May 17, 2013

Who cares for the spectator?

As the game's powerbrokers manoeuvre themselves towards greater influence, they move ever further away from the ordinary supporter

The average fan is more interested in the game itself rather than who controls it © Getty Images

There must be subjects that are more tedious than the politics of cricket administration, but I'm struggling to think what they could be. Sure, the history of spoons isn't much of a conversational icebreaker, and I can't remember excitedly high-fiving classmates when we covered the formation of oxbow lakes during geography lessons at school.

Years later I worked with someone whose mind used to wander so much during the afternoon, he once calculated the direction of Mecca from within every lift in our building. He wasn't Muslim - I think he just wanted to be helpful if he was ever trapped between floors with someone who was - but even that guy's tolerance levels for boredom would be overwhelmed by the inner workings of cricket's various boards of control.

It's a subject even the most fervent supporter could happily spend their lives avoiding, yet over the last week or so the machinations of cricket politics have been stalking me on social media as the fallout from Laxman Sivaramakrishnan's election as a player's representative on the ICC cricket committee has continued to clog up my Twitter timeline.

It's a story that needs to be covered, of course. We all want good, honest, transparent governance for the game, and suggestions that the BCCI might have influenced an appointment that is supposed to be the free choice of the world's Test captains is an idea that runs contrary to those principles. But whatever the truth behind the election of Sivaramakrishnan, while I'm glad that cricket's administrators are being held accountable by the media, the issue also has an element of cricket indulging in navel-gazing at its most self absorbed, with arguments raging over a committee position whose primary function appears to be to make recommendations that can be printed off and used to test that the ICC office shredder is still working.

It seems ludicrous that the cricket world has to focus so much attention on a role that has as much influence over ICC policy as ballboys do over the winner of Wimbledon. It's another example of how off-field issues increasingly set the news agenda, now that the riches coming from television revenue have magnified the power and influence of those who work in cricket's governing bodies.

Like most supporters, my interest is primarily the game of cricket itself rather than the power struggles that play out over who controls its destiny. To me the intrigues of the various national boards too often resemble a turgid soap opera. A Bollywood melodrama those actors lack any charisma. A Game of Thrones without the tits and swords. Well, without the swords, anyway.

The way cricket is run has become a drama. And, like all dramas, the narrative is focused on its protagonists, those in power, those able to move the storyline forward. The rest of the cricket world feels like mere bit players in their story. Powerless bystanders, extras in the background who watch on as tournaments are set up almost overnight, franchises sold, players bought, spectators rendered into television ratings.

But as the game's powerbrokers manoeuvre themselves towards greater influence, they move ever further away from the ordinary supporter. Because if players voted onto an ICC committee have little influence over how cricket is run, they at least get to be ignored; supporters are barely even acknowledged. They are the most insignificant actors in cricket's ongoing drama. Spectators in every sense.

I hope that journalists continue to highlight self-interest and hypocrisy. I hope that cricket's top table is still populated by some who are motivated by the game's best interests rather than inflated egos and vested interest. But I have little hope that spectators will ever have a say in how the game evolves. They seem forever condemned to be the peons impotently looking on whilst the protagonists fight for power in cricket's Game of Thrones.

Dave Hawksworth has never sat in a press box or charged a match programme to expenses