The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) top brass often say or do things that come across as both strange and irrational. But at least the BCCI officials do not seem to take the moral high ground on issues and then go ahead and behave in almost the same manner as those they criticise.
On Wednesday, in his first meeting with the Indian media here, International Cricket Council (ICC) president Percy Sonn, in response to a BCCI-related question, said there had been some factual discrepancies in things BCCI officials had said on certain issues. But he added that the ICC would not “stoop” to their level and get into a confrontation.
But unfortunately, the ICC went ahead and did exactly that. On Monday, the ICC chief executive officer (CEO) Malcolm Speed made no secret of his displeasure with the BCCI’s working but the way he chose to express it seemed in poor taste.
In response to a question on whether he thought India tried to bully the ICC on the basis of their economic clout in cricket, Speed replied that he had read about the Board’s “money power” in the newspapers and felt that that was neither here nor there. He added that he had a rather old-fashioned view on sports administration and how to rate sporting bodies.
“I judge sports organisations on the basis of three things,” he said. “One, how the team performs, how the Board looks after its stakeholders in terms of facilities on the grounds etc. Also how well they use resources like population to produce great cricketers.”
Speed also spoke of how New Zealand, with a population of four million, were in the semifinal of the Champions Trophy.
“They don’t have a lot of money, but they are consistent,” he said. “India last won a major cricketing event in 1983. I am very sure in 2007, it will be great if India win, and the power that India has, with its population of a billion and a booming economy, is reflected in performance.”
Speed, by the way, wasn’t done yet and his last line on the matter was telling: “It helps to have money, but it is not always necessary.”
Speed also reiterated his stand on BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi being a greenhorn in matters of sports administration, saying, “We’ve heard a lot from Mr Modi. He is entitled to his opinions but I am more interested in facts. There are several factual errors in what he has said, he has never been to an ICC meeting and is not one of those senior people that the BCCI has chosen to represent it.”
Modi was incensed and told HT that, “Speed can go fly a kite”. He said that Speed had no idea what he was talking about and he was not interested in Speed’s opinions either - they made little sense and showed a continued lack of understanding.
He was also upset with Speed’s implying that India did not perform on the field and said that while India had not a decent run of late, they had done well and had a record number of chases very recently. “We’ve also performed very well in bilateral series and for Speed to say otherwise shows he does not know what he is talking about,” said Modi.
While this byplay is unfolding, the ICC, on the face of it, seems to have backed down somewhat over the Members’ Participation Agreement (MPA). Those who run cricket’s governing body have publicly stated that the BCCI’s objections to the MPA should have been stated soon after the first draft was made available in April and not now, when nine other full members have approved the draft, which was revised several times.
Now the ICC has decided to review the MPA draft yet again, because the issues raised by the Indian Board are not “substantial” and can be resolved through discussion. Would they have done the same for any other Board so late in the day?