'Wouldn't have dreamt of walking away from ICC' - Srinivasan
On his first day as the ICC's new chairman N Srinivasan has insisted the BCCI would never "have even dreamt" of walking away from the global governing body had its proposals for a vastly greater share of event revenue and formal influence at the board table been opposed.
Watched by several of the men who had told the world that India's board had indeed made such threats on multiple occasions, including the BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel and Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards, Srinivasan applied a rewrite to history as he settled into a role of enormous power and influence.
The most common explanation given for the original plan to restructure the ICC's administration and finance distribution came from the need of other cricket boards to keep the BCCI "in the tent." Asked whether the BCCI's threat of walking away had played a driving force at any stage across the development of the "Big Three" proposals, Srinivasan replied to the contrary.
"No. I think that is an incorrect assessment," he said. "India has at all times been very supportive of ICC, and has appreciated what ICC has done. We may not always agree, it is not possible to always agree with each other on all aspects. But that doesn't mean that one walks away. We have a view, we feel we have the right to one. The ICC is like a large family, so we always felt we had a right to express our view, and that doesn't mean at any time that we would have even dreamt of walking away from the ICC."
These words were a direct contradiction of those uttered by Patel earlier this month, when he outlined India's brinkmanship. "We got criticised by many in the media and lot of them did not agree but we told them that if India is not getting its proper due and importance then India might be forced to form a second ICC of its own," Patel told the Sports Journalists Federation of India's annual convention in Hyderabad. "England and Australia agreed and after that it was decided and from June 27th onwards the new structure will come into place. I would like to state that all 10 Full Members have signed the resolution."
Also speaking rather differently was Cricket Australia chairman Edwards, who has worked tirelessly to tell other Full Members, Associates and Affiliates about what was at stake without the constitutional changes approved at the ICC annual conference in Melbourne on Thursday. In March, Edwards told ESPNcricinfo that there had been a "very real chance" of India leaving the rest of the world behind. "We've had lots of talks about that, and that was a real possibility before we came to all these agreements. There was a very real chance that India would have gone on an IPL voyage and left world cricket behind," Edwards said. "That was said more than once. If that had happened, you were looking down the barrel of a Kerry Packer moment. It would have been easy to say, 'They aren't going to do it, they want to play in World Cups', but that was a reality.
"They've said more than once, 'You can have a World Cup but we won't be coming.' We can argue they might come, but will they come to Champions Trophy or a World T20? They might not. I can easily see them not coming. Why would you risk turning the IPL into a travelling circus that would take all our good cricketers 12 months of the year and leave us with second-rate international cricket? It's not a pretty thought. But it's possible, and they know that. Maybe in the end it will still happen one day, but I don't think it will happen in the next eight years."
In England, the ECB chairman Giles Clarke and his head of communications Colin Gibson refrained from speaking quite so bluntly. "Now we get India to take responsibility for driving the ICC. Previously they'd been standing outside chucking rocks," Clarke told the Evening Standard. "India has every reason to want to lead and generate the most possible money for the ICC."
However the English press wrote often of the threat posed by Indian non-participation in the ICC, summed up by the following passage by Stephen Brenkley in the Independent as part of a piece entitled "India and England give ICC a plan to save Test cricket": "If it is not approved, or if it is delayed for long, the feeling is that India will simply play who, where and when they want. They have frequently indicated that the Future Tours Programme of international cricket is a hindrance and that playing in ICC events such as the World Cup are inconveniences."
In discussing how the new landscape came about over the past year or more, Srinivasan said he had never intended to become ICC chairman. "I never thought of becoming the chairman," he said. "We had a working group to start looking the next rights cycle of the ICC from 2015-2023 and we started to look at what financial models we should be having. From there we went on to say why only look at the financial model, is ICC in its present form all right? Should we have a slightly different governance model, should we not give a better opportunity for Associates and Affiliates?
"So this is how the thought process, the whole concept, discussions widened. At the end of the day then, we said one should take responsibility for leadership in cricket. That is how England, Australia, ourselves and others thought. It evolved over at least a year ... it is not that we started out with this, we ended up with this."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig