On the eve of the kick-off of the inaugural Indian Premier League in Bangalore on Friday, an event set to change the dynamics of world cricket and re-emphasise the influence India wields, a new battle has begun.
One aimed at control of the global game.
<b1>On Thursday, Indian cricketing circles woke up to a report in the England-based The Guardian, which stated that elite cricketers, backed by the international players’ union, FICA, are on the verge of history’s “biggest ever” cricketing “revolt”, “ready to call for a breakaway from the International Cricket Council” (ICC). India’s superstar cricketers are not part of FICA.
Why the revolt? They resent the way ICC runs the game, have no faith in the competence of cricket’s governing body and consider it “paralysed by the dominance of the Board of Control for Cricket in India” (BCCI). The report said that if immediate action was not taken, they planned a no-confidence vote at FICA’s world conference in Texas next month.
India’s reaction to the report was fast and unequivocal. Both Inderjit Singh Bindra, recently appointed principal advisor to ICC and head of the Punjab Cricket Association, and BCCI vice-president and IPL commissioner Lalit Modi were upset with what they saw as attempts to undermine the BCCI’s contributions, globally.
“There is no doubt that India is the engine of growth that provides most of the money that world cricket is running on,” said Modi.
"Every Board wants more tours from the Indian team as there will be more crowds and they can pay their players higher salaries from revenue generated. Eighty per cent of world cricket's money is because of India. Of the ICC's own media rights, sold for $1.1 billion last year, the bid for the Indian portion was $885m."
Bindra said any talk of a revolt was not based on issues, but because, some people were "angry" and "frustrated" by their loss of power. "It's a strange kind of legacy of imperialism, when people don't object to an imperialistic dictatorship in sport but have a problem with a democratic system based on the vote of two-thirds of a majority."
Modi’s final word though, was probably the most potent, given how many Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans, FICA members all, are playing in the IPL. "You can't make full use of the value addition that India brings to the game and then abuse it. The worth of many FICA players has increased because of the IPL, and we are committed to ensuring that that growth continues. The FICA should be happy with the BCCI."
Crucially, for the FICA's success, India's superstar cricketers, who do not have a players' body, are not part of it. That might make all the difference.