Somewhere in the video vaults of Mr.N.Srinivasan and the power brokers of Indian cricket at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) there lies an alternate version of the original Spiderman movie. In this version, Peter Parker’s uncle says,”With great power, comes even greater power.”
Not satisfied with being the big swinging dick of the cricket world, the BCCI decided this weekend to jizz all over those it didn’t care for. And it set special aim on Haroon Lorgat (Chief Executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA)) who the BCCI has deemed enemy #1. Haroon Lorgat and the country whose cricket affairs he manages bore the brunt of BCCI vindictiveness that by the end of Sunday, CSA would have wished the BCCI had just had their way with women and children and been done with it.
But here is what actually happened –
The BCCI dislikes Haroon Lorgat. They really despise him. They tried to influence his election earlier this year and uncharacteristically failed. So ever since then they have been working their puppet strings to emasculate him and those who voted for him as much as possible. First they got together with their Sonny and Michael Corleone (Cricket Australia & England and Wales Cricket Board) to ensure none of the big ICC tournaments over the next decade would be held in South Africa. Then they toyed around with CSA on how many days India would tour the country this December, by not agreeing to even the basic framework of a tour to South Africa. The BCCI took this to a new heretofore unseen level over the weekend by introducing a completely unplanned and unscheduled Caribbean tour of India in November-December and adding days to a February-March tour of New Zealand thus putting themselves in the “difficult” position of playing fewer games in South Africa.
Sachin Tendulkar is two tests away from completing 200 test appearances and it is likely that some coin counter at the BCCI hundi only realized this a week or two ago. Quickly realizing how much of a huge money-spinner this occasion would be for the Board, the BCCI pulled in one of its most pliable partners-in-crime – West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to participate in a sham of a two test series outside of the Foreign Tours’ Porgram (FTP) agreed to by the 10 full-time member nations of the sport.
Make no mistake, all of this is a win-win-win for the BCCI.
West Indies will provide friendly but non-threatening competition over two tests. They will be competitive enough that it won’t be a mismatch ala vs. Bangladesh or Zimbabwe but they will also not play well enough to upset the well laid out applecart in a way that an England, Pakistan or South Africa would.
Crowds will flock the two test match venues at the Wankhede and Eden Gardens to catch one last glimpse of India’s finest cricketer thus allowing two local boards and the TV network covering the series to make a fortune in an otherwise gloomy year for the Indian economy. (It is also interesting how Kolkata is one of the two chosen venues instead of say Chennai – a venue far more dear to Sachin’s legacy than the Eden Gardens. I am sure it has nothing to do with the Cricket Association of Bengal’s President Jagmohan Dalmiya being besties with Mr. Srinivasan lately)
Fans, media and the cricket world will ooh and aah over Sachin for a month allowing for an otherwise unnecessary series to overshadow much more compelling series down under and in the Emirates. The ensuing two test series that India will play in South Africa will be a minor blip on the cricket RADAR that the BCCI would have micro managed and messaged to oblivion. Even though Sachin Tendulkar has not been one of India’s top 6 batsmen for over a year, the sequence of events will allow the management to conveniently cloak the series as a “rebuilding” one.
For the cricket fan and even the Indian fan, this is all very depressing. A predictable sequence of events now will entail Haroon Lorgat’s resignation for personal reasons followed by CSA getting in line with the sheriff in town so as to not lose more revenue than they have in the last few months. Most boards and cricket playing nations only make money when they play India and this cruel lesson will reinforce the message – Get fully in line or be prepared to lose cold cash. As a fan I worry about how far this will go? Is the logical endpoint one where other nations stop defeating India by too much or stop preparing pitches hostile to Indian batsmen? If the fans and media don’t revolt the reduction of the number of test matches versus the world’s best team in their home soil, from three to two, what use is encomiums in honor of the sport? Why is the five day version of the sport relevant if the richest body does not worry about pushback when it shoves aside its most important series of the year for a glorified exhibition?
If you are worried about the five day game or a megalomaniac taking over the sport, the events of this past weekend should worry you way more than a flawed decision review system, spot fixing or the lack of attendance at test matches. The BCCI is using its vindictive powers in a very brazen way and any fan, media member or cricketer who doesn’t call this out is doing disservice to the sport they love and being complicit in a dictatorial takeover. If we are not careful, we will be jizzed on next.
Post Script: All of this vindictiveness aligns nicely with the vindication the BCCI seeks in that it is the largest money spinner in the sport and that it needs to keep making more and more money. Some folks in the media have even comically bought one of the official talking points of the BCCI – not enough revenue this year. I wish someone pointed out to the BCCI that not having a home series this year is very much an offshoot of having four in the last year and the revenue excuse to re-schedule the West Indies 22 months after they toured is comical.