MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture June 26, 2012

Greig implores India to govern for the world game


Tony Greig has appealed to the BCCI to abandon self interest and "embrace the spirit of cricket and govern in the best interests of world cricket, not just for India and its business partners."

Greig, the South Africa-born former England captain, utilised his invitation to deliver the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture from Lord's, to call upon India to "accept its responsibility as leader of the cricket world" and ensure that the long-term future of Test cricket and the less powerful Test nations were prioritised above short-term commercialism.

At present, Greig said, India's power was being used to undermine the credibility and worth of the ICC and self-interest was preventing beneficial advancements such as the universal adoption of the Decision Review System (DRS) and a coherent international playing schedule. Greig also criticised "India's apparent indifference towards Test cricket and… its indifference to the urgency to introduce anti-doping rules and the rumoured corruption hanging over the IPL.

"Unfortunately," Greig said, "India is pre-occupied with money and T20 cricket and sees its IPL and Champions League as more important than a proper international calendar. To compound the problems, India has not only sold part of the game to private interests but some of her administrators are seen to have a conflict of interest, which makes it more difficult for it to act in the spirit of the game.

"We can huff and puff as much as we like and have all sorts of external reports," Greig continued, "but this situation can only be resolved by India accepting that the spirit of cricket is more important than generating billions of dollars; it's more important than turning out multi-millionaire players; and it's more important than getting square with Australia and England for their bully-boy tactics towards India over the years. It's ironic that the world, including India, rightly worships at the Nelson Mandela altar because of his conciliatory attitude but then India eschews his approach by indulging in a little pay back."

The Spirit of Cricket lecture began in 2001 and was named after the late Colin Cowdrey, the former England captain and a past MCC president, who, together with another former president Ted Dexter, were instrumental in including the spirit of cricket as the preamble to the Laws of the game. Last year Kumar Sangakkara gave a widely acclaimed Cowdrey lecture where he talked about controversial issues within Sri Lanka cricket and also about the importance of the sport in his country.

Rarely if ever, however, has the Cowdrey Lecture been used to deliver such an obvious rebuke to a specific national board. But Greig, who relinquished the England captaincy in 1977 to play and recruit in Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket, has never been one to shy away from a battle and pulled no punches in suggesting that India were now too powerful for the good of world cricket.

"Much of the game is controlled by the BCCI because it controls enough votes to block any proposal put forward at the ICC board meetings," Greig said. "The reason for this is some countries would not survive without the financial opportunities India provides. What is just as disturbing is through the Champions League, South Africa and Australia have a partnership with India and are unlikely to risk offending India. The current Champions League 10-year contract generates just under a billion dollars and is 50% owned by India with Australia and South African sharing the rest.

"As a result of the dependence on India the process adopted by the ICC is simply not working. The ICC cricket committee for example is made up of a group of top class current and former players and umpires. They go to great lengths to make recommendations that they consider in the best interests of the game. These recommendations are then submitted to the CEO's committee for approval, which normally happens as a formality. The recommendations are then raised at the ICC board meeting and if India doesn't like them, they are, at best, modified or thrown out. It's a sorry state of affairs and very frustrating for those who give so much time to getting things right."

Greig did find some praise for the BCCI, crediting them for their successful commercialism and the decision to utilise profits from the IPL to ensure that past players were cared for. "We must acknowledge and praise India for embracing the spirit of cricket through the financial opportunities it provides, which has enabled a number of Test playing countries to survive, and some to thrive," Greig said. "World cricket would be in a sorry state if it weren't for the money shared with other countries from India's television deals.

"If there is proof of the leadership India can provide, it is the recent announcement of a one-time benefit payment of $13 million to former national and domestic players for their services to Indian cricket."

But he insisted that such strength carried with it a responsibility and called for India to wield its power more judiciously. And, on the day when the ICC's executive board, chaired by BCCI chairman, declined to act on the recommendation of the ICC's cricket committee or chief executives committee and apply the DRS universally, Grieg's words on the subject were particularly timely.

"It can't be good for the game when the media devotes so many words and so much ink to bad decisions, which ultimately undermines the integrity of some results," Greig said. "The DRS is not perfect, but it does err in favour of the umpires' decisions and according to the ICC, fewer mistakes are made with its use. And furthermore, there is less conflict on the ground.

"India has two reasons for opposing it: One, because its superstars had such an embarrassing experience with it in the early days. Two, the BCCI argues that the DRS is too inexact. Ironically, the spirit of cricket is batting on both sides in this one. The cavalier approach says DRS is not in the spirit of cricket, but on the other hand, the Indian superstars should act in the spirit of cricket and accept the majority viewpoint."

Elsewhere in the speech, Greig called for the introduction of lie detector tests to help in the fight against corruption, reasoning that it was no greater an imposition into the private life of athletes than routine drugs tests, and called for the IPL to be expanded into "an Asian League" to include teams from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Each of those boards, he said, should be given a financial stake in the competition, which would enable them to finance their other cricketing obligations. He also called for Australia to welcome New Zealand teams into the Big Bash and for England to "set up its equivalent of the IPL and include teams from the West Indies and one team from Ireland."

Despite his concerns, Greig, now aged 65, insisted he was optimistic for the future of the game. "Fortunately, I think most of the problems can generally be addressed if India invokes and adheres to the spirit of cricket," he said. "Mahatma Gandhi said: "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. As cricket certainly resides in the hearts and souls of Indian people I am optimistic India will lead cricket by acting in the best interests of all countries rather than just for India."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nirjhar on June 28, 2012, 14:36 GMT

    Tony, when did English Cricket help out NZ, SA? Unless you support England playing with/supporting SA despite apartheid England is at the top in TEST and T20 cricket due to SA PLAYER imports. They still do not give any financial support to NZ/SA. DRS is flawed and the ball tracking technology is POOR. Europe plays so much football and is so RICH but does NOT use TV replays etc. in Football. England would not have reached the Quarters of EURO 2012 as Ukraine's goal was disallowed! IPL is enjoyed by the Indian masses. Playing and watching in stadiums during April & May is difficult due to the hot weather. BCCI must introduce another mini IPL season during the winter months as well. Play just 1 round (instead of 2) with 2 foreign players per team. Let cricket entertain the Indian masses rather than India get bashed up by SA/Eng/Aus on fast pitches during winter. All nations can continue to play Intl cricket in this period. Big Bash also coincided with Australian cricket season

  • Nirjhar on June 28, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    What a cry baby Tony Grieg is? Many people in India feel USA and industrial countries should share wealth / technology with developing countries. Have they done it without a quid pro quo? NEVER - they wanted market access and tax benefits. How about good Fast bowlers shared by Aus/SA/England/WI? India has still allowed 10 foreign players per IPL team besides foreign coaches and other foreign trainers & staff. People from all countries have benefitted. Even Pak cricketers, Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja, have benefitted from IPL. India has helped the Cricket Boards of some countries WHILE precedent by England/ Australia is lacking. SL cricket tried to schedule Intl cricket during IPL, opposed by SL players! WI, England, Australia still schedule matches every year. Let them. India is 6th in all time test cricket performance (ahead of old minnows SL and NZ) and 5th in all time ODI performance (beating England). This is the time to catch up with other nations, not subsidise them

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    As arjuna Ranatunga rightly said "IPL produces Butchers".ICC should ban T20 rubbish.

  • Anand on June 28, 2012, 12:31 GMT

    T20 t is the closest format to the game the majority of us in the subcontinent play in the streets, parks and alleys of our childhood. And thats why we love it. A 5 day test is something the professionals play, but this goes against the sporting grain. Tennis does not have a 'first to 24 games with a lead of 2' set in its professional form. There is no 4 hour football game in its professional form. There is no 45-innings baseball game that I have chanced upon.Nor a round of golf over 72 holes that is the only 'true golf'. Test cricket is a conceit in this day and age. Boxing has 3 rounds and 15 rounds but neither of those formats place unreasonable demands on its fans' time. On what basis does Tony Greig (or anybody else for that matter) argue that Test cricket is the main form of cricket? Which demographic of the modern work force would support it? Or is it because test cricket will guarantee 5 days of employment for a commentator compared to just a few hours in T20 cricket?

  • suresh on June 28, 2012, 12:05 GMT

    Bravo Greigy !!!!! well said. we Sri Lankans are with u !!!!!

  • Hira on June 28, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    This speech is aimed at reducing india's power as opposed to suggesting a sustainable international calender. Greig wants england and australia to have their own ipl style he jealous of the ipl and also of india's superpower status? it was ok for over 100 years for eng and aus to rule cricket now its not okay all of a sudden lol.. oh well who cares what greig and the ecb has to say.

  • Divyesh on June 28, 2012, 10:47 GMT

    If too much T-20 cricket is not good for the sport then why does Australia want a six-match T-20 series against Pakistan and the worst thing is that the ICC approved it..!! NO ONE SAID ANYTHING WHEN IT CAME TO AUSTRALIA !!!

  • Madhav on June 28, 2012, 7:51 GMT

    Umpires are part of cricket, and they should stay that way. Are you people gonna ask for some kinda camera in place of umpires just because some straight drives are hitting umpires, cricket has it's limitations, and they make cricket much wonderful, If Tony Greig thinks test is traditional and ultimate, why can't he just accept the traditional way of umpiring.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    Phew...high time someone said this!

  • Dhushan on June 28, 2012, 3:50 GMT

    Very well said Tony. Much respect for telling BCCI what someone in ICC should have said long time ago. Good on you

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