February 5, 2014

Pakistan and the Big Three

Whether by circumstance or not, Pakistan is now one of the few voices of dissent against the restructuring of the ICC
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The PCB has chosen to make a virtue of its impending disenfranchisement
The PCB has chosen to make a virtue of its impending disenfranchisement © PCB

We all love a last stand, and Pakistan cricket has enjoyed a few. Inzamam-ul Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed nudged and scampered a final-wicket partnership of 57 to defeat Australia and win a Test series in 1994. Two years earlier, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis stood firm to beat England at Lord's. Imran Khan was known for standing alone, defying fierce rivals from all nations.

I hark back to those times because the 1980s and 1990s saw a power shift in international cricket. The imperial rule of Australia and England, the Big Two, was challenged primarily by India - but with the support of Pakistan and others. The popularity and pull of the game in South Asia was irresistible. In those times, winning a Test match or series against the old powers was more than cricket. It was a blow for the disempowered in international cricket.

India, it seems ironic now, led the charge and clamour for equality in world cricket. A fair, representative, international cricket council was best for the transformation of the Commonwealth's game into a truly global sport. India needed its fellow rebels, the nations that are now cajoled, tempted and arm-twisted into compliance. Yet India quickly outgrew these allies. The biggest population, the fastest growing economy, and the most valuable television rights rendered any of its less powerful accomplices meaningless.

This is a linear history, but history is also circular. For now we are pretty much back where we started. Instead of a Big Two we have a Big Three, the new imperialists. India now leads a system that is a reinvention of the old one. At least there is some honesty about this world of cricket. India is brazenly in charge; no democracy here, thank you very much. Australia and England are brides who bring the biggest dowries. The rest are dogs at a wedding feast, feeding off scraps from the top table.

Not much else has changed since the old days. The world of cricket is not significantly bigger. No sport confuses politics and sport like cricket does. There is no independent ruling body. Since the 1970s, at least, the purpose of cricket has been to make money. Except, nobody now pretends to act in the best interests of the spirit of cricket. Greed is good, celebrated and rewarded.

Where this leaves Pakistan is in a mess. No home international tours; distanced from its old political ally India; less sellable, albeit more intriguing, than most international teams. The Pakistan Cricket Board has chosen to make a virtue of its disenfranchisement. Pakistan stands alone, against the rule of the Big Three. And so should any rational analysis. Bravo PCB. We don't often say that.

But the recent back-to-back Ashes series serve as a warning. The Big Three endlessly playing the Big Three will become tedious. Cricket will not grow as a global sport. The financial obsession of the Big Three will not allow such long-term investment. What the Big Three say will go. The Big Three will decide who hosts major tournaments. The Big Three will settle on the structure and format of international cricket. The Big Three will control the laws of the game. The Big Three will judge which players are hounded out of the game for chucking balls and throwing games. Perhaps the Big Three will also decide who wins and who loses? After all, why disappoint a sponsor? And a happy population is good for commercial partners and the economy.

Be in no doubt, the financial arguments to justify the new structure are a smokescreen. The arguments for equity in distribution of revenues are a diversion. These could all have been agreed without the accompanying corporate changes.

Look no further than cricket's organogram. The corporate changes are the beginning, middle and end of this proposal. Power and greed, grand corrupters both, are driving the new proposals. Inequity in the governance of cricket will now be enshrined in its articles.

India is the dominant cricket board of the three, and it will be tested like all leaders are. There is no bitterness in this statement, just regret. I don't pretend that Pakistan's stance is one of genuine idealism. It is pragmatism: a country with nothing left to lose, facing a future of legislated marginalisation. Had Pakistan been invited into the ruling cabal, the PCB would now be singing the benefits of the new system. But the structure delivers overall power to India. Who are Australia and England to challenge India's financial muscle?

In between the years of the Big Two and the Big Three, a shadow world that India ruled while pretending not to, India's leadership of cricket was a disappointment. As such, I don't accept the argument that India has an automatic right to leadership of world cricket. Not because my allegiance is with Pakistan but because India's behind-the-scenes rule of cricket has been incredibly self-serving. India's track record of decision-making for the good of cricket is poor, and nothing predicts behaviour like behaviour, as any decent psychiatrist will tell you.

Indeed, leadership in any sphere must be by merit and based on values, not snatched by force. The dominant value in the world of the Indian cricket board is the commercial value proposition. Greed is good and greed has won, whatever Punjabi-film-style posturing the PCB has begun. But the lesson of history is that no empire lasts forever. We might not always be able to imagine how it will end, but as surely as day follows night, as verily as a Misbah dot ball follows a Misbah dot ball, the tyranny of the Big Three will end.

But the question for now is: How long can the Big Three last?

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Malaiya on February 11, 2014, 6:27 GMT

    Let me answer you on this. I find your reasons quite vague in reality. I feel its coming from a person who is quite frustrated. With no offence to Pakistan as a country and the Pakistani people, the day that you are seeing right now is all because of the pakistani government, so yes, politic and cricket are related to each other. Pakistan used to be one of the favourite nations to play cricket before the attacks happened in pakistan where several cricketers were also injured. The big 3 are not responsible for this, Pakistan's government is. In every field there are always some dominant factors and those dominant factors are dominant cause of a reason. IF 8 countries play cricket you cant have the "BIG 8". India has made its way into the BIG 2 and that too in a way where it has even surpassed the original BIG 2, so in a way it should be complimented for that. Now how India performs as a leader is yet to be seen and we should not speculate about that. Lastly, (Continued)

  • on February 7, 2014, 12:31 GMT

    Very well put article.Is there a distant possibility that the end of Big 3 empire will be Big 4? Another influential board like CSA coming in. Just a thought, IMHO a democratic body will be the best.

  • on February 7, 2014, 9:49 GMT

    if indian is going to snatch its right from big 2 then y we r condemning this act.we should spurt indians and they will ensure us tht they will never let us down.

  • on February 7, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    why are people still after misbah dot balls? what all of this has to do with misbah ? grow up people find a new punching bag. misbah is playing a lot well and he is captaining good too . for the big three i dont damn care what happens . i just want teams to play good cricket . all of the rest of politics is meaningless.

  • on February 7, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    India is powerful now in world of cricket now. Some years back it was not there. We developed the game popularity and marketing. So why don't you people do this ? Coz you lack development and sorry to say that you are 25 years back....

  • on February 7, 2014, 3:32 GMT

    So Indian calls cricket its religion and the only way they think they can dominate their religion is "MONEY" !!!!!!!!!!! what a shame , what an irony !!!!!!!!!

  • on February 7, 2014, 3:07 GMT

    "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." - These are the words of Abraham Lincoln. It goes for BCCI too. Apologies to my Indian friends. But this is the reality.

  • Syed_imran_abbas on February 6, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    Nice article.. I hope and pray that Pakistan, South Africa and srilanka stand their grounds for principles. Good luck and all true cricket fans are with you guys.

  • KarachiKid on February 6, 2014, 21:13 GMT

    Good that you pointed out that the distribution of financial gains is just a smoke screen. The real problem is that big three will be able to manipulate the tours, laws, tournaments etc at will.

  • rizwan1981 on February 6, 2014, 21:06 GMT

    What is at stake is democracy and fairness.The 80 % revenue india generates because it plays other countries - Do you think if the Indian National tema led by Dhoni competes in a test match with an India A team , 80 % revenue will accrue to the Indian cricket board ?

    Would FIFA allow Brazil , Spain and England to be the only nations with a vote on important matters ?

  • Malaiya on February 11, 2014, 6:27 GMT

    Let me answer you on this. I find your reasons quite vague in reality. I feel its coming from a person who is quite frustrated. With no offence to Pakistan as a country and the Pakistani people, the day that you are seeing right now is all because of the pakistani government, so yes, politic and cricket are related to each other. Pakistan used to be one of the favourite nations to play cricket before the attacks happened in pakistan where several cricketers were also injured. The big 3 are not responsible for this, Pakistan's government is. In every field there are always some dominant factors and those dominant factors are dominant cause of a reason. IF 8 countries play cricket you cant have the "BIG 8". India has made its way into the BIG 2 and that too in a way where it has even surpassed the original BIG 2, so in a way it should be complimented for that. Now how India performs as a leader is yet to be seen and we should not speculate about that. Lastly, (Continued)

  • on February 7, 2014, 12:31 GMT

    Very well put article.Is there a distant possibility that the end of Big 3 empire will be Big 4? Another influential board like CSA coming in. Just a thought, IMHO a democratic body will be the best.

  • on February 7, 2014, 9:49 GMT

    if indian is going to snatch its right from big 2 then y we r condemning this act.we should spurt indians and they will ensure us tht they will never let us down.

  • on February 7, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    why are people still after misbah dot balls? what all of this has to do with misbah ? grow up people find a new punching bag. misbah is playing a lot well and he is captaining good too . for the big three i dont damn care what happens . i just want teams to play good cricket . all of the rest of politics is meaningless.

  • on February 7, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    India is powerful now in world of cricket now. Some years back it was not there. We developed the game popularity and marketing. So why don't you people do this ? Coz you lack development and sorry to say that you are 25 years back....

  • on February 7, 2014, 3:32 GMT

    So Indian calls cricket its religion and the only way they think they can dominate their religion is "MONEY" !!!!!!!!!!! what a shame , what an irony !!!!!!!!!

  • on February 7, 2014, 3:07 GMT

    "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." - These are the words of Abraham Lincoln. It goes for BCCI too. Apologies to my Indian friends. But this is the reality.

  • Syed_imran_abbas on February 6, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    Nice article.. I hope and pray that Pakistan, South Africa and srilanka stand their grounds for principles. Good luck and all true cricket fans are with you guys.

  • KarachiKid on February 6, 2014, 21:13 GMT

    Good that you pointed out that the distribution of financial gains is just a smoke screen. The real problem is that big three will be able to manipulate the tours, laws, tournaments etc at will.

  • rizwan1981 on February 6, 2014, 21:06 GMT

    What is at stake is democracy and fairness.The 80 % revenue india generates because it plays other countries - Do you think if the Indian National tema led by Dhoni competes in a test match with an India A team , 80 % revenue will accrue to the Indian cricket board ?

    Would FIFA allow Brazil , Spain and England to be the only nations with a vote on important matters ?

  • jimmyvida on February 6, 2014, 20:21 GMT

    Absolutely great article. Pakistan should go it alone. Show guts, personality, character. Refuse any money from ICC. Get SLC to join in your cause. You can play one another and divide the spoils. Show the big three you are bigger.

  • on February 6, 2014, 14:40 GMT

    Good article. if it was just about revenue then understandable. but this power grabbing is where it is getting messy. Also i think some people take "contributing more " thing differently. The media companies which are primary source of cash flow but rights. And they are getting profits from these. Arent they? It isnt the case that they are giving cash for icc and not earning. Anyway, india is generating more so should get more return from ICC. That is ok.

    But huge question marks on their decisions on past. DRS or FTP commitments or pulling another board for appointing an admin of its own choice. Too many games among themselves. What guarantee is that such things will improve.

    If they want to approve it then it should be 10 out of 10. So far PCB , CSA and SLC is against it. rest 4 have given up easily.

  • on February 6, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    Good article and all can say Big shame for Big 3. Day they come in power is the day I will stop watching cricket.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on February 6, 2014, 10:12 GMT

    Completely agree with Dr. Abbasi. The BCCI's tyranny will not last forever. But they're doing a great job of ensuring that they'll have no friends left when their empire ends (I'm an Indian, mind you).

  • Neel_123 on February 6, 2014, 9:10 GMT

    Like every other cricket, BCCI focus should be Indian cricket and its financial well being. No one gave India hand-outs when BCCI was 'poor'. Despite India providing millions to some of these boards year after year, their fans are blackmailing for 'more' money with no gratitude.

    Let us expand IPL to3-4 months and matches should be exhibited in smaller towns not just in selected metros!

    Go ahead BCCI. Cut-out the meaningless touring and concentrate on domestic cricket. Also limit the number of foreign players in IPL teams to only a maximum of 2 and that too only from 'friendly' nations. No point in investing millions in foreign players & boards who back-stab India at first chance.

  • Tmalik on February 6, 2014, 8:39 GMT

    hope SLC, PCB and CSA stand united against and do not fall to any trap, BCCI will go out of the way and offer big time to one of the board likely CSA or SLC and get them to their own side.... Very Good Article, so real..... well done Mr. Abbasi

  • haq33 on February 6, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    Mr Abbasi, I applaud this article.

  • Udendra on February 6, 2014, 4:42 GMT

    the "Big 3" will last only till the "right 3" comes together.

  • Orangetable on February 5, 2014, 23:58 GMT

    Its unfortunate but the Indian psyche like all delusional empires means that we get a desire to dominate. World cricket needs all countries to be strong as there is nothing more boring than one sided contests.

  • pipsonian on February 5, 2014, 19:45 GMT

    Well written Kamran. I personally don't mind giving India a bigger share of the pie (maybe not as big as the one they are asking for) but cricket cannot afford to be only governed by these 3. That would be a return to the dark days of Imperialism.

  • cipher_inside_enigma on February 5, 2014, 19:06 GMT

    Nice article.

    BCCI position reminds me of the story of the man with the golden goose. He thought it was a good idea to slice the goose in half so he can get at those golden eggs. In the long run I think cricket will suffer and hence BCCI will suffer.

    Also as things change over time, what if PCB or some other board becomes "big" in terms of revenue...will they then join and it becomes big 4?

  • OptimusPrimal on February 5, 2014, 17:29 GMT

    @AndyZaltzmannsHair: The solution to Pakistan playing another big team once in seven years is NOT relegating all of cricket's decision making powers to the Big Bad three. The solution is to construct a legally binding FTP with the consensus of all test playing nations. An FTP which will not change because one board doesn't like the chairman of another. Teams like Bangladesh must play test matches with the top teams but also with Zimbabwe, even Afghanistan. All tours should be designed with 3 test, 3 ODIs and 3 T20s in mind (if tests are not making money then ODIs and T20s will cover for that). Regarding money, yes the Big Bad three do deserve more, but definitely not in the proportions they are demanding. As far as Pakistan being whitewashed is concerned, the last time I checked, England got blasted in a test series against Pakistan and SA drew one. Pakistan was also the first team from Asia to win an ODI series in SA and record a series win in India.

  • Rubic on February 5, 2014, 16:08 GMT

    Now, it's time for the little 7 to think and prepare beyond Big3 era...

  • 1_234 on February 5, 2014, 15:56 GMT

    Change is eminent, no one can stop it, power comes power goes, turn comes turn ends. India wants to cement is turn, its power for ever. But India should realize that change is a rule of nature, you are not Born to rule for ever. Greatest empires had to bow down to the rule of nature. Do not try to build forts to let you rule for ever, because change is eminent, it will come, it is a rule of nature.

  • on February 5, 2014, 15:31 GMT

    if you think no team is visiting Pak because of Big Three or precisely BCCI, this whole article falls flat

  • on February 5, 2014, 15:09 GMT

    However long the Big Three rule lasts, you can make sure it won't be before Pakistan is bogged down as a competitive test playing nation. The question is before the rule can begin, can SLC, PCB and CSA stay united together long enough to vote against this proposal? No board is saintly governed and a good juicy offer can draw any of them towards the Big Three. As minimalistic the chances are of such a thing happening may be, all we as a cricket loving minority can do is hope.

  • on February 5, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    Indian Public wants to see India play Pakistan,Indian public wants to see India topple South Africa from NUMBER ONE. I think the BCCI didnt even consider the sentiments of the Indian People when they came up with this proposal ad excluded PCB and South Africa.

  • Atish_Man on February 5, 2014, 14:22 GMT

    Amazing article. I am an Indian and I really feel sad. Pakistan have such an exiting team, they bring lot to the table. I really admire them as even after so many hurdles they are able to stand and compete. Cricket just can not afford to lose pakistan. Its really getting painful now.

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on February 5, 2014, 13:32 GMT

    Do you think it would be in Pakistan's best interest to just walk away from cricket if the proposed Big Three get their way? I really don't see any future for Pak in this regard. The alternative is to sit around, waste money and time and watch Pak cricket team steadily, irreversibly decline. Every 7 years they get to play against one of the Big Three and get whitewash humiliated. No cricket, unable to compete. Simple as that. We won't get much sympathy from the cricket world either. What is your take on this course of action?

  • AncientAstronaut on February 5, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    Excellent article. I'm Indian, and I couldn't agree more. It's pathetic how everyone caved into the demands of the Big 3. I expected at least some resistance, but there was clearly no unity among the other boards. Ridiculous, really.

  • on February 5, 2014, 12:57 GMT

    A similar situation is faced by Ireland: They have now well and truly outgrown its fellow Associates and Affiliates. The new proposal to redirect a lot of the Assoc/Affil funds in the direction of the top six teams would have benefited Ireland financially. But instead of stabbing its fellow sufferers (the rest of the associate and affiliate nations) in the back, it has decided to keep solidarity. Read "Increasing select Associates' funds won't reduce divide - Ireland CEO" on Cricinfo, truly heartwarming example that restores the faith in humanity which the Big 3 and their chummies have been desperately trying to destroy.

  • malepas on February 5, 2014, 12:56 GMT

    Well written article, the best phrase is "facing a future of legislated marginalisation" is very much what is BCCI going to do with PCB, it was bit difficult under current ICC structure though BCCI have already pulled some stunts on PCB but it will be very much possible under new regulations, some "changes" which are being proposed now to get it signed off will be back on the table very soon but this time nobody will be able to oppose it as "ICC CONSTITUTIONAL STRUCTRE" would not allow this to happen and there will be lot more to come, don't know how long this bubble gonna take to burst but Cricket is heading towards very bad way.

  • on February 5, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    I think its not good for cricket, cricket power cant be distributed caz in world cricket some boards not financial stable like pak,scb,and south africa,wcb etc must be all decision implimented with consenses

  • jsaeed on February 5, 2014, 12:34 GMT

    As verily as a misbahs dot follows a misbahs dot lolz... beautifuly written... i feel the pain with which he wrote... and soon all will share this pain even the BCCI... they will watch in awe as the fire of their greed burns down this beautiful game.

  • Blearbunty on February 5, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    Very Good Article Written.. We should encourage and appreciate writers all over the world to write about the Big Three Proposal and give true and neutral point of view. As far as Cricket Lover I am. I would definitely want to see the game growing with more countries coming in and more matches would be played simultaneously with different opposition rather then just watching Aus-Eng, Eng-Aus and vice versa. Please save the game for our children and for our next generation. May the logic Prevail in the end.

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  • Blearbunty on February 5, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    Very Good Article Written.. We should encourage and appreciate writers all over the world to write about the Big Three Proposal and give true and neutral point of view. As far as Cricket Lover I am. I would definitely want to see the game growing with more countries coming in and more matches would be played simultaneously with different opposition rather then just watching Aus-Eng, Eng-Aus and vice versa. Please save the game for our children and for our next generation. May the logic Prevail in the end.

  • jsaeed on February 5, 2014, 12:34 GMT

    As verily as a misbahs dot follows a misbahs dot lolz... beautifuly written... i feel the pain with which he wrote... and soon all will share this pain even the BCCI... they will watch in awe as the fire of their greed burns down this beautiful game.

  • on February 5, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    I think its not good for cricket, cricket power cant be distributed caz in world cricket some boards not financial stable like pak,scb,and south africa,wcb etc must be all decision implimented with consenses

  • malepas on February 5, 2014, 12:56 GMT

    Well written article, the best phrase is "facing a future of legislated marginalisation" is very much what is BCCI going to do with PCB, it was bit difficult under current ICC structure though BCCI have already pulled some stunts on PCB but it will be very much possible under new regulations, some "changes" which are being proposed now to get it signed off will be back on the table very soon but this time nobody will be able to oppose it as "ICC CONSTITUTIONAL STRUCTRE" would not allow this to happen and there will be lot more to come, don't know how long this bubble gonna take to burst but Cricket is heading towards very bad way.

  • on February 5, 2014, 12:57 GMT

    A similar situation is faced by Ireland: They have now well and truly outgrown its fellow Associates and Affiliates. The new proposal to redirect a lot of the Assoc/Affil funds in the direction of the top six teams would have benefited Ireland financially. But instead of stabbing its fellow sufferers (the rest of the associate and affiliate nations) in the back, it has decided to keep solidarity. Read "Increasing select Associates' funds won't reduce divide - Ireland CEO" on Cricinfo, truly heartwarming example that restores the faith in humanity which the Big 3 and their chummies have been desperately trying to destroy.

  • AncientAstronaut on February 5, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    Excellent article. I'm Indian, and I couldn't agree more. It's pathetic how everyone caved into the demands of the Big 3. I expected at least some resistance, but there was clearly no unity among the other boards. Ridiculous, really.

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on February 5, 2014, 13:32 GMT

    Do you think it would be in Pakistan's best interest to just walk away from cricket if the proposed Big Three get their way? I really don't see any future for Pak in this regard. The alternative is to sit around, waste money and time and watch Pak cricket team steadily, irreversibly decline. Every 7 years they get to play against one of the Big Three and get whitewash humiliated. No cricket, unable to compete. Simple as that. We won't get much sympathy from the cricket world either. What is your take on this course of action?

  • Atish_Man on February 5, 2014, 14:22 GMT

    Amazing article. I am an Indian and I really feel sad. Pakistan have such an exiting team, they bring lot to the table. I really admire them as even after so many hurdles they are able to stand and compete. Cricket just can not afford to lose pakistan. Its really getting painful now.

  • on February 5, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    Indian Public wants to see India play Pakistan,Indian public wants to see India topple South Africa from NUMBER ONE. I think the BCCI didnt even consider the sentiments of the Indian People when they came up with this proposal ad excluded PCB and South Africa.

  • on February 5, 2014, 15:09 GMT

    However long the Big Three rule lasts, you can make sure it won't be before Pakistan is bogged down as a competitive test playing nation. The question is before the rule can begin, can SLC, PCB and CSA stay united together long enough to vote against this proposal? No board is saintly governed and a good juicy offer can draw any of them towards the Big Three. As minimalistic the chances are of such a thing happening may be, all we as a cricket loving minority can do is hope.