC’s Finance and Commercial Affairs committee, which Clarke currently chairs.
Clarke and Srinivasan have developed a close bond, which has naturally proven beneficial to Clarke and the ECB. England host India for five Tests next year, with those matches being played over a period of just 42 days – a hectic schedule that makes a mockery of recent publicly expressed concerns by BCCI officials about the Indian players needing more rest between matches.
Cricket Australia, meanwhile, have sent their national side over to India for a seven-match One-Day series for which there is no other purpose than to make more money.
It’s left the rest of the Test-playing nations fighting over crumbs and the ICC seem powerless to do anything. It is cricket that will suffer. The sport remains insular, unable to take seriously the need to expand despite the ICC continuously wanting to celebrate the likes of Afghanistan and Ireland qualifying for the World Cup.
It’s more than 130 years since Test cricket was first played and in that time the sport has expanded to include only 10 countries who play it seriously. Cricket remains insular and if the BCCI had their way, even fewer would.
The episode between the BCCI and CSA should lead to the ICC reviewing how they intend running the sport. There cannot be a situation where one of the affiliates plays loose with the rules to suit their own ends to the detriment of the sport’s growth and the ICC’s credibility.
Ultimately, because of the petty squabbles among administrators, it’s the players and the fans who suffer. Both should expect better from cricket’s controllers – instead, there is cynicism and mistrust.
A stronger ICC, which places a greater emphasis on independent directors – as Lord Woolf’s governance report published two years ago recommends – would be a step in the right direction. Of course, that would need the BCCI’s support. Until that happens, the ICC will continue to lurch along, superficially claiming expansion of the game while the cricket world in reality bows to the whims of one powerful, dictatorial affiliate. - Sunday Independent