Is BCCI setting a bad precedent by shortening the South Africa tour?

Blog by: KC

Haroon Lorgat

Haroon Lorgat – At loggerheads with BCCI

It seems Sachin Tendulkar, who was only one of few cricketers in India who did not readily court controversy and stayed away from the media’s glaring eye, is destined to face, in the twilight of his illustrious career, at least one every year. And this time, he seems to have inadvertently become tangled with the BCCI’s high-handedness.

It is an open secret in the world of international cricket that the BCCI, Indian cricket’s governing body, holds all the power, and therefore, gets to make decisions on its own whims and fancy. And the controversy surrounding the South Africa and West Indies series is testament to that.

It all started, according to various opinions, when Cricket South Africa appointed Haroon Lorgat as its CEO. BCCI has had previous run-ins with Lorgat when he was the ICC President, and so put all the pressure it could on South Africa to not appoint him. But with Cricket South Africa defying BCCI’s wish, the backlash seems to have been shortening India’s tour to South Africa being shortened.

But why does BCCI hate Lorgat so much, to the extent of trying to stop his appointment? Perhaps, the reason can be traced back to the Woolf Report, which was the initiative of Mr. Lorgat while he was the head of ICC. In the report, suggestions were made that there have to be sweeping changes in the way the ICC is run so that the big nations do not have a hold on it. And in cricket, “big nations” refers to only one board, and that’s the BCCI.

As expected, BCCI did not take kindly to the Woolf Report, and has harboured a grudge against Mr. Lorgat. Even before this happened, Lorgat and the BCCI were at loggerheads with each other as he pushed the use of DRS in spite of opposition from the board.

Now that Mr. Lorgat has become the CEO of Cricket South Africa, it seems the BCCI has taken its war on to them. When South Africa announced the itinerary of India’s tour, which was unilaterally announced rather than simultaneously, as is the case, the first reaction of BCCI was to pronounce that they were not consulted in the making of the itinerary.

Sachin Tendulkar

Is Sachin Tendulkar a mere cover for the BCCI?

In fact, just to make its point clear, the board went on to organise a tour of the West Indies to India, citing the reason that it is only fair for Sachin to play his 200th Test match, a mammoth achievement, in front of his home crowd. Now, nobody knows for sure if Sachin really requested that his 200th Test match be in front of a home crowd.

If he did, it is fair to say that the BCCI took the right decision, as saluting one man’s achievements, especially one who has contributed as much as Sachin has, is important. It gives the chance for his fans to thank the man for his contributions, a testimonial of sorts.

But the question to be asked is – what kind of a precedent does this set for the future in terms of the FTP? The Future Tours Program had been designed so that countries can plan their tours so that all countries play each other, as well as allowing respective boards enough time to sign up marketing agreements, thus helping them make money and survive. All the countries have committed themselves to the FTP.

But if the BCCI starts shortening tours just because it has an issue with one member of the opposite board, it sets a bad precedent. Granted, the BCCI is not breaking any rules as it would still go ahead with the South African Tour, albeit sticking to the bare minimum necessity of two Tests and three ODIs to be considered legitimate in the eyes of the ICC. But by shortening the tour, they are hurting the coffers of Cricket South Africa, as a shortened tour would not give them the same money that a full length tour would have.

In fact, considering that they already knew that India was scheduled to come to their country, and with the excellent marketing potential that the Indian team brings to the table, Cricket South Africa would already have lined up a few agreements with various sponsors, who looking at the length of the tour and the exposure they would get, would have agreed to invest a significant amount of money. But with the tour shortened, they may reduce the money they give, if not pull the plug entirely.

Perhaps an even bigger question to ask is where BCCI will put a stop such actions. Does it decide that shortening a tour is the highest retaliation they’ll make against another board? Or do they completely undermine ICC’s mandate and simply cancel the tour altogether, FTP or no FTP? If the BCCI starts cancelling tours on its own whims, it will leave Boards gasping for survival, especially such countries as Sri Lanka and West Indies.

BCCI, for long, has been a bully in international cricket. You either cow down to its wishes or you face its wrath. But if cricket needs to survive, BCCI needs to stop trying to control all the other countries and try to help the game grow beyond the confines of the Test playing nations.

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