Once again the BCCI and the ICC are at loggerheads! This time too, the Indian Cricket Board showed no apprehensions in ridiculing the apex body’s rules.
The issue this time: The WADA Anti-Doping Code!
Where on one hand, athletes all over the world signed the code without creating much nuisance, keeping their game and performances as their topmost priority, the Indian Cricketers are, on the other hand, stubborn against signing it, their privacy and personal life being more imperative.
<b>ICC’s demand:</b> Indian cricketers must sign the WADA Anti-Doping Code, just the way other cricketing nations and, as for that matter, all the other sportsmen have, as that would keep a check on doping and is also mandatory for the sport to be included in the Olympics.
<b>BCCI’s problem:</b> The ‘Whereabouts Clause’! Apparently the ‘Men-in-Blue’ do not want anyone to invade their privacy. The clause would require them to give details about their availability for one hour every day for random ‘out-of-competition’ testing by WADA officials, which seems to become just too difficult for our men. According to them, they need more ‘space’, or the way Yuvraj Singh puts it, “I feel we are travelling more. We are playing a lot of time in a year and we should be given more space with due respect to other sports.”
Despite much persuasion and suggestions from other athletes (like Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and bronze medallist wrestler Sunil Kumar) and the sports minister MS Gill, the cricketers are adamant about not letting their whereabouts known to the WADA due to security reasons.
Though BCCI’s attitude is clearly rebellious, ICC somehow doesn’t want to acknowledge it; still the latter claims that there are no hard feelings between the two bodies, and that a solution could be derived mutually and amicably.
Probably there indeed are no hard feelings and BCCI would eventually sign up with the code. Or probably, Haroon Logart and his team are too ‘shy’ to raise a voice and take a harsh decision against the super-rich BCCI?
Well, who knows what the reason is, but the second thought seems more likely, as this is not the first time that ICC and BCCI have locked horns on a particular issue. There have been times when the tussle between the two bodies invited ugly reactions from critics all over, and there have been times when there has been no tussle at all; ICC accepted what the BCCI had to say without a hitch.
Let us go back into time…
The BCCI rose to power in <b>1996</b> when Jagmohan Dalmiya won the ICC Presidential elections by a 25-13 margin. Later, he was unanimously elected as the chairman of the ICC in 1997 for a period of three years; a time which is can also be known as the golden era of the body.
Dalmiya’s contribution in raising ICC’s fortunes gave BCCI a strong hold in all the cricketing matters. BCCI gradually went on to become the richest Cricket Body, thus, it became unfeasible for ICC to ignore it in any matter.
<b>Year 2002!</b> Just before the 2003 World Cup, both the bodies went into a nasty face-off. ICC refused the Indian players to endorse brands which were against the interests of the official sponsors.
The BCCI, of course, denied the clause and threatened to drop those players from the squad which endorsed ICC’s rival brands, clearly giving preference to its financials gains. This meant a clear violation of the Participating Nations Agreement or the PNA which the BCCI signed in March 2002. According to the PNA, the Board is committed to sending its best team to the World Cup.
The ICC went to an extent of bending many of its rules, gave BCCI multiple concessions, which still didn’t satisfy the desires of the Indian Board; earlier, the players were barred from endorsing rival products for a period of 30 days before and after an ICC event, which later was reduced to only 5 days.
The image clause, which allowed the official sponsors to use player images till six months after an ICC event, was also reduced to three months. At last, it also threatened the board of hefty penalties if they still refused to abide by the contract rules.
The ICC also allowed the players, like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, to continue promoting the companies, which are in a conflict of interest with the official sponsors during the tournament except on the days when India was playing a match. But the BCCI rejected the offer.
ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed said he was disappointed when the offer was rejected by the BCCI.
“Having offered this additional and significant concession to India, it was disappointing to find ourselves further apart than before,” Speed was quoted as saying.
<b>In 2006</b>, the knives were out again. ICC asked BCCI to sign the Members Participation Agreement (MPA), which levied some restrictions on the commercial interests of member countries and their players during any ICC event.
The Indian cricket board denied signing the agreement as it would have proved detrimental to fulfilling its financial needs. The denial earned the Board an admonition from the ICC President Percy Sonn that it could lose its hosting rights of the 2011 World Cup if it did not sign the clause. BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi ridiculed the ‘threat’, daring Sonn to ‘take away the World Cup.’
“The ICC president doesn’t even have a vote. It is unbecoming of a person of his position to talk such language. The ICC management was in favour of Australia-New Zealand. We convinced the general body that the World Cup in India is good for the game as a whole. It is the ICC members who gave us the World Cup. Not the ICC president,” Modi fumed.
“Who is he setting the deadline to? Is it to the ICC or the BCCI? Let the ICC conduct a World Cup without India. They would not be able to earn more than 50 million dollars (in eight years),” Modi went on. “You ask any television company in India. How much interest would they have if India is not taking part in the competition?”
Such was the aggression and arrogance of the BCCI. However, later, the Board did sign the agreement, with some alterations to its favour, of course!
<b>Soon, a year later in 2007</b>, a major controversy ripped Indian cricket apart. After being denied the telecasting rights of the 2003 World Cup and later, the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy, Zee Telefilms Chief Subhash Chandra went onto launch his own cricket league, known as the Indian Cricket League (ICL), which the BCCI refused to recognise.
It was for the fear of BCCI and its implications on international cricket that most of the countries refused to accept their players involved in the ICL, and banned them from entering the national squad.
The ICC out-rightly refused to intervene into the matter and left the problem to be tackled by BCCI solely. It denied accepting the ICL players unless the BCCI finds it appropriate to acknowledge them.
With the fear of losing young players to ICL due to high amount of money and exposure, Lalit Modi came up with his (copied) brain child, the Indian Premier League (IPL)!
With both the leagues running adjacent to each other, ICC took a blind eye to the ICL-IPL conflict. Dreading to upset the richest cricket board, the apex body remained a mute-spectator and accepted BCCI’s decision on the issue without any objection.
The fate of the ICL now lays bare in front of us as most of the players were forced to leave the league if they wanted a recall in their respective national teams.
And now with the IPL blossoming to its pinkest health, the ICC, if not officially on paper, is forced to make a separate window for the cash-rich superlative T20 League. The very fact that the 2010 T20 World Cup schedule has been adjusted in a manner to not coincide with the third season of the IPL, proves the argument.
Meanwhile, who could forget the ‘memorable monkey-gate’ incident between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds? Harbhajan Singh, who was initially charged of using making a racial comment against the Australian all-rounder during the second Test match of the Commonwealth Bank series in January 2008, was given a clean chit after the BCCI threatened to quit the 4-match series.
Incidences are innumerable! It is just that, sometimes, the BCCI manages to get its way by twisting ICC’s arms, or by just giving a menacing smile, indicating the latter to just move out of the way!
Call it the financial hold or the political power that BCCI possesses, it is still indicative of one thing prima facie, the ICC is in-fact dictated to an extent to one board’s whims and fancies and this must take a turn for the better soon, or the globalisation and mass appeal of cricket is surely in danger.