• Monday, September 22, 2014

Cricket selling its soul

Atique Anam
Students of Jahangirnagar University vent their anger against the draft position paper of the 'Big 3' at the university campus in Savar yesterday. Photo: Star
Students of Jahangirnagar University vent their anger against the draft position paper of the 'Big 3' at the university campus in Savar yesterday. Photo: Star

As the 10 full members of the International Cricket Council vote today to decide the future of cricket, Bangladesh stand perilously close to losing their right to playing Test cricket at the top level. The newest Test playing nation and the one in most need of nurturing could be struck down even before they were offered a chance to develop a mastery of an art which many other countries took much longer to come to terms with. It is almost universally accepted that Bangladesh have got one of the most passionate followings in cricket and infrastructure-wise Bangladesh stand tall among the smaller full members? Then what is it that drives Bangladesh to the edge? The simple reality that cricket has become more of a business than sport to the ones who dictate terms.
SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
That is how the BCCI, the ECB and the CA or 'The Big 3' as they are being dubbed, like to think. And their 'more than equality' comes not by dint of any 'meritocracy' but from the fact that they bring more money into the game. But then again, Cricket South Africa does not find a place in this elite group despite producing good results on the field and generating good money off it. Their fault is they do not belong in the good books of BCCI, the biggest of cricket's bullies.
MONEY MOVES CRICKET
But India have been playing the Big Brother for quite a while now. Money earned BCCI the muscle, and they flexed that muscle by ignoring the FTP, taking a dogged stance against the use of DRS and the latest example -- drawing up a grand scheme to seize control over the sport and its participants; financially, administratively and decision-making wise. This will give the Big 3 the power to avoid 'financially unprofitable series', so as to maximise their profits.
What the draft proposal envisages is a financial overhaul which would eventually lead to a situation where the rich will get richer, leaving the scraps for the poor.
The draft also aims at scrapping the FTP, replacing it with bilateral agreements and most frighteningly introducing a two-tier Test system where the teams in the second tier will have very little realistic chance of promotion and the Big 3 will enjoy an indemnity against relegation.


DARK FOREBODINGS FOR BANGLADESH
Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, not to mention the Associate and Affiliate members of ICC, will be the hardest hit by this proposal, if passed. The blow to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will be two-fold as they would be weaker financially and will be devoid of the chance of rubbing shoulders with the big teams. That would mean a lessened interest from international broadcasters and sponsors in bilateral series involving Bangladesh and a falling interest in the game domestically, which will eventually lead to a fall in the quality of cricket. Who will want to watch Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe, home and away, year after year?
TAKING THE WRONG ROUTE
This is without doubt one of the most insane and self-destructive proposals a sport regulatory body has ever made, and not just because of the long-term impact it will have on the globalisation of the game. Those who designed the proposal are either myopic or totally blinded by their own business ambitions. Because it is not a good business decision either. A good business model is one which will not be afraid of overlooking short term profits for sustainability of growth and development in the long term, thereby making profits sustainable too. The proposal tabled by F&CA will spell doom in the long run for cricket as we know it. At a time when all cricket needs is more funding for the fledgling cricket cultures and more investment to tap new markets, this proposal paves a path back to its colonial, narrow past.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last modified: 4:19 pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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