Will the BCCI use its participation in the Champions Trophy as a bargaining chip in its tussle with the ICC over its share of global revenues? On Wednesday the BCCI was outvoted 13-1 (nine Full Members, three Associates and the ICC chairman) as the ICC Board approved the finance model which granted the Indian board a share of US $293 million from ICC events until 2023.
Although that is still $17 million more than the $276 million that was proposed in the original model in February, the BCCI remains disgruntled. In the words of one Full Member director, present at the meeting, BCCI representative Amitabh Choudhary managed to walk away with "some pieces", and not an "insignificant" amount.
Not significant, says the BCCI. Choudhary, along with the Indian board treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, tried hard to sell a deal to other members in which the BCCI got $570 million (as per the Big 3 distribution) while the rest got the enhanced amounts promised in the ICC model. The BCCI found no buyers. Even the old trick of using bilateral series as bait proved futile.
The ICC chairman Shashank Manohar has remained firm in his negotiations with the BCCI. He has kept alive the prospect of an extra $100 million that would take the BCCI share close to $400 million, leaving the ball in the BCCI's court. What the BCCI does now, and what options it has, will become clearer when the board holds a special general body meeting (SGM) on May 7 in Delhi.
According to one BCCI source, the Indian board might settle somewhere "in the middle" of the two figures: anything in the range of $450 million could be satisfactory. Manohar, it is understood however, might not be keen on any further negotiation.
The BCCI has already delayed announcing a squad for the Champions Trophy and, according to one source, it has been done as an attempt to pressure the ECB, the hosts for the tournament. The ECB is an influential voice at the ICC Board - its president Giles Clarke was part of the working group that has drawn up the new model and constitution. Clarke is also said to have aspirations to replace Manohar - when Manohar returned as chairman after his short-lived resignation, it was supposed to be until the AGM in June, though there has been speculation he may carry on.
"All the India games (in Champions Trophy) are sold out. The BCCI will wait to an extent to see if it can make the ECB sweat."
By not announcing a squad and keeping the uncertainty on India's participation alive, the BCCI wants the ECB to facilitate negotiations with the ICC. This kind of brinksmanship is something the BCCI is good at. But given that it isn't legally straightforward to revoke the Members Participating Agreement (MPA, which governs participation in ICC events) this will not be so easy to do. There could be financial consequences, according to an official well-versed with the MPA if India doesn't play.
Importantly the new ICC constitution and the latest finance model will only be ratified at the annual conference in the last week of June, after the Champions Trophy. "The concern is India could pull out of the Women's World Cup which follows the annual conference," said one official.
For now the ECB and the Champions Trophy organising committee, led by Steve Elworthy, carry on as normal with the preparations. Neither are losing sleep, not yet at least. The feeling is, however, if matters come to it, the ECB will want to have a dialogue with the BCCI. "The BCCI is in a very difficult position because it had five representatives in five ICC meetings," the Full Member director said.
"That is a hugely problematic for the ICC to build up a relationship. But there are some of us who consistently feel we need to be having a dialogue with the BCCI."
By this director's assessment, India will not pull the trigger on Champions Trophy. "No, I don't think so. The BCCI, ECB, PCB etc. are all members of the ICC. The ICC is an entity on its own. We members on the other hand deal with each other and are involved in developing and running cricket around the world. BCCI have some things to consider now. But there is always scope for a dialogue. Most of the senior administrators at BCCI will take a long-term view. I am confident."
Elworthy told the Guardian that the uncertainty on India's participation so far has not hurt the preparations. "The blow, if you think of the number of games we have sold out across the tournament, would be huge. India have an incredibly strong support base in this country. Never mind the operational issues, which would be immense. But at the moment we are just cracking on and planning everything as if they are coming."
Meanwhile, the Committee of Administrators (CoA), appointed by the Supreme Court of India to supervise the BCCI, is following the developments closely. Vinod Rai, the CoA chief, said the committee was not thinking too far ahead about the subsequent steps they would take if the BCCI pulled out of the Champions Trophy at all. "This is a hypothetical question. Let the SGM first take a decision," Rai said at a book release event in Mumbai on Friday. Rai also said India were well within its rights to delay the squad announcement. "There is no such thing as a deadline. The Champions Trophy will start on June 1. The deadlines are fixed so that there is some kind of system in place," he explained.
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo