Cricket: In Defence of the Devil




Despite their numerous flaws, BCCI’s dictatorial ways of functioning has its positives and they need to be given a pat, once in a while

There is little doubt that BCCI deserves more credit than what it gets. This is an organization which has helped India be a multi-World Cup winner (2007, 2011), win a ODI tournament in Australia (2008), numero uno in tests for a decent period (enough worth telling our grand children) and enhanced the Indian cricketer’s brand value unlimitedly.

Two decades ago, back in late eighties, the board figured out big brother, ICC’s, ways of functioning (or some may call non-functioning) and how to manipulate them through. Led by Jagmohan Dalmiya, the BCCI realized its own strengths (a billion plus crazy religious followers) and figured out how to sell Cricket, Indian cricket and Indian stars at a rate faster than the growing economy.

It’s wasn’t a case of killing the goose which lays golden eggs, it was a strong case of giving right dose of steroids to the goose so that she keeps laying more and more golden eggs, year on year. 

So, times have changed now. Gone are the days when we felt privileged when an English county invited a Kapil, Anil or a Sachin to play; when hosting the world cup was considered only one country’s (read: England’s) domain and sponsored by a certain insurance company (Prudential) ; when overseas cricketers complained of pollution or prawns in India; when our cricketers were bullied or abused on field; when our cricketers went to overseas training academies; when the Australian or New Zealand board would invite us for a series once every six years (eg 1985, 1991, 1997) only or when our domestic cricketers needed to work as a clerk for a living.

Thanks to (the much maligned IPL), kids today aim to make a career playing cricket; ex-cricketers are finding more jobs than before, overseas cricketers are buttering our crowds hoping to get a commentary or a reality tv series stint and nowadays, everyone globally, wants to be a part of the Great Indian cricket show. You get a sense there is a genuinely long queue outside BCCI office of country boards desperate to host or play India (and that list could stretch to Americas and Middle east).

This is no mean achievement and I dare say a bigger turnaround than what Sachin, Sourav and Dhoni have combined achieved on-field over the past decade and half. You appreciate this more when you compare it with other sporting associations. Cricket, by no stretch of imagination is half a spectator-friendly sport as is football or hockey or tennis (if you disagree, just gauge by the number of nations who play these sports). 

Yet, a look at the mess other sports organizations in India are in, despite the same growing economy, and you appreciate the difference. Ask their players and anyday they would willingly want BCCI take over their sports body. Ditto for other cricketing nation players. Despite much abuse of the IPL model, every other cricket board has blatantly copied this billion dollar league model.

Back to other sports, the hockey national coach was sacked recently; and at time of writing, the double defending champions finished sixth in a tournament which isn’t even represented by the best. Our most successful football coach was sacked amidst cries of racism and bias. While the cricket board still gives enough room for a Kumble, Prasad or a Srikanth to operate, this is a privilege which a Viren Rasquinha, Dhanraj Pillay or Pargat Singh are not expected to get in near future; and that is extremely sad for our national sport.

By now, anyone living on planet earth would have figured out that its rule of the jungle out there – at every level, at every place. Rewind back by a few more decades when hockey was played on grass and won by classical dribblers. Enter, the European boards (after realizing their own strengths), wielded all their powers and altered the game’s dimensions in such a way that they would start dictating on and off the field.

BCCI has done something close to that revolution, however ensuring that the game is catered to as per demands of the audience and not of a particular nation’s style of playing. So pitches were asked to be made which lasts for five days of television viewing – whether Kanpur or Durban – and frankly it benefitted. Despite more legends playing in the nineties, test cricket had more memorable moments in the past decade. Cricket today is replacing ‘saas bahu’ serials or even a movie going experience – coming from the land of bollywood, this is no mean achievement

At the same time the system has been made such that no individual has been allowed to get bigger than his boots. It’s some sort of a perfect balance which daddy BCCI has managed to strike. It’s not wrong. History has enough examples of the typical human nature – once you allow a mammal who can operate a mobile phone to think he is bigger than the system, the results take far disastrous shapes – from Diego Maradona to Lalit Modi.

So every player is given the license to declare whether he wants to rest or play any certain tour, rather than crib about ‘excess cricket’. A player has choice – either he keeps performing like an assembly line machine or rest and risk losing his spot. With the plethora of cricket and the unbelievable short Indian memory, there is no shortage of talent to select.

Two months ago everyone screamed for a certain Spiderman by the name R Ashwin. He, with just single digit ODI experience, was expected to solve all our problems. A fortnight later, Virat Kohli was toast of the nation. But, if team for West Indies were to be selected based on a national poll, two weeks ago, there was decent probability that Virat & Ashwin would have polled lesser votes than Rahul Sharma and Paul Valthaty. Even this polling system would be considered better than our selection policies one and half decades ago, when associations and votes, and sometimes money, decided which player would be gifted an India cap.

So while experts debate on life after Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and Zaheer, BCCI has made such an assembly line like system that we won’t ever realize before a Rohit Sharma, Pujara, Raina and a Ishant coolly slots into their positions. This is quiet similar to the Brazilian national soccer team – so many of their players have become stars that three Brazillian teams can be fielded and it potentially can be never-ending debate on who should be in Team A and who in Team C.

There is no doubt that BCCI has its set of flaws and we will keep it for another day and I promise it will have more and possibly stronger, content. However, this is the year when we won the World Cup and are number one test team – a year which we never before experienced in our lives and can only dream of a repeat. This was possible courtesy a team, management and selectors who were nurtured by the board. All its players have come from a system – u-17, u-19, u-21, Duleep Trophy, Ranji Trophy, Irani Trophy, ‘A’ teams, NCA, MRF pace foundation, IPL – a system which some corporate would struggle to match. So hats off to BCCI and see you on ‘another day’!




4 thoughts on “Cricket: In Defence of the Devil

  1. Fresh idea, very good write up, no doubt they have turned to a great organisation, but for me real hero is MSD, be it Test no 1, or WC win….one thing I wanted, is a public holiday after WC, its a mile stone not acheived often…and specially what it meant to us….and also kudos goes to fans like us, persevere for years to see India reach such hieghts, I have two more milestones, win test series in Aus and SA. Very nice write up, you think at a different elevated level, even KK too think at very higher sphere….was it triggered due to Tony Greg's writeup against BCCI? …..All the best, keep it up


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