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ECB - A clear case of confused priorities
by Suneer Chowdhary
Aug 11, 2008
The clear shifting of power in the cricketing world from a country that has been the traditional custodian of the game, to a nation that was considered a part of the third world till about a decade and a half ago seems to not have gone down too well with the former. And this has looked very evident in the way the ECB has reacted to anything possibly worth giving a second glance to in the past one month or so. For now, the pendulum has firmly swung towards the subcontinental giant which has shot into cricketing prominence primarily due to the kind of crowd support that this sport has incorporated over a period of the last twenty five years or so.

The first of these salvos had been fired more than a couple of decades back, when N.K.P. Salve had been apparently affronted and in that moment of fury, decided to bring the World Cup of 1987 to India. The tournament has changed in almost every aspect - the size, the viewership and the money - today, but the ego tussle between the two financial clouts in the world of cricket today has only shot up in the last few years; something that is not one bit surprising. Having said that, everything did seem like it was going according to plan, with the 'organizing guru and the new Philip Kotler' Lalit Modi having almost reached an agreement with the ECB about the finals of the Champions League - the first of its kind in this sport - been hosted at one of the English grounds. The whole affair looked as hunky-dory as a Bollywood potboiler, and looked to be heading towards a fairy tale ending, when a mini-tragedy of sorts, stuck. It was realised that most of the English cricket counties - fifteen out of the 18 - had had been represented by certain cricketers associated with the ICL and the BCCI wanted to have these counties banned. With the ECB having virtually no control over the same, and the BCCI in no position to budge, the end result was a stalemate.

The confusion and the insecurity that reigned in ECB's mind post this fall-out can be gauged by the fact that the heads of nine of the 18 counties went into a huddle to discuss about an English version of the IPL, even without the other nine having the slightest clue about the same! The left hand did not realise what the right was up to until a leak occurred and apprised them of the plan. The plan was obviously shelved when the unwanted guests - read, the other nine counties - protested, and replaced by another EPL that would cater to all the 18 sides.

Of course, this was not all. With the English cricketers having already decided where their priorities lie - after all Pietersen had made it amply clear that he needed the Indian money to sponsor his children's education - the ECB tried another coup and this time it was the turn of another Champions League to be given birth by the all so excitable cricket board, in response to the Indian version! Funnily enough, there were reports of a game of a verbal ping-pong between the ECB and BCCI over invitations and rejections on the same. One has obviously not heard the last of this, and the prospects of both, Champions League (India) and Champions League (England) competing against each other to decide the real 'champion' would not be too startling, the way things are headed. Wooing Allen Stanford to invest in their country for a T20 tournament not only suggests desperation, but also the fact that the ECB realises the fact that their dominance is fast diminishing. Not too long ago, it must be remembered, the U.K. had lost out on been the hosts to the ICC head quarters, something that would have been a bitter pill to swallow. Now this.

And one look at the English side and its performances in international cricket speaks volumes about the same. The side of the early nineties had a joke associated with it; it could only do three things wrong, it couldn't bat, bowl or field! The current side is obviously much better, but gives the impression that it is still feeding off the 2005 Ashes win. Clearly they seem to have forgotten the humiliation that they incurred in the next one in 2006-07 - and probably even before that for years – when they went on to lose every match of that series. Why Ashes, England even lost to India in a home series, something that had not happened previously for more than twenty years; traditionally against a team who are 'bad travelers' as they have been christened so often. Apart from freebies - in the form of half volleys and jelly beans - the English had very little to offer in that series and the same has now culminated in a crushing English loss to South Africa and Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood's resignation from their reigns.

It is not as if the team is an amazing ODI or T20 side. Till about recently - and if one may add, even now - the English ODI side seemed to be on a paid holiday. And if one thought that the inventors, of this latest format of the game called T20 needed some respect, then their appalling show at the ICC World T20 spoke volumes of their lack of domestic depth. This after England was one of the pre-tournament favourites!

Yet, the ECB continues to worry about this shifting pendulum, by getting a whole new battery of T20 tournaments, including an EPL and a proposal for a Champions League. Only a few months ago, Mr. Giles Clarke had, under the veil of "keeping the English cricketers fresh for the Ashes 2009" prevented the cricketers from playing in the IPL 2009. Now, the boot is clearly on the other foot, and ludicrous and hypocritical is what one may call the whole situation.

Clearly, the English cricket board has got its priorities all mixed up. At least for now.
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