Take Two

The Bully on the Pitch

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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Tony Greig is right about the danger of BCCI’s domination of cricket

Last week, Tony Greig, a former captain of England who made a lot of money commentating in India (and playing ‘psychophant’ to Sachin, some say) said something in a BBC interview that cricketing nations other than India should heed. Alluding to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wanting to change schedules so that more players are available for the IPL, he said it is ridiculous that cricket between nations should be sacrificed at the altar of a private tournament. “We have got to look very, very closely and make sure we do not destroy the cornerstone of the game, which is Test cricket,” he was quoted. In other words, the BCCI’s domination was at a level where it was dangerous for cricket.

He’s right. Imagine a situation where the Brazil football team refuses to cooperate with the anti-doping agency because it is inconvenient for stars to have someone come unexpectedly with a test tube at their doorstep. Fifa are no angels, but on issues like this, dealing with the heart of the sport, you won’t see them favouring any team. Two years ago when the World Anti-Doping Agency wanted dope testing for cricket, the BCCI refused to comply because Indian players were not comfortable with the ‘whereabouts’ clause, which needed them to inform Wada of their whereabouts in advance. The International Cricket Council (ICC) toed the BCCI line.

In cricket, such arbitrary and unilateral decisions happen all the time. And usually it is the BCCI calling the shots. It has been resistant to using technology to appeal umpire decisions even after the World Cup showed that UDRS is a useful tool to have. It changed the format of the World Cup this time to ensure that India does not get out at the preliminary stage.

The BCCI believes it is entitled to such clout. The viewers from whom money can be made are Indians and all major sponsors are also from here. But the BCCI itself is like the Indian Parliament—unaccountable. Worse, politicians have bureaucrats and legislations to temper their stupidity. But with the BCCI, the office-bearers are also the managers, and with unbridled power comes an unbridled bully. The ICC is like the echo point at a hill station for such whims. If it doesn’t start developing a spine, you might soon hear it being called the ICCI.