The ongoing lucrative Indian Premier League might be entering in its business end and there has been enough glitz and glory on the field, but over the past week, the prime talking point of Indian cricket has been the uncertainty regarding the participation in the ICC Champions Trophy, which starts in England from June 1. India is yet to announce their squad for the eight-team event and the doubt over the involvement of the defending champions and the most followed cricket team in the world the has kept the anxious fans and stakeholders on their toes.
After being outvoted (1-13) in the ICC Board meeting in Dubai on the issue of game’s governance structure and revenue model, it was expected that the richest and most powerful board in the cricketing world, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would use the Champions Trophy participation as a bargaining chip and that is exactly what they are doing right now.
According to the newly adopted finance model by the ICC, the Indian board has been granted a share of US $293 million from ICC events until 2023, which is almost half of the amount which they were supposed to get according to the Big-Three formula (US $570).
The ICC Board meeting took place on April 28 and the deadline for announcing the squad for Champions Trophy was April 25, which BCCI missed. By not announcing the squad BCCI wanted to keep ICC under pressure going into the meeting. But the apex body, led by first independent chairman Shashank Manohar remained firm in its negotiation.
Meanwhile, as a final offer, Manohar has kept alive the prospect of an extra $100 million to BCCI to agree to the new finance model. By doing that ICC has pushed the ball in BCCI’s court and now they are under pressure to take a call. The final decision on this issue and Champions Trophy participation will be taken in the Special General Meeting in Delhi on Sunday (May 7).
Why is BCCI on the back foot?
BCCI might be the most influential cricket board in the world, but currently they clearly on the back foot. It is clear that most of the BCCI members are unhappy with the new finance model of ICC. In fact, according to recent reports, the member associations were lobbying to send a legal notice to ICC. However, they had to put down their guns following the interventions the of the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), who are keeping a close eye on the entire issue.
Following Lodha committee recommendations and Supreme Court directives, the CoA has been monitoring all BCCI affairs. Vinod Rai, the chairman of the committee has already made it clear that no decision regarding the breaching of Members Participation Agreement (An agreement between BCCI and ICC regarding participation in ICC events) can be taken without the prior clearance from CoA.
In an email sent to BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhary on Thursday, the CoA has directed the BCCI to select the squad ‘immediately’.
“There has been more than enough negativity surrounding Team India’s participation in the ICC Champions Trophy and the sooner the same is put to rest the better,” the email read.
“You are aware that the squad representing India at the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 was to be submitted by 25th April 2017 but the squad has not even been selected as yet. Please convene a meeting of the selection committee for selecting the squad immediately. The squad can then be submitted to the ICC without prejudice to BCCI’s legal rights.”
“We believe that any decision taken at the SGM should be predicated on the fact that India has the best team in the world today,” the CoA told Choudhary. “Team India should be provided with a supportive environment to showcase Indian cricket instead of being surrounded by uncertainty and confusion. The players’ interests are paramount and they must be given the best chance to prepare for, defend and retain the ICC Champions Trophy. The focus should be on enabling our team to achieve even greater heights and further laurels, which will automatically attract higher revenues.
“The BCCI appears to have lost sight of the fact that it attained a pre-eminent position in the ICC not by a combative approach, but by building consensus and ensuring a positive image, including by helping other cricket boards in their time of need.”
Thus, clearly at this point of time BCCI is not in a position to ignore the suggestion of CoA and pullout from Champions Trophy, even if they want it. However, one thing they can do — choosing a depleted squad, without the big names as a protest against ICC. The omission of the likes of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh will disinterest the majority of the sponsors and it will hit ICC financially.
From players perspective
If India withdraw its team from the Champions Trophy, the consequences will be severe. According to the guidelines of current MPA, a non-participation will mean India (Both men’s’ and women’s teams) will be barred to feature in or host any ICC event till 2023, which means someone like Dhoni or Kohli will not play another World Cup. There will be strong repercussions from sponsors, broadcasters, fans and other stakeholders. Ex-Indian cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have already warned the board about this. So, Any drastic step here is likely to backfire for BCCI only.
Thus, the dark cloud may be hovering over India’s participation in Champions Trophy but anxious fans can expect a clear sky pretty soon.