The cricketing world revolves around India and while the agenda might be set in London, Melbourne or Dubai, the veto lies here.
To a large extent, the clout is a result of Indian cricket’s awesome economic muscle. If England is the home of cricket and the International Cricket Council (ICC) the United Nations, India is the World Bank and International Monetary Fund put together.
The truth is world cricket runs on Indian money, a fact universally recognized and respected. Cricket events across the world depend on India’s participation --- sponsors and TV networks decide their investment based on whether MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar are showing up. If India were to pull the plug to stop the export of funds, cricket’s economy would not just slow down but collapse.
The BCCI, quite justifiably, is not shy of leveraging this strength. If the ICC rejected John Howard, India had a role to play. The FTP has to be reworked because it must reflect the reality that all countries are desperate to host India.
If other countries can’t make their T20 work, it boils down to the unavailability of India stars. There was a time when Australia and England called the shots, now, when India speaks or whispers, others strain to listen.
This change is also visible in the increasing assertiveness of India players. When the senior players put their foot down on the ICC-WADA clauses, the entire issue was revisited to accommodate their concerns.
In Australia, during the Harbhajan Singh-Ricky Ponting row, the impression at the end was nobody wanted to offend India.
More recently, Kumar Sangakkara hinted that the Suraj Randiv no-ball controversy and the stand of the Sri Lankan Board were influenced by Indian cricket.
Not everyone is happy about India’s loud voice, and while there is grudging acceptance of the new power position, India will take time to gain genuine respect. For that, more is needed than just money and India has to take the lead in showing the way forward.
The IPL is one such example. By creating this multi-billion property, India has demonstrated how rapidly a sport can be transformed and its internal dynamics sent into a spin.
The tournament has dramatically altered player salaries, ignited a debate on the format of the game and triggered a rethink on contracts and scheduling. Is the next step to count as a world leader?