Decade Review 2009

The world money made

Through the 2000s the BCCI has seen its power grow exponentially with its bank balance, and the rest of cricket has fallen in line, whether by choice or under duress

Osman Samiuddin

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Nasim Ashraf, chairman of the Pakistan board, talks to Sharad Pawar, President of the BCCI, during a meeting of the four countries that are hosting the 2011 World Cup in Bhurban, June 18, 2007
'Here's how it's going to go down': Pakistan has largely been a loyal satellite to the Indian board © AFP
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There are better ways to bring in a new decade, but here are a few numbers. In 2007-08, the BCCI announced revenues of over US$213 million. Cricket's two other richest boards by comparison are not a world away. The ECB and CA, respectively, rolled in $148 million and $128 million, but it is the BCCI's spurt over the decade - and particularly the second half - that is to be noted. Only in 2005-06, for example, the BCCI's revenues were $91 million. At the turn of the decade, in 1998-99, their revenue was not even $2 million. In 1992 they were trying to wipe out a deficit of $150,000, which is the kind of chump change their peon might throw at you while driving you by now. The next few years the gap will only widen.

Various estimates have Indian cricket generating anywhere between 60 to 80% of the sport's entire revenue. Everybody wants a piece of India, everybody. Countries are desperate for them to tour. Some, like Bangladesh, don't even mind if they don't ever tour India. The PCB, more loyal than the king for much of the decade, is now striving hard to make light of the latest political fallout between the two countries. It's easy to see why; in 2003-04, India's tour to Pakistan saved the PCB from the financial ruin brought on by security concerns following 9/11 and the war on neighbouring Afghanistan. This year, security concerns have led to a $125 million loss for Ijaz Butt's administration, of which $40 million is just from the cancellation of an Indian visit. The PCB's $140-million TV deal is mostly pegged on Indian tours.

Others fare better. West Indies are granted the favours of pointless ODI series when the need arises, for votes they may have given or might soon give. Sri Lanka prefer handouts, looking at the BCCI as a kind of IMF or World Bank, without the debilitating repayment plan. Even richer boards like Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa want to piggyback on the BCCI for the Champions League. The ECB, meanwhile, is in a funk, not knowing whether to hitch a ride or try and emulate the Indian board's ways. And three modern-day truisms, finally, that confirm India's dominance. One, entire tournaments are said to be scuppered financially should India fall early, as happened during the 2007 World Cup and the 2009 World Twenty20.

Two, there was a time still, during the early years of the decade, when it took an Indian at the head of the ICC to symbolise the BCCI's growing clout. Now it doesn't matter if someone from Timbuktoo is at the head, for everyone knows who is running the show. And three, the IPL has become the new county cricket. Big benevolent India, doling out the cash everywhere, making sure the world game runs along. Everybody wants a piece of India, everybody.

Cricket has made more money this decade than in any other. The late Bill Sinrich of IMG, among the most influential sports-television executives, was the key instigator behind cricket's emergence into the broadcast limelight in the mid-90s. The 1996 World Cup changed cricket's financial equations. Across the board, cricket boards have benefited from bigger TV deals as the decade has worn on. Sky, for instance, paid the ECB $475 million for four-year rights last year. The ICC, which reportedly had $25,000 in its kitty in 1997, has not missed out, netting comfortably over a billion dollars for eight-year rights for its events.

But nobody has accrued more benefits than the BCCI, whose TV deals have not only gotten bigger but broader. Nimbus paid $612 million for four-year rights to Indian cricket, and separate deals came in with the IPL and Champions League. The country has changed as much as anything else. A newly liberalised economy, an electronic media boom, a growing, hungry and transformed middle class wanting to spend not save, and a huge captive population have all shaped the BCCI's rise. But it shouldn't be seen entirely as an accident of fate, however. Somehow, as they say of India itself, the BCCI has worked. At key moments it has worked.

. The problem is not that India enjoys and abuses the power. The problem is, as it was with the age of Australia and England before, that cricket seems so predisposed to concentrate so much power in so few hands

Not only was Twenty20, for example, not their idea, it was something they were entirely averse to, and nobody remembers the grudgingly organised domestic Twenty20 tournament they held before the IPL came along. The IPL wasn't even the first franchise-based Twenty20 league. In fact the idea for such a league, in different formats and shapes, had actually been kicking around India since the mid-90s - Lalit Modi himself and the late Madhavrao Scindia were the early floaters. The BCCI was forever wary, mostly of letting any kind of control slip out of their hands, and even at one stage objecting to foreign players participating.

But when the moment was right, just after the 2007 World Cup, they struck, spurred on by the arrival of the ICL and Misbah-ul-Haq's monumental mis-scoop. They chanced it and here came, with the IPL, the decisive shift of the decade; the then-gradual lurch of cricket's centre towards Mumbai in the decade between the mid-90s and the mid-noughties became speedier, much speedier.

Others did not take advantage. The people who created the very format, for example, sat around not knowing what to do with it. Just how and why the ECB didn't pre-empt the IPL will remain one of the mysteries of the decade. Back in 2003, when the format was first unveiled, England and the county circuit remained cricket's premier, most lucrative, destination outside of international cricket. Who would have turned down big deals to play Twenty20 for a county league? Instead the ECB came up with a belated, retrospective, utterly confused and ultimately embarrassing bid to outflank India; even if Allen Stanford was not now in jail, the dalliance with him marked a sorry nadir in the ECB's fortunes this decade.

Some boards, like Cricket Australia, haven't even made any attempt to outthink, outflank or out-innovate. Their bed was made early in the piece and nothing has been allowed to get in the way of that; no team has played more Tests against India this decade and only one team (Sri Lanka) has played more ODIs against them. A rivalry has been happily milked, understandably, even if the lengths to which they went to ensure Sydney 2008 didn't end in India abandoning the tour were less so. But what else has there been? Have Australia never felt the need, for example, to further illuminate the toughest domestic system in the world with more foreign players?

In as much the tale of the decade is about the BCCI taking a punt, it is also about the inertia of all else around them. In their immediate neighbourhood it has been supreme folly upon folly. At the start of this decade the concept of a powerful Asian bloc still existed. Project Snow was still fresh in the minds of many; the idea was mooted at a fractious ICC meeting in 1996, where Australia, England, New Zealand and the West Indies were prepared to break away from the ICC, threatened by the increasing influence of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

But both the PCB and SLC have spent the noughties slowly hacking at their own feet. Afflicted by such infighting, such crippling lack of leadership and governance, they have only been a threat to themselves and no one else. No administration has been able to look beyond its nose. The Asian Cricket Council has never been more nothing. There have been the same number of Asia Cups this decade as there were the last - three - but each one has seemed less significant, less relevant. Already it is difficult to see even that many over the next 10 years. And let alone finding enough mourners, are there enough souls who even remember the Afro-Asia Cup?

Allen Stanford poses with Giles Clarke and Julian Hunte after arriving by helicopter on the nursery ground for the launch of his 20-20 for 20 series, Lord's, June 11, 2008
The England board, in decline for much of the decade, hit a new low with its dalliance with Allen Stanford © Getty Images

So cricket feels it has a problem. The BCCI is ruining it with too much money, not enough direction. Players want to freelance, and representing their country suddenly seems not such a big deal. The very order of the game is being shaken, by the BCCI. Like America politically, they are an easy and fashionable scapegoat, not least because they don't really care about the sniping. Like with America, some of the barbs are justified. On at least two occasions this decade, in 2001 in South Africa and 2008 in Sydney, the BCCI has played a petulant bully in battles with the ICC. In the matter of the ICL it led what amounts to a witch-hunt.

The lust for owning production of the cricket broadcast is also unseemly; the replacement of commentators with cheerleaders, in particular, a tasteless fallout. The suspicion that it has tried to isolate Pakistan - albeit with help from the PCB itself - also lingers, and Lalit Modi does often seem to make up rules as he stomps along.

But the jibes are also, in a sense, misplaced. The problem is not that India enjoys and abuses the power. The problem is, as it was with the age of Australia and England before, that cricket seems so predisposed to concentrate so much power in so few hands. At some point over the next 10 years, the ICC must seriously ask itself: what is its purpose? It cannot be the UN of cricket, because there is no use for the UN. Because of its very format, the ICC has not been able to rise above the sum of its constituent units in governing the game. If the game is global now or is trying to be, either governance has to spread and involve everyone, not just one, or the ICC has to change its very structure and grow a spine.

Those who defend the BCCI's bullishness, that it is about time the old colonials got their comeuppance, often argue that had Australia or another country been so powerful, there wouldn't be such a fuss. The implication is that race plays a part in all this. Perhaps there is some truth in it; a group as small as cricket's, with the kind of unique coloniser-colony dynamics, cannot avoid that. And the ICC still feels at times like one of those old gentlemen's clubs that has finally given admission to the oppressed, where neither the old or new order seems comfortable with their new status.

But more and more this game is about money, about who has it and who doesn't and not race. Fourteen years ago Project Snow was baldly inspired by race. These days the new talk of breakaways stems from finance and power; cricket's new alliances between the BCCI, CA and CSA, for example, in the Champions League, and their joining hands with the ECB in opposing a Test championship, cut through colour and get to the heart of all matter in this new world. Cricket has come far and yet it hasn't come far at all.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo


Comments: 47 
Posted by AJ100 on (December 30, 2009, 15:30 GMT)

Thanks for the article. Having read all the interesting comments by our readers, I would like to add one more incident which need to be highlighted here. This is regarding the anti-doping policy. BCCI took a firm stance and stood behind its players to protect them. Although the policy is required but today some of the bigger sportsmen are such huge stars all over the world and there is such a security risk in the whereabouts. In fact what BCCI stood for was originally advocated by players such as Roger Federer and Nadal. This stance by BCCI should be commended too.

Posted by spiritwithin on (December 30, 2009, 14:24 GMT)

@S_Marto....the two article given by u does'nt show any misuse of power by BCCI..the 1st article shows bcci rejecting test championship but da fact is even ECB is not in favor of test championship and bcci is one of da 10 boards present there so if icc had deemed it (championship) nessesary they would hav gone with the proposed championship,as a member bcci was entitled to put forward its view like any other...da 2nd article was about WADA act and many other boards and its players too hav reservations on its clauses and bcci just backed its player who wanted changes in some clauses...ECB & CA were calling all da shots in ICC until one decades back,changed da rules according to their needs,does'nt deemed it nessasary to tour sub-continent and were not helping da cash starved boards but now when bcci is actually helping players from other countries by introducing IPL, CL etc all r finding fault with bcci...does CA or ECB had ever helped any other nations financially??i don think so...

Posted by muzika_tchaikovskogo on (December 30, 2009, 11:10 GMT)

Superb article Dr. Samiuddin, I always enjoy reading your articles- you're one of the few writers who manage to avoid personal prejudices. Its a relief to see a foreign writer not railing against the BCCI for its supposed antics. Admittedly it is not the most professional body and there are times when the beaviour of BCCI officials has been plain embarrasing.

That said, all the talk about their arm-twisting and blackmail sounds ludicrous. Its amazing how no one seems to mention the enthusiasm of foreign players to play in the IPL. One wonders why other boards seem so happy to cooperate with the BCCI. Let's face it: money matters and the hand that holds the cash calls the shots. Others have done it before, now that its someone else who holds the reins, a lot of people are crying fowl.

Posted by AJ100 on (December 30, 2009, 10:37 GMT)

Good to see so many readers posting interesting comments. This is 21st century and no sport can survive without finance. The only problem with people is that its been financed by a so called "poor country"! Its hard to digest for apparent "rich countries" and sour grapes and jealousy for other developing countries who thought they were "equal" to the country financing. SIMPLE. Regards

Posted by DocBindra on (December 29, 2009, 22:25 GMT)

Jaztech, how can you make a statement about India's so called domination due to backmail and intimidation? Please take a peek at the the ICC world rankings for Test Cricket, ODI's and T20's and tell me that is all a result of blackmailing CA after Sydney 2008. Please, ECB and CA have been abusing their position of power pretty much since the invent of the game and you are using the example of ONE incident as a basis for this argument? To this day, no proof positive has surfaced in regards to that incident and oh, the main culprit in all this, A Symonds has been in trouble how many times since that incident. Australia has always been accused of sledging since way back when by every cricketing nation, especially the Waugh and Ponting captaincy years, what has ever been done about that. Heck, in the just concluded Aus-WI series, we saw an example of that yet again. That sounds like the classic,"pot calling the kettle black" scenario. I think its a very misplaced point of view.

Posted by DocBindra on (December 29, 2009, 21:40 GMT)

I'm sorry but the article seems to entertain a very myopic view of "The world money made", India and China are two the biggest booming economies in the world as we speak and everyone wants a piece of it...not just cricketing world but the entire globe. We are in a global recession and BCCI to generate cash and also share with the likes of CA, CSA and ECB is being looked down upon instead of smart business sense. Where else would the other boards come up with that kind of sponsorship cash, especially in the current economic climate? What is routinely forgotten is that MOST OF THE BIG SPONSORSHIP MONEY IS COMING OUT OF INDIA, and they invest heavily in their own product, so what is wrong with that? With money comes power and the fact that BCCI is willing to share the spoils with other boards says something. I doubt ECB and CA were EVER that generous along with their "we are better than you attitudes". Now the shoe is on the other foot, a certain jealously gene has kicked in.TOUGH

Posted by Imtiazuddin on (December 29, 2009, 15:03 GMT)

osman nice balanced column i really like the way u describe the role of bcci in international cricket, and the role of icc is just like a dummy. so rite

Posted by Imtiazuddin on (December 29, 2009, 14:07 GMT)

osama i m totally agree with you great work man! you have really exposed how bcci misusing there power and trying to dictate to icc who really look like a dummy with no powers.

Posted by The_Wog on (December 29, 2009, 13:19 GMT)

Maybe with all that money they could use some of it to produce a cricket pitch for an international that's good enough to at least walk a dog on. That's not asking too much is it? (Especially for a World Cup venue.) That, and getting through a tour without vetoing match officials or calling off tours when things don't go there way would be nice. And perhaps once in a while taking a stand against their players who are, after all, by far the worst behaved team in the international game. And cracking down on crowds when there is coordinated racial abuse of players (Mumbai). And supporting attempts to counter the blight on the game that is chucking. And developing all forms of the game, not just T20. Actually if they did even ONE of those things it would be an improvement.

Posted by cricketforpeace on (December 29, 2009, 12:12 GMT)

Dear Osman, I have been reading your articles for quite some time and I must say that I really enjoy them very much.You are a fair and just assesor of people and events.Your present article on the BCCI is extremely well balanced.I might go so far as to say that you have been very kind to them in your assessment.Though they are virtually "laughing all the way to the bank"; their methodology is far from fair.The way the ICL has been treated is just one example.Personally,I feel that too much power concentrated in a few persons hands is not going to be good for progress of this wonderful game of cricket.If the BCCI decides to plough back some of their moola into not just development of the game in the country but into developing world-class infrastructure for the paying public which is right now plainly pathetic,I would not mind their excessive clout! And finally,you have guessed right.I am a supporter of Indian cricket and would like to see the game prosper on the subcontinent too.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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