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July 8, 2011

Cricket administration

Power above integrity, an Asian malady requires remedy

Kamran Abbasi
Kumar Sangakkara delivers the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, Lord's, July 4, 2011
Kumar Sangakkara was refreshingly forthright about the politicisation of cricket in Sri Lanka  © Matt Bright
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World Champions India dominating in the Caribbean, Pakistan cricketers shining in an English domestic tournament, Sri Lanka winning at the home of cricket, Bangladesh a full member of the ICC, all rosy in the garden of South Asian cricket? Rosy, that is, if you choose to turn your gaze from the weeds and parasites destroying this once thriving landscape.

An alternative analysis paints a bleaker picture. India dominating but damaging international cricket, the fabric of Pakistan cricket disintegrating by the day, Sri Lanka in the grip of politically motivated decline, and the cricket of Bangladesh no further advanced than in the days before full member status.

Worryingly, a gloomier verdict has been gathering momentum for years, and a fortnight of expedient words and some forthright wisdom has brought this important debate back to prominence. The cricketing powers of South Asia face fundamental challenges, as underlined by recent pronouncements by ICC officialdom and Kumar Sangakkara's libero performance, with the decrepit governance of cricket in the region being the unifying theme.

India's cricket board, the BCCI, faces perhaps the greatest test of character. Having established itself as the power behind the ICC, the BCCI must demonstrate that it is capable of exercising power with responsibility. That responsibility includes the long-term global development of cricket and the welfare of its member cricket boards, a remit that extends far beyond short-term profiteering and promotion of cricket as a national vanity project.

The power of the BCCI is such that criticism falls on deaf ears. What the BCCI wants, whether it is in relation to lucrative national Twenty20 tournaments or the use of technology to support umpiring decisions, is what the BCCI gets. Decisions are couched in diplomatic doublespeak and endorsed by a rubber-stamping majority on the ICC executive.

Whether this judgment is harsh or fair will be proven by the outcomes of the ICC's governance review and the initiative to depoliticise ICC's member cricket boards. If in two years time the BCCI is strengthened or merely unaffected by any reforms, these initiatives will have been a sham exercise. Alternatively, were BCCI to emerge weaker and less dominant, favouring a more consensual decision-making process, world cricket would be strengthened.

Power is a drug and the BCCI appears particularly intoxicated. Outside pressure is unlikely to offer detoxification. The onus is on Indians to speak up to reign in their own cricket board. Many do already, but those voices must be multiplied and amplified to divert the BCCI from its present hubristic course. A bitter irony accompanied ICC's announcement that politics must be separated from cricket governance since the BCCI has played an astute political game to secure its pre-eminent position in world cricket.

The damaging effects of political interference were underlined by Sangakkara's Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lord's this week, and the disease of political interference is a pandemic that engulfs the whole South Asian region in every walk of life. Political interference and obsession with power isn't unique to South Asia but it threatens the future and integrity of international cricket on a scale unrivalled by any other cricketing country or region.

Sangakkara traces Sri Lanka's cricket troubles back to the World Cup win in 1996. The passion and clarity of his delivery was refreshing for a modern cricketer, and he helped explain Sri Lanka's failure to move on significantly from that victorious night in Lahore. A reasonable hypothesis is that as a new cricketing nation with a point to prove success was the primary motivation of all stakeholders in Sri Lankan cricket until that triumph filled people's heads with thoughts of power, fame, and influence. The politics of power devoured the unity that is a prerequisite for success.

Sangakkara's robust critique was impressive for its willingness to reproach his countrymen for the sake of the integrity of cricket in his country. Indeed, Imran Khan delivered last year's Spirit of Cricket Lecture and disappointed many of his countrymen by failing to speak up about the crisis that is engulfing the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Perhaps Imran thought that any criticism would be old hat? Certainly, the report of the ICC Pakistan Task Team has offered no new insights or new solutions to Pakistan's ills. But it is significant that the task team officially switched its focus to the integrity and governance of Pakistan cricket following the spot-fixing crisis; integrity and good governance first to stabilise Pakistan cricket, the issue of home fixtures a distant second.

In polite diplomatic tones the task team is highly critical of the PCB and its governance of Pakistan cricket. The pot calling the kettle black perhaps but considering the change in the task team's remit the recommendations are difficult to argue with since they are precisely what the PCB's critics have been demanding.

In short, the governance of the PCB and its administration of Pakistan cricket is an absolute shambles requiring root and branch reform. Anybody with any genuine affection for Pakistan cricket would agree with that conclusion. There is no mechanism for implementation of the task force's recommendations, however. More troublesome still is that rather than the report being helpful since the PCB may not even pay lip service, Pakistan cricket is now set up for two unwelcome outcomes.

The absence of a clear road map for the return of international cricket to Pakistan, understandable as it is given the current political climate and the bungling security record of the PCB, the task team has enshrined the policy of Pakistan's home fixtures being played on neutral venues. Far from hastening tours to Pakistan, the task team has shifted them off the agenda.

What's more, the Pakistan Cricket Board has been officially placed on notice that its ruinous governance is a major contributor to the crises that have damaged and continue to threaten the integrity of international cricket. Instead of the beginning of a journey to rehabilitate Pakistan cricket, were the PCB to ignore the Pakistan Task Team, this might turn out to be the first step on the road to the expulsion of Pakistan from the ICC.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Keywords: Administration

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Posted by pampou on (August 13, 2011, 4:54 GMT)

I see the criticism of Pakistan cricket by most of commentators, Yes there are problems but in such matters those who claim to be cricket's leaders also need to excercise the resposibility with care. The game of cricket needs to be supported by all. Beware of the famous saying, " power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

Posted by aftab on (July 25, 2011, 1:48 GMT)

Sadly, this is a pointless analysis and brims with typical Pakistani India-bashing. As a Pakistani fan, I won't support it. It does not expain the success of Indian and SL cricket since 1996 WC. SL were runner-ups last time ('07), and three were in semis this time. If it has anything to do with the governamce, bingo, that's what sub-continent needs. If any one remembers, Muhammad Asif was a product of an Indian academy. Fact is, quality of cricket and its governance is not as much inter-twined as usually assumed. True, there are governance problems in all the three countries and must be sorted out. Luckily, there is enthusiasm on streets enough to have the pipeline flowing. IPL has helped too. BD needs a tour like the SL tour of Pakistan before the '96 WC, when they came off age. BD have been unluckily to evade such a switch in their mental state, but have shown signs of possible future great. It has nothing to do with governance.

Posted by Manjeet on (July 21, 2011, 18:25 GMT)

So USA helps Pakistan with aid and country survives. Now you want BCCI to offer same help for PCB to survive. Arent you guys kinda getting used to living on financial aids. Do you really think that will happen and is it correct? Can you guys really not handle such minor issues on your own atleast once?

Posted by Kinetic on (July 20, 2011, 15:11 GMT)

BCCI is first responsible for growth of Indian cricket not long-term global development of cricket . For that gloabal developmet other boards need to help BCCI and not oppose what it says. Infact I would say Mr abbasi instead of worrying for BCCI you should find out ways to help PCB manage their affairs because the way thnigs are going now PCB seems to be going WICB way. BCCI opposes only defective hawkeye, a defect acknowledged bythe company which makes hawkeye,itself. So if BCCI asks it to be 100% correct before implementation is it such a big deal or wrong deal? Instead of criticising power of BCCI it would be better if you guys learnt from BCCI and improved PCB instead instead of expecting BCCI to help PCB as if it was some Indian state cricket board.Last I checked Pakistan was sovereign country and sovereign countries help themselves instead of expecting help from neighbours. People help only those whom they see trying to help themsleves first. Self help is best . Try that first.

Posted by Honif Chakroborty on (July 20, 2011, 15:01 GMT)

Wow I never knew it was BCCI's job to take care of PCB/Pak cricket because from your article it looks like you are blaming all problems beseiging Pakistan cricket to BCCI actions. I was under impression Pakistan was a richer place than India as per your history books and also remember reading how Pakistan mgmt schools were way ahead of India in management education. Based on that fact PCB should have been a well managed rich body to which BCCI should plead help. What happened man? Did things go wrong? When SLPL was announced may hates of IPL said that SLPL would be quality cricket unlike the IPL. Oh well what happened to that quality cricket and cricketers because my impression was abscence of Indian players would actually increase the standard of SLPL. Now someone tellms BCCI is to be blamed for fall od SLPL because they did not send their players.I dont think when IPL was started BCCI needed help of other boards ..then why does SL/PCB board need Indias help to start SLPL?

Posted by Jas on (July 19, 2011, 17:27 GMT)

@ShaniJ - since when is it India's responsibility to make PCB financially viable? You guys need to stop begging and get on with it. India should not play anyone at neutral venues...

When Australia and the WI were strong they did not want to tour India either ...check the records. SO if the WI gets a second eleven tour then tough luck. Also if you are so keen to see BAN or ZIM play then maybe you can get them to come to Pakistan!

Posted by Saurabh on (July 19, 2011, 15:35 GMT)

@ ShaniJ. Yes, lot of damage done by BCCI...so why are the boards begging to play with India? The obvious answer -- take advantage of India's growth...money matters dude!

Posted by Hitesh Joshi on (July 14, 2011, 14:24 GMT)

Firstly, Sangakara's speech did not mention anything about BCCI - only about political interference (I know you mention that but want to avoid other readers from misunderstanding).

Secondly, this article is a bit biased against the Indian board. The BCCI's claim against Decision Review System is technically sound and makes sense - actually its stand has improved the quality after the latest agreement in the ICC meeting.

There is a controlled complaint as expected regarding BCCI causing problems for the SLPL. But if you read in detail, BCCI does not damage cricket by not allowing Indian players to any other leagues - its strictly BCCI's decision on how to direct the players. SLPL may go ahead without Indian players just like the IPL did not have many English players and more recently Pakistani players. Its simple - the show goes on no matter what but the other boards must show guts to keep it on. SLPL raised concerns about broadcasting rights but main problem is its own stability.

Posted by optimismsrationality on (July 11, 2011, 12:19 GMT)

Folks do Not Like BCCI bacause: - BCCI provides the maximum funds for International Cricket. This fund is generated through the mad love Indians have for the game and the BCCI makes sure that these fans and their interests are not hurt. - BCCI opposed DRS. There were 9 full member countries then who supported it. The ICC constitution says if 8 Full Members and 38 Level two members support a motion, the motion can be passed. So why did not the ICC pass the DRS motion because BCCI was apparently the only one to oppose it. - BCCI wanted the rotation policy to stop - Well imagine Mr. Ijaz Butt running the show at ICC - is it good/ is it bad/ it does not matter? I guess BCCI is only doing what all boards are doing - Protecting their interests. Nothing wrong here. But when it affects the benefit of other nations (since BCCI refuses to foot the bill) people cry hoarse. Stop complaining. Pay your own bills.

Posted by ShaniJ on (July 11, 2011, 12:01 GMT)

@ all those who are asking what damage India has done to world cricket. 1.Not willing to play cricket with ZIM and BAN because it does not give them great profits .Thereby damaging cricket in those countries. 2.Not agreeing to play against Pakistan even at any neutral venue,for reasons only known to them.May be they dont want PCB to become financially stronger. 3.Refusing to recognise Srilanka premiere league and giving stupid reasons for it.May be a case of sour grapes .They dont want any other league to become as popular as their IPL. 4.Inexplicably opposing DRS all together,when they should have only opposed Hawk eye. These are only few of the many instances(I dont have time to write all of them) where India has done damage to World cricket.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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