Monday, April 22, 2024

August 3 could be the day when Indian cricket was saved

Mark August 3 in your diary.

That’s the date when Supreme Court hopefully would take an important call.

Run your guesses: Ram Janmabhoomi? J & K’s Special Status? Aadhaar Act? Article 377?

No to all.

it’s Indian cricket.

What? A game which financially weighs no better than Rs 22,000 crores put together on TV scales? (Yogi government has waived almost twice the amount for farmers in UP).

No more than 15,000 representative players? (that’s less than the number of shoppers in your neighbourhood mall on a balmy evening).

A game run by two and a proverbial dog? (our Rahul baba alone spins the Congress on his little finger).

And you call cricket important?

Tell this to Arun Jaitley or Sharad Pawar. Or to Shashi Tharoor who lost his berth in ministry. To the politicians who fall over each other in greeting India on an overseas win.To the biggest companies lining up for its’ Rights. Or to Dawood Ibrahim who is bankrolled by the game’s underbelly. A terminally-ill youngster with no better wish than to see Virat Kohli in flesh and blood.

It’s all in the numbers. Just one game, the 2011 World Cup final, was watched by nearly 60 crores, mostly in India. That’s half of country’s population. No less than 2000 representative games in senior and all age-groups are held every season by Indian cricket board. Add to this the growth to women’s cricket; countless academics, clinics in schools, those rattling hits to your home-windows which emerge from your raucous lanes. And your kid, tugging at your sleeves every Sunday morning, for a few under-arm throws to his flailing oversized bat.

If the bench of Chief Justice Deepak Misra, A.K. Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud don’t intervene decisively this week, you can give up this game as administratively and financially dead in India. The corpse is now rotting.

International Cricket Council (ICC), with all the interest and machinations of an East India Company, is set to take over Indian board’s coffers by stealth. It has put in place the World Test Championships (WTC)–and has almost one global event every year between 2019-2023—which amounts to heist on India’s TV revenue vault.

As it is, ICC has shot down India’s share of revenue from 570 to 293 million dollars. From 80 per cent share in worldwide revenues between the Big Three (India, Australia, England), ICC is now looting Indian cricket’s share and tossing it to others in the name of equitable distribution. Flushed with this “bribe”, other cricket boards have no urge to restore India’s hegemony and rightful share. Today India, the biggest player in the game,is a lonely figure in ICC’s boardrooms. Butt of jokes who can’t hurt even a fly.

All this is because for last two and a half years, Indian cricket is being skinned alive. Supreme Court was lauded when it appointed a Committee of Administrators (CoA) to oversee the reforms recommended by Lodha committee. All too quietly, from overseeing the transition, the CoA has actually become the boss of Indian cricket. From poring over every Uber/Ola bill, refreshment invoice, stationery expense, it has come out as only petty, personal and vindictive. Personal scores matter more to them than gains for Indian cricket.

And boy, how the game has suffered. Teams are selected with injured (Bhuvneswar Kumar) at times dope-tainted players; first-class status granted to North-Eastern states who admit they neither have players nor infrastructure; mismatches so gaping that Sir Donald Bradman would be overtaken in all record books (imagine a Mumbai vs Meghalaya matchup); and around 90 umpires catching bus, car or tanga to oversee hundreds of matches in a season.

CoA have been no good in implementing any of their briefs—nor look any close to doing so ever. Cleaning Corruption? It’s now right at their own door. Implementing constitutional reforms? Well it’s so messy that Supreme Court has decided to step in. It’s now prepared to tone down “Lodha’s Laws” for they lack reason and reality. All it did was to unleash CoA “cowboys” whose ropes have only captured thin air. ICC meanwhile is smacking its lip in anticipation of a meaty prey.

August 3 My Lord, and no further.

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