It’s not like cricket administration was ever really alive to begin with, but 2014 will be known as the year it officially died. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
At the end of this year, when almanacs are cobbled together, annuals are written and awards for sportspeople of the year are bestowed, you can guarantee that cricket administration will be tarred with one thick and filthy brush. The year is not even over yet, but already it has been one of the worst years for the governance of the game in recent history.
From the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) mismanagement of Kevin Pietersen to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) big three takeover to the West Indies Cricket Board’s (WICB) pay dispute with its players, the year 2014 will be remembered as the yeamer in which cricket administration well and truly died. It’s not like it was alive in the first place, but 2014 is when it was taken off the life support and its body thrown into the furnace.
South Africa’s cricketing summer currently hangs in the balance. Cricket South Africa are waiting for the WICB to meet with its players and try to sort things out before they try to make alternative plans. The issue will also be brought up at an ICC meeting in mid November. At worse, the ICC could suspend the WICB from participating in all international cricket.
For the second year running, the number one ranked Test team faces uncertainty over what exactly they might get up to over the festive season. One wonders how some of these great players have not simply hung up their boots and taken a “why bother” attitude, opting for a mercenary life of travelling cricket instead. Something is keeping them ticking and that something is Test cricket. As much as the doom prophets want you to believe otherwise, Test cricket remains the pinnacle of the sport for many – it’s just not always treated as such.
And the men who should be responsible for treating it as the be-all and the end-all of the sport, the ICC, are insisting that they are not in a position to take action. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) are livid with the West Indies for pulling out of their tour over the pay dispute. So livid that they are threatening to sue them for a sum so hefty it could plunge WI cricket into extinction. The BCCI have also suspended all bilateral tours with the country for the foreseeable future.
The looming lawsuit and the suspension of tours will have serious financial implications for the West Indies and could lead to their ruin – and the ICC have already said that they can do little about it.
As a result of governance restructure earlier this year – when the boards of India, England and Australia effectively seized executive control – it means that the ICC no longer has any jurisdiction over the Future Tours Programme (FTP). It released a statement on Wednesday saying: “The International Cricket Council said on Wednesday it was concerned with the dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the West Indies Cricket Board, and was closely monitoring the developments arising from the recently cancelled tour of India.
“The ICC hopes that the matter will be resolved amicably, but clarified that, unless the matter is otherwise referred to it, it does not have the power to intervene in disputes resulting from a bilateral FTP tour.
“The ICC added that the matter will be discussed at the ICC Board meeting, which is scheduled for 10 November in Dubai. Until then, the ICC will make no further comment on this matter.”
Who of the exactly the “we” at the ICC are that are monitoring these developments is unclear. Since, effectively, the ICC’s control room consists of England, Australia and India, it’s probably a case of the power-hungry and small-minded trying to rip out the plumbing to fix a leaky tap. If the ICC were so concerned about the matter, they would have stepped in to help dissolve the dispute, at least in a way of serving as mediator rather than a meddler. After all, the ICC continuously tells us just how much it cares about the game.
The West Indies catastrophe is something that has been coming for a long time. West Indies and its players have always been locked in tit-for-tat disputes, most often centred around pay and often around its players choosing a rendezvous in the Indian Premier League (IPL) rather than time with the national team. The severity of the latest spat is no surprise and according to Michael Holding, is far more complex than any of the disputes that have preceded it.
One can forgive the BCCI for their outrage, especially considering that just last year, they handed the West Indies a boost in income when they needed Sachin Tendulkar’s final match to be played on home turf. But completely cutting them off because of an internal issue seems somewhat crass and drastic. It also leaves one to wonder what will happen with the FTP no longer exists as it does now and it’s left up to the boards to negotiate tours between themselves.
Cricket remains a sport reserved for the elite few and even when the elite dare step out of line, there will be no qualms in throwing them out like a dirty rag. If this continues (and it will) don’t be surprised if one day we a see cricket spring up where those who actually really care about the game decide to forge their own path and revolutionise the way the game is currently run forever. That might seem utopian, but it’s certainly not impossible. DM
Photo: Indian cricket board (BCCI) President N. Srinivasan speaks to the media during a news conference in Kolkata May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri.