Balance of power: Column by Sunil Gavaskar

2009 Jan 26 by

England have landed in the West Indies after upsetting a few passengers who did not know when they booked the flight that there would be an unscheduled stop in St Kitts to allow the England cricket team to disembark.

England have landed in the West Indies after upsetting a few passengers who did not know when they booked the flight that there would be an unscheduled stop in St Kitts to allow the England cricket team to disembark.

As a compensation, the passengers were given England cricket team cufflinks and some other memento but as some remarked, they would rather get to their destinations in time than get cufflinks and pray what to do with cufflinks if you are a woman. Be that as it may, just imagine the headlines, especially in the overseas papers, if it was the Indian cricket team for whom a flight was diverted with an unscheduled stop. There would have been stories of how BCCI is using its money power to change flight paths, how Lalit Modi [who seems to be their favourite target] got the pilot to change course and fly at a higher altitude , how some BCCI official got first class seat even if he had actually bought one of course all with that most useful word, 'allegedly' added before all the allegations as is usually done with speculative stories. Right now the latest allegation is BCCI using its might to get a One Dayer taken away from Dambulla because it does not have facilities for a day night game and the agreements between the Boards say that there must be 4 day night games. Now if there is a written agreement that there should be 4 day nighters and if the ground does not have lights then how is the BCCI to be blamed if the Sri Lankan Board has taken the game away and in any case, isn'?t the itinerary announced only after all these things are sorted out, and therefore it is sensible not to go by the tentative itinerary that is usually given out.

Just before the England team left for the Caribbean there was a conclave convened by the England and Wales Cricket Board which was attended by some former England skippers and chairmen of the counties as well as members of the England team. It was a high powered meeting to look at ways and means to take the game forward and such exercises are very good if those attending it are honest in their assessments and views about the state of the game and what needs urgent attention. The BCCI carried out such an exercise with its administrators and 7 former captains immediately after the exit of the Indian team in 2007 from the World Cup, and some, if not all, the suggestions made then have been taken on Board and implemented which does encourage other such exchanges in future.

One of the ideas that seemed to have come out of the conclave in England, is to have internationals between other countries in England, say between India and Pakistan which will draw huge support from the expatriates living in England or in nearby Europe. The hitch may well be in revenue sharing with the other Boards because quite simply if those Boards are not going to get the lions share, they will simply not agree to have these matches because it will take away from the matches between the countries when they play because of the possibility of overkill. The ECB is not ready as yet to accept revenue sharing for such games and that could make it a non starter. The fact is that other countries won?t get invited because it is not commercially viable so New Zealand and West Indies playing in England will not get the same kind of commercial support that India playing Pakistan or Australia will get. So it will be a case of trying to exploit India?s commercial power and while the relations between the two Boards have improved considerably after the recent Test series and especially after ECB encouraged their team to return after the Mumbai attacks, the Indian administrators of today are no longer going to fall for the prospect of an invitation to the MCC Presidents box for the Test at Lords cricket ground and sign away Indian crickets commercial rights just like that.

Some former England cricketers have demanded that the BCCI share its profits from the Indian Premier League with the other Boards that allow its players to participate forgetting that the IPL is a domestic tournament and if that criteria is to be adopted then the ECB, Cricket Australia and other Boards where overseas players play County or Shield Cricket should also be splitting revenues with the other boards. Most of these former players nurse a grouse because they have not been invited to be part of the commentary team or be connected with the IPL in some way, thats all.

Last year at this time there was excitement all over the cricketing world when the player auction for the IPL franchises was to take place. There were many big name players who felt deflated when they heard the price at which they were bought and especially after seeing that some players not even regulars in the India teams were bought for much more. Australia were the world champs then and its players understandably thought that they would be millionaire players in the IPL but apart from Andrew Symonds, none of them got even half that amount, so naturally not just disappointment but some resentment also grew. After the shenanigans of that season in Australia, the Australian players marketability as endorsers of products also went down as Indian companies reassessed having a link with them. Now with Australia being beaten by India and South Africa and losing their grip on the crown, the Australian captain if indeed, he has been correctly quoted, is urging that the authorities should prioratise the team's scheduling and has said that IPL does not matter. Ponting by the way, was bought for $350000 or so and doesn?t seem to have any Indian endorsements at the moment. Maybe that tells a story about why the recent story.