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How did the players end up being collateral in the BCCI's fight?

Anyone asked him what he thinks of the whole kerfuffle? AFP

There's a particular gastronomic phrase found in the lexicon of the language referred to as Hindustani: khayaali pulao. It means "imaginary pulao", or a notional pilaf; one that is curated, cooked, consumed and digested in the mind alone. Indian cricket's daily melting pot of spices and excitements offers us a khayaali pulao this weekend.

The chief ingredient of our pulao is the outcome of the BCCI's special general meeting, due to take place in Delhi on Sunday. The meeting, of course, is for real. The august general body will decide how it must fully and finally deal with the ICC's constitutional revamp that was passed ten days ago - the BCCI was the lone objector - with its primary focus being revenue distribution.

Central in this meeting is the outcome Indian fans care about: whether the team to take part in the Champions Trophy will be selected or not. Going by what is appearing in the papers, and from the correspondence between the BCCI's Old Guard Office-bearers (BOGOs) and the Committee of Administrators (COA) appointed by the Supreme Court, the chances of "not" appear high.

From here the pulao turns khayaali. India's richest sport's body could possibly try to prevent its team - the country's best-known, most-loved, best-paid - from defending a title it won, because the BOGOs are involved in a dispute with the ICC over payments the former think are due. From a distance, removed from recent journalistic horticulture and leakages, this appears terribly disconnected. There is a financial dispute between the Indian body and the international body. How do the players get into it?

Well, the players are being turned into BOGO muscle in their arm-wrestle with the ICC.

By delaying the selection and the confirmation of the Indian team's participation in the Champions Trophy, what are the BOGOs trying to do? It is only imagination - khayaali, remember - but this would be an attempt to turn the heat up on the ICC: aiming to make the ICC mighty nervous about the withdrawal of the Indian team, and the subsequent financial collapse of the Champions Trophy and world cricket as a whole. (With the unstated possible threat of a parallel international cricket structure and calendar, under which games are played only in India all year round, a 12-month IPL, yippee.) The fear of this prospect, it is hoped, will cause the ICC to give in to the BOGOs' demands on revenue-sharing.

So please note, every BOGO who signs any trenchant document that emerges from the SGM meeting - and their names will be easily identifiable by the signatures that will turn up on the statement issued - is notionally willing to turn the Indian team's prospects in the Champions Trophy into collateral damage over a financial argument.

The very thought should astonish the average Indian cricket fan, because it means tearing up the Members' Participation Agreement with the ICC, which in turn means nixing Indian participation in all ICC events between now and 2023: the 2017 Champions Trophy, two men's World Cups, two women's World Cups, three Under-19 World Cups, three women's World T20s, one men's World T20, and one more Champions Trophy, along with the 2021 ICC Test Championship. Cricket administrators willing to railroad the national team over their fight with a ruling body.

The BOGOs, we must remind ourselves, as the Supreme Court often has reminded us, are only one set of "stakeholders" in Indian cricket. As far as the Champions Trophy is concerned, two other sets of stakeholders have a very clear view as to the direction the Indian team should be taking.

A poll ESPNcricinfo ran about whether Virat Kohli's team should travel to the Champions Trophy had over 71% of all respondents (from a total of more than 96,000 at last count) saying they should go, and around 22.5% saying they shouldn't unless they get more money from the ICC. Around 6% were undecided. By no means is this a too-close-to-call response. Seven in ten fans from a robust sample size think India should go to the tournament. Sure, fans may not understand global cricket finance, but they're the ones that generate the green stuff for the BCCI. With their cable-TV-fee-paying pockets, their eyeballs on screens, their presence at grounds everywhere.

They do this for the players and the national team, whose views on the subject will not be known, because, of course, they are not really at liberty to say. No current Indian player or anyone in line for a selection could even exhale around the subject for fear of inviting official censure; of being dunked into oblivion by the BOGOs should they return to full and untrammelled power.

"What possible legal position would allow a Supreme Court judge to say that it is only fair that the Indian team does not take part in the Champions Trophy?"

Many respected former players are within the BCCI's ecosystem, and to get their opinion on the topic meant stripping it down to its essentials. We asked them a simple question, to be answered with a yes or no. Knowing what you do of the circumstances, should India play in the Champions Trophy? No quotes or statements or riders required. Yes or no. Twelve said yes and were ready to have their names listed with the ayes, a 13th said yes too but didn't want his name revealed. This doesn't mean there aren't any who think the Indian team shouldn't go, but it's safe to say it will be no worse than a rough 70-30 split here as well.

That's two very, very important stakeholders who think India should go to the Champions Trophy. Without either of those two - the fans and the players - all this Indian cricket cash that chests are thumped over regularly would not exist.

Of course there is also the strong possibility that the BOGOs sense this completely. Eventually they have the interests of Indian cricket at heart and all they want is to be listened to at the ICC. Listened to, as against being shouted down at the voting table - like they themselves were wont to shout down opposition until last month, when the tables turned with astonishing speed, for the first time, it must be said, in at least a quarter of a century.

The simmering pulao has also offered us a new whiff: of the ICC's official broadcaster reportedly going to the world body to express concern over the possible effects of an India withdrawal on its finances, and the nervousness of the sponsors about such a prospect. The fact that the same broadcaster owns the rights to Indian cricket as well could be the answer to the Indian fan's prayers. Surely the broadcaster will be able to arrive at a rapprochement between the ICC and the BOGOs over the Champions Trophy. As every broadcaster's Yoda says: page same stay on, people.

The emails flying between the BOGOs and the COA indicate, however, that there is no love in the air. So, let's go with the worst-case scenario. What if the SGM returns with an announcement that the only way for the BOGOs to go is to fling the ICC's Members Participation Agreement in its face and flounce off to wherever it is they flounce off to?

Then there is a very good chance that the COA will go to the Supreme Court and indicate to the good judges that the cricket team is being prevented from defending their Champions Trophy title. What possible legal position would allow a Supreme Court judge to say that it is only fair that the Indian team does not take part in the Champions Trophy? That it is absolutely right and legal to have the Indian cricket team used as a bargaining chip in a financial negotiation?


Imagine a bunch of reasonably paid teachers, angry that their school has not increased their wages by a certain percentage. They are not willing to negotiate with the school board. Instead, they kidnap their class.