Time for Sourav Ganguly-Shashank Manohar grudge match
As Sourav Ganguly prepares to take over as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), he will find himself with plenty of battles to fight. One such possible skirmish may see him pitted against an old adversary— International Cricket Council (ICC) chief Shashank Manohar.
Global cricket is a lopsided market—Indian companies and the Indian market generate more revenue than almost all the other cricket playing nations put together.
The ICC is always trying to curb the influence that money brings. It is inevitable that the two cricket bodies are often at odds. This time, the ICC, always trying to boost revenue, and have proposed holding a World Cup every year. The BCCI has opposed it.
Led by powerful administrators, BCCI has always had the upper hand. Sourav Ganguly, however, takes over at a time when the tide has changed heavily in favour of ICC, which has introduced many measures to ensure BCCI doesn’t dictate terms in the ICC boardroom.
Ganguly and Manohar’s paths crossed before the 2004 Nagpur Test against Australia when Ganguly, then the India captain, asked for a spin-friendly wicket. India were trailing 0-1 after two matches. But Manohar, the Vidarbha association president then, backed his curator to lay out a green top. The surface played into Australia’s hands and they won to go 2-0 up, achieving their “Final Frontier” by claiming their first series in India in 34 years. Ganguly had pulled out of the match due to an injury, and Rahul Dravid led in the game.
It came amidst an intense power tussle in the BCCI with the Manohar-Sharad Pawar-Raj Singh Dungarpur-IS Bindra camp pitted against Jagmohan Dalmiya, the then BCCI president. There was speculation Ganguly didn’t have his way because the venue belonged to the anti-Dalmiya camp.
Now, those battle lines have been drawn again. Many senior cricket figures in India are opposed to Manohar for his decision to resign as BCCI president and join ICC. The Board members had brought Shashank back as BCCI President with an overwhelming majority, going against N Srinivasan. They see it as abandoning the cause of the Board members who were looking up to his leadership in their resistance to the Lodha reforms.
Manohar became the first independent ICC chairman, and to his luck has found it easy to deal with the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators till now. When Ganguly’s team takes over on October 23, things are bound to change.
The first confrontation will be over the move to have a Twenty20 World Cup every year.
“A bilateral series gives us more money, why should we lose our advantage?” asks former BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah, who is well-versed in the cricket politics after decades as a cricket administrator.
India fears ICC’s proposed Futures Tours Programme (FTP) from 2023 could significantly hit its revenue. The new proposal also wants the 50-over World Cup to be held every three years. This is seen as an ICC tactic to tap the market for its global media rights (2023-2028) before BCCI, and mop up the lion’s share of revenue from potential broadcasters.
“It’s a mess. We have lost our advantage in the ICC. We (office-bearers) will have to put our heads together into studying what is happening with the ICC,” said another senior member.
Shah said: “All our officials (other than Manohar) who had gone to ICC had looked after India’s interests; we’ve lost our power in ICC, lost out on money. Our power is money, more than 70 per cent revenue is generated from Indian cricket.”
He backed Ganguly. “It is a great challenge for Sourav, (but) he has enough experience to get into it.”
It won’t be as easy though, cautioned a former BCCI member.
BCCI’s bargaining chip at ICC had been offering bilateral series as every board makes money by hosting India. “It was easier with 10 members at ICC, you needed seven votes to get your way,” the expert said.
When the ICC restructuring took place under Manohar in 2017, more voters were added and an independent woman director and three associate member-directors came in. With Afghanistan and Ireland granted Test status, there are 12 full members now. In the 2017 restructuring of the financial model, the Big Three formula was shelved and all the other Board members were offered more money than what they were getting. BCCI was the only one that voted in favour of the Big Three (India, Australia, England), others voted against it.
“Also, now you need a 75 per cent majority to pass a resolution in ICC, making it tougher for the BCCI to bargain. The voters have also increased,” the expert said.
“The ICC chairman is an independent post and was decided by voting. After being appointed the first chairman (2016-18), Shashank was given an extension from 2018-20. He is on a strong footing.”