BCCI's threat of parallel body 'laughable' - Mani
Former ICC president Ehsan Mani has said an earlier threat by a full member nation to withdraw from ICC events, which occurred during his tenure at the helm of world cricket, had been thwarted by other Full Members standing together. Responding to BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel's statement that the BCCI had threatened to form a parallel body if they were not given a greater share of ICC revenues, Mani told ESPNcricinfo he found Patel's comments "laughable" and he was "astonished that the ICC took this seriously."
"I am talking from personal experience, when I was ICC president, when a country threatened not to take part in ICC events," Mani said, while refusing to divulge the name of the board in question. "And all I did was to speak to other Full Members, and that included countries like England Australia, Pakistan and West Indies at that time, and they made it clear to this country that was making threats that they would only work within the ICC and would not break ranks with the ICC. And once this country got that message, it realised its threat was absolutely hollow."
Mani said had he been the current ICC president, he would have asked the BCCI to explain its position "in writing." The second step would have been to ensure that "the other members stood firm" to send a message to the BCCI. He said that India would have "realised once it calmed down that this was a very hollow threat and their whole bluff could be called and they would be embarrassed if it ever got out publicly." Mani said the ICC leadership as well as the cricket boards of England and Australia had "panicked" in their response to the BCCI threat, instead of calling their bluff.
"They [the ECB and CA] should have just stopped and thought about what is in the best interest of the game, instead of panicking which they clearly did - and started trying to compromise the organisation. What they have done is terrible for the governance of world cricket by their very actions… This should not have been rushed through, this should have been done pragmatically, looking at the pros and cons. In the very least, the BCCI would have been asked to put its proposals in writing and say fine, we'll look at it, we'll have it analysed, and come back to you. But to actually then delegate England and Australia to talk to the BCCI, they started looking after their own interests."
When asked if the advent of the Indian Premier League, which began after his stint as ICC president between 2003 and 2006, had changed the equations within world cricket, Mani said: "If you take out the foreign players from the IPL, it wouldn't be that attractive, it would just be a national tournament being played in India. It's the foreign players that make the difference and what the cricket boards don't appreciate is that without their players or their former players, it [the IPL] wouldn't be as attractive for people to come and watch. People tend to sometimes overlook the values that they bring to an event or a party as it were. And I think that is what happened in this case, particularly with England and Australia, since they are ones who call themselves the so-called part of the Big Three."
Mani said the BCCI's threat of setting up a parallel ICC or even a second IPL every year could not have worked because of contractual obligations involving most international cricketers.
"Who produces the players? It is the cricket boards, right? They have contracts with their players, so the current players would have found it difficult to break their contracts," Mani said. "Yes the BCCI might have attracted a few players but, on the other hand, other countries would have had their players on contracts. But there would have been big litigations for breach of contract, they would have got stay orders against all their players who would try to come out of existing contracts. The BCCI would have been liable for huge amount of damages for inducements to break contracts."
The entire exercise, Mani said, "would have shown how irresponsible the BCCI was in threatening to behave in the way it was threatening to behave." Mani stressed: "I don't think the Indian public opinion backs the BCCI in these things. What the India public wants is yes, for India to do well. It is a great nation, it produces a lot of income for world cricket, but it doesn't give the BCCI the ownership of that income of world cricket, which is what they have tried to do now."
Mani also questioned Patel's estimates of the contribution India had made to world cricket revenues. According to Patel, a private agency study had confirmed India's substantial contribution to the ICC, which the BCCI secretary pegged at 72%.
"Mr Patel said somewhere that they came up with the figure of 72% and the ICC came back and said 68%. To my knowledge, this is absolutely not correct," he said.
According to Mani, three other member boards had questioned the Big Three on how the figures had been calculated: "They were told by India, Australia, England that they [the figures] were not up for discussion, you take it or leave it. So these are figures that maybe these three countries have come up with."
Mani said he had written to ICC president Alan Isaac asking for the Big Three proposal to be referred to an independent panel of experts to "see whether the proposal had merit and if so how, it could be progressed but you just don't go through on the say-so of three countries."
He said that while India does generate of lot of money for cricket, it was India's economy that used cricket for its own end: "It is not the other way around. And my big issue with the BCCI is that the BCCI does not own the proprietary rights to the Indian economy."
According to Mani, Indian broadcasters and sponsors bought into the vast reach of Indian cricket to help sell products and services. "What's that got to do with the BCCI? Nothing," he said. "Whereas I absolutely acknowledge that India produces a huge revenue for world cricket, it is not the BCCI's money."
Mani said had the BCCI's bluff been called, its own revenues would have reduced considerably "by 70 to 80% because no one would like to see India playing Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and New Zealand day in and day out. It would be worth nothing, the television channels and broadcasters want high-profile teams, teams that play good cricket to play against India. It's a two-way thing, it's not a one-way thing."
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo