The BCCI secretary has always been known to be a frank, rather forthright man. Tuesday was no different.
Asked whether reports from the West Indies saying that the Windies Board had categorically stated that it had not yet agreed to the already announced tri-series between India, Australia and the Windies in Malaysia and Singapore next month were true, Niranjan Shah was equally categorical, “Yes.”
“They've (the WICB) have asked for more time. They say they have to talk to their players and will only then let us know,” he said.
Asked what would happen if the Windies players said no to the event, he said if they did, "that would be the WICB's problem."
"We cannot help if they say no,” said Shah. “There are other teams who can come.” Nothing though, is confirmed.
Shah added as an afterthought, “And if they don't, then Australia has already agreed, so we can play against them only.” Well, as long as something is clarified!
After all, we have first been told of a bilateral series in the US (India vs WI), which didn't materialise for various reasons, which then became a series in Canada (but the Canadians refused) and still later, a tri-series in south-east Asia which might now be a bilateral series.
Shah, asked why the BCCI seemed rather desperate to host matches all over the place even when they weren't materialising, said it was because the Board “wanted to encourage cricket in places like the US and Canada and other countries.”
When asked why the places the Board wanted to encourage cricket in didn't seem to be too enthusiastic about hosting them, he said, “They are but the problem is they have infrastructural problems. We will go there sometime else. When they are more ready.”
Now, it must also be remembered that the BCCI has struck a mega deal with Zee TV, which could bring them $219 million over four years and 25 matches — all of which have to be played on offshore/neutral venues.
Like Abu Dhabi was. Shah, asked whether people saying that the BCCI was so keen on playing these games because of the money stakes were right, said yes, they were.
“We have to play, the BCCI has to increase revenues to be able to realise our developmental projects. My job is to run cricket.”
But didn't the Board already have a billion dollars or something in the vicinity lined up? “No,” he said. “It is only potentially that much money. We haven't got it. To get it we have to play all these matches.”
The scare, of course, is what if the matches aren’t played. “Yes, if we can't, it will mean we get less money this year and we have already committed to a certain number of games, so we have to try and play them.”
Asked whether the Indian players were consulted whenever the BCCI decided to host these extra matches, he said, “The players get more money. And in any case, those who don't feel like playing or think it is too much can always opt out and rest.”
But would it be held against them? No, said Shah. In that case, if the whole thing is voluntary, why was vice-captain Sehwag hauled up not so long back for saying there was too much cricket happening?
"That is a all forgotten now," said Shah. "A closed chapter. After that also I said the same, more or less." At least now, things are clear! For the moment.