The machinations surrounding the election of the hitherto unknown Laxman Sivaramakrishnan as a players representative to the ICC has attracted a storm of controversy, debate and conspiracy theories in equal measure.
It is a sorry circumstance that has highlighted the unhealthy reliance of world cricket on the vast revenues generated by Indian cricket and the IPL, both for players and national Boards, as well as providing a stark, and ever-widening, contrast between the haves and have-nots of the global cricket family, a dichotomy ruthlessly exploited by the BCCI in its dealings with nations such as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies through the politicking around the vote (or second, third and fourth votes depending upon your sources and viewpoint).
This article does not seek to argue the merits per se of this particular voting process, for surely since time immemorial, people, companies and nations have sought to exert influence to achieve their outcomes, and this is but another example of this. Rather, it seeks to examine what the objectives of the BCCI might be in this course of action, and to place in within a broader pattern of their behaviour over the past few years.
Over the past few years we have seen the BCCI flex its considerable financial muscle to unilaterally exempt itself from the use of DRS, refuse to countenance the recommendations of the Wolfe Report, and pressure the ICC into allowing an international window to benefit the IPL by ensuring the majority of the best international players are unreservedly available to play.
The result is that the game is placed behind the commercial interests of a small group of largely Indian business people, including the chairman of the BCCI, who reap vast profits from the enterprise. This nexus between the commercial interests of a small coterie and the actions and behaviour of the BCCI lies at the heart of this problem.
The role of the ICC and cricket Boards in general is, in the words of Kumar Sangakkara, to “protect the game’s global governance from narrow self-interest”. In this regard it is obvious that these custodians of the game, its history and growth, people have abjectly failed both it and its fans.
And why ? The answer is obvious, and it is formerly respected journalist and now paid BCCI acolyte, Harsha Bhogle, who let the cat out of the bag when he recently said on Twitter “empires weren’t built on concern for what is right for the less powerful”.
Having established its financial hegemony over the cricketing world, this small elite of business people and BCCI Board members are now seeking to solidify this arrangement for the foreseeable future by taking control of the ICC processes and stifling the diversity of views within world cricket. This in my mind, is how we should view the current players representative debacle, and George Orwell perhaps states it best in his timeless classic, Animal Farm, where he wrote:
“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where would we be ?”
But not only do the BCCI and their business people seek to control important sections of the ICC and the game’s governance, they also seek to control legitimate media comment upon such issues. One case in point is the BCCI establishing its own broadcaster BCCI TV, where formerly respected titans of the game such as Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri, and noted journalists such as Harsha Bhogle now sit cowed and obedient in their obsequious desire to satisfy their employer. And, it’s not just them but also overseas greats such as Shane Warne, Allan Border and Tom Moody who also seem strangely silent on matters not in the interests or consistent with the view of their employers.
They may have a misguided belief that the current state of affairs is merely an inversion of previous colonialism, but the slow and insidious crushing of debate, and their resolute silence or defence of the new regime is more consistent with totalitarian regimes than democracies, and does the game and its perpetrators little service and makes us all much the poorer. Chillingly, Orwell again says it best in Animal Farm:
” … they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.”
In the book the revolution of the pigs becomes corrupted by the hubris and greed of Napoleon, who abandons its high principles and practices along the way to becoming his own lord of the manor. It bears close parallel with happenings in world cricket over the past few years, at the heart of which is the determination of a small group of business people to dominate the game solely for their commercial purposes rather than its general betterment.
As Orwell so aptly puts it “liberty is worth more than just ribbons”. The traditions of the game, and the transparency of its governance and quest for improvement, call upon all fans and commentators to cast a penetrating light upon such travesties and prevent the ICC and the game becoming like the Animal Farm.
Until next time … that is stumps.