When it comes to cricket, India rules. No earthly force can stand in BCCI’s way. Even politics and economics and ethics quickly change their DNA to adapt to the new reality.
The abhorrent class system may or may not be close to entering the rather old grave pit that still remains unfilled in our world of magnificent diversity. But what is particularly shocking is that it seems to be very much in vogue in a sport — cricket — which has long been used as a metaphor for fairness.
Cricket may not be the only sport that favours the mighty and the well-heeled. But one national federation — the Board of Control for Cricket in India — has become so enormously wealthy and powerful that it has reached a point where it doesn’t have to resort to any arm-twisting to get its way.
The recent election of L. Sivaramakrishnan as Player Representative in place of Australia’s Tim May by the International Cricket Council has become a rancorous issue. Several former players and players’ representatives have said that it was India’s muscle power that helped stage the coup.
But the truth is this; the International Cricket Council (ICC) no longer controls world cricket — at least not on this planet. It is the Indian Board that does. And there might have been hardly any need for arm-twisting.
Then again, given the number of people — and organisations — who are ever ready to hitch a ride on the money train, maintaining transparency as well as the game’s integrity and sanctity at the highest levels may not just be a tough ask; it could be impossible.
When it comes to money, there is Indian cricket, right up there in the stratosphere. And then there are the other cricket playing nations, many of them buried so deep (think Bangladesh or Zimbabwe) that even archaeologists and geologists may dread the thought of exposing them to light.
In the event, the rules are very clear; when it comes to cricket, India rules. No earthly force can stand in its way. Even politics and economics and ethics quickly change their DNA to adapt to the new reality.
Nobody cares about what happens in the rest of the cricket world — if you leave aside the odd pair of pensioners unpacking their cucumber sandwiches in an idyllic setting in Somerset and a few English cricket writers who try their very best to highlight the upcoming Ashes series. For two full months, cricket is nothing but the Indian Premier League.
But you cannot blame the Indian Board for IPL’s success; nor can you call it a ‘bully,’ as some overseas critics do, when their own national associations are more than willing to do what the Indian Board wants them to do. As in life, in sport too, money does not just matter; it is the only thing that matters. And the international body has done little to show that it is in control of things.
If India does not want the Decision Review System (DRS) so be it. Nobody can challenge that decision. If India does not think it is profitable to host Bangladesh for a Test series, then none can force it to do so. If the Indian cricket administrators decide that Getty Images, a photo agency that has shot some of the most iconic images in modern sport, would not be granted accreditation to matches in India — and agencies such as Reuters, AFP and AP boycott the matches because of that — who cares?
There was a time when everything that happened in the small world of cricket _ when there was a not a lot of money going around — was decided in the premises of a private club in Marylebone. But today, the MCC President might find it tough to get his hands on a pair of tickets for a ringside view of the IPL final!
This is not to say that either the ICC or the BCCI are not democratic set-ups. Apparently, they are. But as in all democratic systems involving human beings, there is a rigid hierarchy in these organisations. In international cricket, all Boards are equal, but one Board is much more equal than the others.
But the Englishmen and the Australians cannot complain. Their hegemony, based on colonial-historical foundations, lasted long enough. Now, with over three quarters of the money generated in the game coming from India, the old powers can only wistfully think of the `golden era’ of the game when they called the shots from the Long Room at Lord’s.
Meanwhile, the new lords of the cricketing ring pull their strings from Chennai and Mumbai and Delhi and Kolkata. And, given the cricket Board's bank balance, they do it rather well.
The French philosopher Michael Foucault came up with the concept of an individual being an “entrepreneur of the self.” If a group of people working together can form a unified ‘self’, then the honourable members of the Board that controls cricket in India can be hailed for giving a whole new meaning to Foucault’s idea.
The greatest virtue that can be exhibited while wielding power is humility. And it is the least attainable, as is the willingness to accommodate different points of view. It is here that the Indian Board has fallen short.