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The bark and bite of India are not without reason!
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jan 28, 2006
Is the cricket world heading for a split due to the increasingly aggressive statements put out by the BCCI? Or is all this an elaborate game of bluff in order to extract greater concessions?

Ever since the new dispensation took over the running of cricket in India late last year it has begun to assert itself on the world stage. But the headlines warning of a split are in my opinion somewhat alarmist.

It should be obvious that like the saying 'a new broom sweeps clean', the new office-bearers of the Board too are keen to assert themselves early on so that they can be placed in an advantageous bargaining position.

On the one hand we have the ridiculous comments ("who is now master and who is servant") from former England captain Michael Atherton which reek of imperialism of a bygone era when England and Australia ruled the cricket world and all other nations were subservient to them.

(In his column for the Sunday Telegraph, Atherton branded India 'the big beast of cricket' while adding that other countries are 'frightened of both their bark and bite'.)

On the other you have some offending statements coming out of the BCCI which are grossly unfair and derogatory to a new Test-playing nation that is still trying to find its feet.

One should remember that it took India 20 years to register its first Test victory and that took against a sub-standard MCC (England) side on our own soil. And to this day our record outside of Asia remains pretty dire.

In fact it was not till India stunningly won the Prudential World Cup in 1983 that the rest of the world began to sit up and take notice of Indian cricket. Then the financial windfall generated by the 1996 Wills World Cup staged by the sub-continent cemented India's position as the leader of the global cricket market.

The last 10 years has seen that position solidify to the extent that over 60% of the cricket world's revenue emanates from India and Indians. The millions of Indians living abroad who fervently support the national team have also played a big part in this scenario.

In that regard the BCCI has certainly played its cards right in individually approaching the boards of England, Australia and Pakistan and proposing an increasing frequency of reciprocal tours, throwing the ICC's FTP (Future Tour Programme) into apparent disarray.

It is plain to see that the ICC is stuck in a sort of time-warp in that it feels every cricket board should plan their own tours around the Ashes series between England and Australia which continues to be held every two years.

Last year's Ashes in England was a grand success. But in terms of revenue it is a drop in the ocean in the face of an India v Pakistan encounter which is the real money spinner in international cricket today. Those who turn their noses up at international sport and business being inextricably linked are simply living in the past.

The Board also has a point in stating the Champions Trophy is way past its sell-by date. It should be scrapped just as the bogus Super Series has died a quick death after the dire experiment in Australia late last year.

Even though the ICC has made its counter-claim that six nations have offered to host the tournament in 2008, the dates certainly are an irritant to India.

The ICC cannot ignore India's massive financial clout. And the BCCI cannot ignore ICC's status as the parent body of cricket. Negotiation rather than confrontation should be the key-word. The only alternative is chaos.

 
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