BCCI given taste of its own medicine
Mull for a moment on the ironies that emerged during Saturday's meeting of the ICC Board in Dubai. When the new model for revenue distribution, in which the BCCI stood to make substantially less than it did under the Big Three model, came up for discussion the Indian board questioned the calculations and the science behind these new numbers. To which no one said, but really should have: #Facepalm.
Because when the BCCI, CA and the ECB presented their financial model three years ago, a number of objectors asked the Big Three the same question. Where is the science behind this? What is the formula by which you arrived at these numbers?
There wasn't one, was the answer. It was a nifty bit of reverse engineering, which began with the BCCI throwing up a figure based on an estimate of what the ICC might earn by way of rights. CA and ECB then negotiated it down to something more palatable to them.
There isn't any science behind the new model either, as the authors apparently admitted in their report. It's true. Try putting the ICC's publicly stated guiding principles for this model into a calculator: "good conscience", "common sense and simplicity", "enabling every Member to grow", "revenue generated by Members", "greater transparency" [smirk], and "recognition of interdependency amongst Members, that cricket playing nations [sic] each other and the more strong nations, the better for the sport". No, not really.
At Saturday's meeting, the BCCI had also asked for the vote on the new constitution to be deferred. Why was there such a rush to get things voted upon and approved so quickly, it wondered, when there was another board meeting in April, before the AGM in June when such changes will be formalised. ROFL at this objection a little, when remembering the bullying, haggling and the undue haste with which the Big Three pulled off its coup.
On Saturday, the BCCI complained the new model was presented to them as a fait accompli. Well, blow us all down if those weren't the exact words used by several member boards when they were blindsided by the Big Three's first position paper at a special meeting in January 2014. They were told to take it or leave it, and that leaving it wasn't really an option.
The final, abiding irony, of course, you will not have missed. Five men made up the working group that produced these new recommendations and models. One of them was David Peever, chairman of a board that so faithfully hid in the shadow of the BCCI when the Big Three revamp was foisted upon the game. Peever at least has the excuse that he is not Wally Edwards, who was CA chairman at the time. What excuse does Giles Clarke have, part of this working group and the voice on the other shoulder of the BCCI three years ago? No, that's right: he doesn't. And nothing captures the paucity in cricket administration better than Clarke once bringing in the very constitution he is now trying to rip up.
Go on, linger over these ironies, lighten your heart a little if you felt pain and anger at the start of 2014. Because there may not be much more to take from this weekend in Dubai, not yet anyway.
For one, though the pleasure of these ironies might have its place, that does not mean it is guilt free. There is no science, no data behind this new financial model either, and as the BCCI representative Vikram Limaye is said to have pointed out at the meeting - two wrongs don't make a right.
The new model could be said to be almost as arbitrary as the Big Three's, except that the BCCI has not been involved in its construction. In fact, it is said that the lack of a formula behind the new model is explained in the report as a result of the lack of a formula in the Big Three's version. He who gets to write history has won it, right? And the others just bear the consequences.
It is to cricket's discredit that it has not been able - or been bothered enough - to work out a distribution model that is pragmatic and fair; one beyond a general principle that says, "The Indian cricket economy is massive, let's give the BCCI some more and the others what is left." There is no publicly available research, academic or otherwise, that breaks down the exact nature of cricket's economy, of where the money comes from for ICC events, for bilateral games, for domestic Twenty20 leagues. If there are such documents, they should be made public, otherwise all cricket can do is to continue to pretend to be a professionalised, leading global sport and hide the fact that it is run by people who are not really sports management professionals.
And the haste to push this vote through was, in a different way, as opportunistic as the Big Three's methods three years ago. Shashank Manohar, the ICC chairman, and everyone else knew the time to strike was now, that never again would they come upon a BCCI administration so frazzled by domestic turmoil so as to be almost completely isolated at the ICC. The BCCI was in no position to put up a stand or round up enough members to its side. The Board meeting was said to have been fairly tension free - in part because the majority, including CA and the ECB (yes, the irony), was united. But rushing the minority into a vote, when they had not had time or opportunity to consider the consequences of that vote - well, some might even call that bullying.
So what we have - in principle, the ICC reminded us - is great change on the horizon. Principles can be beautiful but they can also end up meaning nothing. In principle, right now, means nothing, or at best it is a reminder that change isn't certain yet.
Note, in particular, the tone of what a BCCI member told ESPNcricinfo after the meeting on Saturday evening. A 7-2 vote in favour of the new model, he said, was actually good because it showed the BCCI that it could get support. "They need an 8-2 majority," he said. "And the vote cannot go forward if four members oppose the resolution. We will get them."
Sri Lanka is already on the BCCI's side, and Zimbabwe abstained from voting; a few threats of India cancelling fixtures, a couple of promises here and there, and boom. And why wouldn't the BCCI link acceptance of a new distribution to the new structures of international cricket, given that the latter means so much to so many? Why wouldn't the BCCI subvert new structures, by promising members extra matches? All the BCCI needs is a bit of time to settle and get to work.
Even this interim, haphazard BCCI delegation had already begun doing so, at the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting on Friday evening. And it did not go unnoticed that a key IPL figure from the N Srinivasan era, who had worked on the Big Three proposals, popped up in Dubai during the meetings, offering guidance and advice. Just a reminder, you know; and as a corollary, a reminder that cricket lacks a central, constitutional strength in how it should be, that it is a sport which can be shaped according to the simple desires of its strongest members.
Still, at least we'll have the ironies.
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo