June 29, 2012

ICC

Why would the BCCI act like Mandela?

Girish Menon
Tony Greig relaxes ahead of the Sabina Park Test, March 10, 2004
The conciliatory approach that Tony Greig has called for is not consistent with how dominant powers have traditionally acted  © Getty Images
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At the MCC Spirit of Cricket address this year Tony Greig, cricket commentator, Kerry Packer rebel, former England captain who grew up in apartheid South Africa urged India, the current cricket superpower, to follow Nelson Mandela's approach to solve the problems of world cricket. Instead of adopting Mandela's conciliatory attitude, Greig said, "India eschews his approach by indulging in a little pay back."

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein has vividly captured the changes in South Africa as the erstwhile apartheid regime made way for an all-inclusive rainbow nation. As the FW De Klerk government's power began to fade, Mandela had to decide if South Africans needed political and economic equality or to settle for political equality and let the beneficiaries of the apartheid era continue with their hegemonic power over the South African economy. He chose the latter but he also set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to record the atrocities of the apartheid regime. For those who came forward, confessed to their crimes and got amnesty, the justice wasn't retributive.

Now, in this rainbow nation, the winners of the apartheid regime and a few blacks live in gated communities but are isolated from the poor black majority. Thus, in South Africa, there's a new but global form of apartheid in which money is the basis of discrimination. To understand the problems in world cricket we need a brief history of cricket's administration.

International cricket was once governed by England, Australia and South Africa under the aegis of the Imperial Cricket Conference which was later re-christened the International Cricket Conference (ICC). Until recently, cricket was run primarily by England and Australia who enjoyed veto powers on the game's decisions and which they used to advance their own interest with occasional decisions of noblesse oblige. It was only in 1996 that the ICC's constitution was rewritten and the veto powers rescinded. Today, for any ICC decision to be applicable it needs a 70% vote and India, with support from other boards, has been able to thwart some of the recommendations of the erstwhile veto-wielding nations.

The erstwhile 'imperial' powers of cricket had not reckoned with India's arrival as a global cricketing superpower. The process started in 1983 when Kapil Dev's team won the World Cup at Lord's. Along with the introduction of colour television and the increasing wealth of India's burgeoning middle class, cricket found a market hitherto unheard of. The BCCI now had its coffers overflowing, made many new friends and found itself leading the group of the Asian members of the ICC. When the BCCI's representative Jagmohan Dalmiya was elected as the President of the ICC in 1997, it was the culmination of a transfer of power within the game's governing body. Ever since, India, with its supporters, has ruled the roost in ICC matters and even Australia and South Africa support India in lure for the largesse that BCCI has to offer.

So, the most disgruntled power in the ICC is the ECB, which hasn't really welcomed the IPL with great excitement. Most media in the UK, with the exception of ITV, did not cover the cricket played in the IPL which attracted most of the leading players in the world. With this historical background, I will now discuss the validity of the Mandela-esque plea made by Greig.

Imagine a market where two firms enjoy dominant market shares for a long time and used this power to sustain their hold on the market. Imagine a hitherto small firm from this market suddenly outstripping the dominant duo with significantly larger revenues. Is it incumbent on the new monopoly to co-operate or collude with the ancien regime? Also, has the USA, the dominant hegemon, shared its power and wealth with the people of the world or at least with all of its own people? Doesn't the UN resemble the Imperial Cricket Conference with five countries wielding the veto power? Has the South African elite shared its wealth with its impoverished countrymen in the new rainbow nation? And if a wrong has been committed, should the perpetrator be punished or co-opted in the new power dispensation?

To this writer, it appears the behaviour of the BCCI, if Mr. Greig's thesis is correct, is entirely consistent with the historical behaviour of dominant powers. Is that the right way for the BCCI to behave? This will need an examination of the BCCI's position on issues that Greig claims the Indian board is using its muscle power to influence and stop 'progress' in the cricketing world. And on the subject of the DRS, where the BCCI and Indian cricketers have been portrayed as Luddites, there is more than a case for the Indian position. The Indians have consistently opposed the DRS especially on its predictive characteristics, and they have a point that technophiles ignore to their own peril.

In the modern system of justice, for someone to be convicted of a crime the prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused actually committed the crime. In recent judicial cases here in the UK, original verdicts have been overturned because the expert testimony used to convict the accused was found to be of dubious quality. Hence, the Indian position on an lbw decision appears to be valid, for it questions the validity of replacing the opinion of an umpire with the opinion of an expensive piece of technology. Therefore, Greig is not right, at least in the case of the DRS, when he argues that India is abusing its position and in the process preventing cricket from progressing.

Of course, there is a possibility that racial undertones, schadenfreude and power politics could govern relations between the ICC members. But for India to behave like Mandela, the ICC will need its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Until then hegemonic power-plays, I predict, will continue.

Keywords: ICC

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by kannan on (October 21, 2012, 12:25 GMT)

Erudite, evocative and balanced. Way to go! superbly written. I do fee that BCCI should reflect and reassess, in these times. Magnanimity in victory leads to goodwill in peace. An inclusive BCCI is important to world cricket and there is only so much to be gained from a tit for tat attitude. Having said that, i doff my hat off to you for such a well compiled piece. From one mallu to another !

Posted by Dilek on (August 2, 2012, 5:25 GMT)

This is what we need - an isngiht to make everyone think

Posted by Ari Murthy on (July 27, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

It is like, British courtrooms in pre-1947 India accussing freedom fighters as rebels and terrorist. Tony, if you could a statement that you were ashamed of ECB's past monopoly and atrocities, may be the cricket world would atleast think that you can make a fair statement.

Posted by Nampally on (July 2, 2012, 19:24 GMT)

@Ramesh Joseph:Greig's speech was written by his wife (Tony thanked her at the start of his speech) who obviously failed to do a proper research with so many wrong facts. Tony appeared so frustrated that the Kerry Packer failed to make his venture a success but IPL became a hit with players earning many times more than Packer ever paid his super stars!.Also IPL has participation from all Nations except Pakistan (Safety concerns) whilst Kerry Packers circus never had a single Indian player.Why bring in Mandela Or quote Gandhi while blaming India for the cricket Woes.It was a a sorry cry for help from India whilst blackmailing India at the same time.UDRS is an unreliable technology which causes more questions than answers.Ball tracking + hot spots is unreliable even according to its its inventer, Dr. Taylor!What credibilty does UDRS have? If Australia & SA support India in voting, why should it be Indian fault? They have their own brains to think & judge as well!.

Posted by Nampally on (July 2, 2012, 18:17 GMT)

A fine article Girish. It is the IMF & other international bodies which help out the poorer Nations - not USA. Similarly it is ICC job to help the poorer Nations financially. Tony Greig finds it an easy route to down load all the Cricketing Woes on India & even quotes Ghandiji.The fact of the matter is neither England, Australia or SA ever lifted a finger to help other developing Nations in 50's thru' 80's. When India became an economically super power thru its technocrats, it also helped BCCI developing its sound finanacial strategies. With the introduction of IPL, India now is super power in PR + cricketing skills + Business acuman.If India is supreme it is because of the brains & brawn of its organisers & players.India does not owe any Nation a dime & least of all to ICC or Tony Greig.India took a bold stand on DRS where others failed to tread. Let ICC develop it into fool proof technology first before it becomes acceptable!

Posted by Nampally on (July 2, 2012, 18:17 GMT)

A fine article Girish. It is the IMF & other international bodies which help out the poorer Nations - not USA. Similarly it is ICC job to help the poorer Nations financially. Tony Greig finds it an easy route to down load all the Cricketing Woes on India & even quotes Ghandiji.The fact of the matter is neither England, Australia or SA ever lifted a finger to help other developing Nations in 50's thru' 80's. When India became an economically super power thru its technocrats, it also helped BCCI developing its sound finanacial strategies. With the introduction of IPL, India now is super power in PR + cricketing skills + Business acuman.If India is supreme it is because of the brains & brawn of its organisers & players.India does not owe any Nation a dime & least of all to ICC or Tony Greig.India took a bold stand on DRS where others failed to tread. Let ICC develop it into fool proof technology first before it becomes acceptable!

Posted by G Leroux on (July 2, 2012, 10:49 GMT)

Ash, Clearly you are some disgruntled and disillusioned English provincial hiding behind a convenient pseudonym that you hope will throw everyone off the scent. I haven't stopped rolling with laughter at your hilarious suggestion that the IPL is a domestic competition! I suppose you will now claim that the English county fixtures are international competitions. 'Cricket was run primarily by England and Australia who enjoyed veto powers on the game's decisions and which they used to advance their own interest with occasional decisions of noblesse oblige'. This is not a tired old cliché but exactly what transpired. Surely you are not suggesting that the ECB is trying to advance the interests of world cricket now. England is now a third world country and a pauper on the world stage. The sooner all its institutions realise it, the better. What goes around comes around!

Posted by Girish Menon on (July 2, 2012, 10:28 GMT)

@ Joji - Firstly, I have only questioned the DRS's predictive ability on an LBW decision. And my position remains that if the lbw decision is an opinion and not a fact. Secondly, on the moral question, I was only pointing out the real politik of the issue.

@IG - I am not a spokesman for the BCCI and its decisions and all that you allege about the BCCI may even be true.

@Ash - Tony Greig mentions India indulging in some payback, in it is implicit that there were ICC decision which may have been unfair. Hence why doesn't the ICC set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

@grizzle - Whether it is a Cambs Uni don or an umpire, an lbw decision still remains an opinion and is not a fact.

Posted by joji on (July 2, 2012, 3:15 GMT)

Girish, Can I ask a question here, does proving that the Eng / Aus, the apartheid Southafrica and the UN is wrong in wielding its powers gives India the right to do the same. What is ethically / morally wrong will always be wrong. Why does India has to follow the old odigy when we know that it would ultimately fail to achieve its goals. Why can't India carve new paths for others to follow?

On the question of DRS, lets keep everything aside. Just let me ask this simple question: Does a game with DRS has a higher or lower probability of getting correct decisions as compared to a game without DRS? No matter how flawed DRS might be, it eventually removes the howlers from the game. And that in my dictionary should be the main aim of any technology put forth !

Posted by IG on (July 1, 2012, 16:50 GMT)

Yeah, you're right. It's too much to ask the BCCI to act like Mandela. In all fairness, the BCCI is like a banana republic, which has suddenly struck oil, and has become rich over-night. It continues to remain a greedy, vindictive and lazy organization that it used to be, except now, it has loads of money from television rights. It's too big a leap of faith to expect a narrow-minded bunch of individuals to act Mandela-esque. However, I wouldn't gloat too much about the BCCI's riches if I were you. The world economy is changing and so are people's consumption habits. I wouldn't bet against the BCCI's banana republic mentality to come forth and kill the hen thats been laying the golden eggs. Count your blessings...

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