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ICC revamp

January 24, 2014

More power to India

Mohandas Konanoor

What's fair about the Indian fan - who almost single-handedly sustains the sport - getting a fraction of the opportunity that a fan from New Zealand gets to watch a match live? © Associated Press

There has been a lot of criticism of the proposal to restructure the ICC and concentrate most of the decision-making powers in the hands of three boards - BCCI, ECB and CA. Most of the criticism is based on the argument that this is not egalitarian, that this creates an oligarchy. The implicit assumption behind this argument is that the current system of 'one nation, one vote' is somehow egalitarian and democratic. I want to question that assumption in this article.

I am sure we all agree that the real stakeholders of the game are the fans. It is the fans who bring money into the game and it is the young fans who take up cricket today who become the future international players. So, we should be measuring equality at the level of individual fans, not at the level of nations. So what we should be concerned about is not whether every board has an equal vote in the ICC, but whether every fan is treated fairly and equally by the system. When looked at from that perspective, it becomes clear that the present system is anything but egalitarian. Consider this: Mumbai's population is 12 million whereas New Zealand's is around 4 million. Mumbai is far more cricket-crazy than New Zealand. Yet, Mumbai hosts at most one Test or ODI per year (3 Tests and 2 ODIs in last 5 years), whereas New Zealand hosts a dozen international matches every year (21 Tests and 38 ODIs in last 5 years). Where is the justice in that? Given its population and cricket-craziness, Mumbai should be hosting five times the number of matches that New Zealand hosts.

At least the metros in India get one game per year. Tier 2 Indian cities like Surat, Jaipur, Nasik, Nagpur, Lucknow, Kanpur, etc. - each with million plus cricket-crazy fans - don't even get that one game per year. As the IPL has shown, each Indian city can fill a stadium for 8 games over a period of 6 weeks. Then, why should we continue with this international system which gives them at most one game in a year? Shouldn't we instead move to a system that is capable of satisfying the huge demand for cricket that exists in India?

It is not just in the allocation of matches that India gets penalized by the current system. India accounts for 80% of global cricket market, which basically means hundreds of millions of dollars are going out from Indian economy to the ICC and other boards all over the world. India may be a huge cricket market because of its population, but on a per-capita basis we are still very much a poor country. Between corruption and inflation, we have enough problems managing our economy. The last thing we need is our favourite national pastime also to add to our economic burden. So a system that keeps much of the money generated by the game within the country will be most welcome.

The obvious solution is to create more teams within India and encourage people to watch matches between those teams. IPL has already done that for T20, but we should expand it to other formats too. The question then becomes - what happens to the other national teams? Two possibilities emerge - the other two big markets (England and Australia) could follow the Indian model whereas the remaining countries will simply supply players to these three leagues. Alternatively, we could have a mixed league of say, ten Indian teams and five-six other national teams competing together. The first objection that everyone has to this proposal is: "What about the quality of those ten Indian teams? India currently struggles to produce one halfway decent team, how are they going to produce ten?" The reality of the situation is that India currently produces one team because that's all they are required to do. Give them time, and allow for movement of players, and producing ten teams isn't as hard as we imagine it to be.

In any case, it is imperative that we must move away from the existing international system. The first step towards that is to restructure the ICC to reflect the actual market sizes and to get rid of this one-size-fits-all FTP.

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Posted by Dummy4 on (January 29, 2014, 4:25 GMT)

Even IPL has lost its charm,you can't simply put on same show for many years and ask viewers to be excited more and more.Producing 10 teams from India only means repetitions of many players to complete the teams.Who will compete if they know they have their position secure in the team because the competition now is lousy.International cricket will be like applying for a visa to play in India,that's all.This power centralization to those three nations means making other weak.why don't you distribute the power among can you encourage new nation when we know we are only the part of a big bulk of power just trying to fill in the gaps left by the big bulk of power.Please don't kill the charisma of Cricket and test cricket.

Posted by ZEESHAN on (January 27, 2014, 7:31 GMT)

It is not about the fans of the game. The new system proposed is about making more money. If it was about the fans then it would most definitely have included Pakistan as they have a large fan base. Larger than Australia or England!

If you take out the "International" aspect out of the game then there is going to be no fan following at all. How many spectators turn up for Ranji trophy games in mumbai or kolkatta?

Posted by Philip on (January 27, 2014, 7:30 GMT)

Yes, Mumbai is four times more populous than all of NZ and far more cricket-crazy as well. Yes, Mumbai hosts at most one Test or ODI per year, whereas NZ hosts a dozen international matches. Yes, well, there is a simple economic-rationalist answer to this problem of so many supporters in just one city in one nation with one national team. Create more Indian nations and, therefore, more Indian national teams! Seriously, you have to take the good with the bad. A united India, within the current borders, means less friction (than a further split of historic India), a bigger economy and a more successful national team. It being harder to get a seat at a game is hardly an unfair price to pay for this unity. Alternatively, you could just relabel the Ranji Trophy as Mega-Tests (I think the name Super-Tests has already been taken), but whether or not anyone much will believe in it is a moot point - especially the players. They'll want to play real international cricket for some strange reason.

Posted by babai on (January 26, 2014, 16:26 GMT)

Its the Indian companies most who invest in cricket.. The English and the AUS .. So without India, Cricket will not survive financially...

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 26, 2014, 11:35 GMT)

Very unfortunate to state that "three stooges" have shown their sheer weakness in foreign soil. Especially England and India. They better not suggest anything which is heinous and harmful for cricket. Think other than being greedy. India earns better than any other cricketing country of the world. So settle down now!!! or you may die of gluttony!!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 26, 2014, 10:29 GMT)

Look your argument is valid which I think is also what BCCI is saying. But you have to remember sport is cyclic. When the WI were a top top team , they could have split up and produced 5-6 quality teams so that their fans can see them play more. Right now India is riding the wave. This move is totally about short-termism nothing else.The IPL generates so much financially anyway which goes into lot of state boards , so why do they need more money ? The BCCI is completly looking internally but forgetting this is a global game . Well it wont be much longer, Its already been played by 10 major nations. This is a sad demise and one might even say expected when you treat sport like business. Maybe we need to accept taht sport is a business and learn from the American sport model .

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 26, 2014, 9:33 GMT)

Interesting point. You are correct in assuming that the fans are very important and it could be argued that Indian fans are shortchanged. However, your proposal, would and could work very well at the First-Class/Franchise level, it's not appropriate to the International game. What game would the Indian fans prefer to watch? South Africa or Pakistan vs India, or 2 Franchises going at it?

First and foremost, the fans want to see International cricket. There isn't enough of India to go around, but possibly a solution of India hosting some neutral matches could provide a win-win situation. Sri Lanka vs NZ may not be a profitable Test Match in SL, or NZ...but I'm sure a Test-starved city in India could fill up quite a few seats. The fans get test cricket, and the poorer boards get a winfall, everyone wins?

At the end of the day, the International game is about nations and any proposal to weaken nations isn't to anyone's long term benefit.

Posted by Bruce on (January 26, 2014, 8:04 GMT)

I keep saying this across all these blogs. Cricket in India, or any other country for that matter, will not survive on its own. It needs the 'international' component otherwise the fans are just not interested. You couldn't give away a ticket to a Ranji, Sheffield Shield or County match. Therefore we have to invest in the product that the fans will pay to watch and that product is INTERNATIONAL Cricket. If all the cash goes to the so-called 'Big 3' then how do the poorer countries maintain their standards? As fans we have so many options today that we simply won't put up with having to watch England v India v Australia all year round, particularly not with the standard of cricket those 3 nations are producing at the moment. We will simply take our dollars elsewhere.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 26, 2014, 1:34 GMT)

Since the last two commenters have latched on to "imaginary entity" part, let me note that the sentence works and the point remains even if we remove those two words - we need to treat the fans equally, not the nations. Syed: equality between fans is what I am promoting. I don't agree with the big 3 stuff. But if it leads to the kind of restructuring that I am proposing I will be happy.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 25, 2014, 14:50 GMT)

By your logic, Pakistan also should be a part of the "big three" considering it has the largest population in the world after India from the top 10 cricket playing nations.

Promote equality and democracy not dictatorship.

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