One anniversary and a host of ironies

2008 Jun 27 by DreamCricket

The Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) belated decision to felicitate the 1983 Prudential World Cup winning team in New Delhi last Sunday had more than its share of ironies. The launch last November of the 'rebel' Indian Cricket League (ICL) with Kapil Dev playing a lead role in the venture seriously ruffled the feathers of the BCCI. It also goaded the Board into launching its own 20/20 circus, the Indian Premier League (IPL), an idea that had been languishing for years.

To the BCCI's misfortune, Kapil Dev was the captain of the only Indian team to win an International Cricket Council (ICC) world-sanctioned event, till MS Dhoni made it a double last year at the inaugural World Twenty-20 championships in South Africa. The BCCI responded to the ICL by banning all the Indian players and officials involved, arm-twisting other national bodies into doing the same (with mixed results) and stopping the monthly pension of Rs. 30,000 to all Indian ex-cricketers involved with the breakaway event.

It was only after a sustained media campaign that BCCI president Sharad Pawar's hands were forced and an official function was organized for "Kapil's Dev-ils" The BCCI is today one of the richest governing bodies in the world of sport. Its financial clout means it virtually runs world cricket and the ICC can only look on helpless as it aggressively sets world cricket's agenda. One of the men behind that commercial success was not present on the grand occasion on Sunday, though all former Board presidents had been invited. The first from Asia to head the ICC, Jagmohan Dalmiya is today persona non grata as far as the BCCI is concerned. He is battling a slew of legal cases and is in the opposing camp to the current Board set-up. Even former captain Mohammad Azharuddin, serving a life ban imposed by the BCCI for his alleged role in match-fixing was conspicuous by his presence. Dalmiya and then-ally IS Bindra now the power behind the throne in both the BCCI and ICCwere the first to realize the potential of revenue from telecast rights and in 1992 broke the State monopoly held by Doordarshan. That opened the floodgates for the $1.2 billion deal over the next 10 years which the BCCI struck for the IPL telecast rights.

But before all that came the stunning victory at Lord's on June 25, 1983 over the mighty West Indies that changed the face of cricket forever. Not only in India, but around the world. In the dressing room after the massive upset, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were busy arm-twisting NKP Salve, a Union Minister and BCCI president at the time into raising the bonus money for the victorious team.

Salve brought the house down on Sunday night when he narrated the events that unfolded. In his book The Story of the Reliance Cup he claimed the players got him "twizzy-wizzy" with champagne and then extracted a promise that they would each be paid Rs. one lakh as reward, a princely sum at the time. There was only one problem the Board did not have that much money in its bank account and it took a concert by Lata Mangeshkar in New Delhi to raise the required funds.

Today the BCCI is worth more than a billion dollars. While Dhoni and his teammates were granted Rs. 80 lakhs each last year after their victory in South Africa, on Sunday the BCCI parted with Rs. 25 lakhs for each member of the 1983 World Cup team, including the manager PR Man Singh. According to Salve, it was a slight from the MCC who refused to grant him extra passes for the Lord's final that set in motion the events that saw the World Cup being shifted from England for the first time.

India and Pakistan miraculously jointly hosted the Reliance World Cup in 1987 without a hitch at a time when political relations between the two nations were at an all-time low. They did it again in 1996, this time with Sri Lanka as one of the three hosts of the Wills World Cup. It came against tremendous resistance from the traditional bloc of the ICC, England and Australia who saw their veto power in force for nearly a century consigned to the rubbish bin of history. The 1996 Wills World Cup was followed by a torrent of One-day Internationals staged by the Asian nations and huge sums of money flowing into the coffers of the BCCI and the ICC which when Dalmiya became president in 1997 was actually in the red. Today finances are the least of its problems.

There was a time not long ago when tours to India were spurned by players, particularly from England and we were the butt of nasty jibes. Today half the cricketers around the world are willing to abandon their national teams for a taste of India's 20/20 pie!

Kapil and the miracle of Lord's also captured the imagination of a whole new generation in India. One of those converts was a 10-year-old in Bombay for whom tennis legend John McEnroe was his idol. Nicknamed 'Mac', he sported a bandana and wristbands like his hero and had a temper to match. But Indian cricket's golden day changed all that. The youngster ditched tennis and took to cricket with a passion. His name? Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.