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Old Tuesday, January 21, 2014
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Default Just not cricket

Just not cricket
By Mohammad A Qayyum

If the proposals that have been reportedly put forth by the high-powered working group of the International Cricket Council (ICC) have not caught the attention of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), they really ought to have. They are diabolical and fundamentally render the ICC into a body utterly dominated by and at the whims of the Indian, English and the Australian cricket boards. All other boards, including Pakistan’s, will be effectually rendered mere spectators.

The proposals, as reported, propose to form a high-powered executive committee with permanent memberships for the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). This committee would override all other committees, which presently have more equitable participation by other boards. Two tiers involving promotion and relegation would be introduced in Test cricket with exceptions made in the cases of India, Australia and England. The Future Tours Programme, which required all member teams to play other teams, would be replaced by bilateral agreements. Countries may only play teams they want to play and more importantly, for Pakistan, they would not be required to play teams they do not want to. A new financial model would be introduced for sharing revenues, which would increase the shares of the troika. The BCCI would, for example, increase its share from under five per cent to about 21 per cent. Correspondingly, shares for others would decrease.

The PCB is presently undergoing an upheaval in its administration. One wonders if these fundamentally far-reaching changes have registered with the powers-that-be. Pakistan has found itself in the cold through circumstance and gross mismanagement, but if this proposal goes through, things would be grossly worse.

It is ironic that cricket used to be considered the by-word for fairness and gentlemanly conduct. To say something was ‘just not cricket’ indicated that something was unfair. Yet, the politics of cricket is fundamentally power-based and revenue driven. For example, talk of a two-tiered relegation system for Test cricket is effectively rendered a hollow fig-leaf when one notices that the English, Indian and Australian teams would never be relegated. One queries how this could be termed a merit-based system.

The ECB and CA aside, this in a way seems an extension of India’s drive for global significance. In a similar vein, it has sought a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. All argument against that state of affairs applies equally to the present case. In fact, it seems that the inspiration of the ICC proposal was drawn from the lopsided Security Council, where the big powers retain veto powers. The ICC proposal would effectively form a security council for cricket, with all of the dysfunctions and asymmetrical power institutionalised, just as it is done at the UN body.

With our continual bad blood with our tetchy neighbour, Pakistan would be impacted more than most. One wonders what South Africa would presently be feeling, given that they presently top the cricketing tables but are being left out in the cold by this. In effect this is, as one commentator put it, “potential kidnapping” of cricket; a hostile takeover.

In this proposal, there is also an opportunity for Pakistan. So blatant is the proposal that all other boards are quite likely to react adversely to it. The PCB should capitalise on this. It should call for the proposers (mostly from the ECB, the BCCI and CA) to resign. Pakistan should not only counter the move but also play a leading role in its opposition and take it up as an opportunity to end its isolation, to develop ever closer links with the other boards, particularly South Africa, and use that as a counterweight against the dominant three. Sri Lanka, too, would be an effective ally. Surely, even Bangladesh for all its demonstrated animus recently would come on board. New Zealand cannot be too happy with the plan for Australian dominance. There is much that can be played on and used by a canny hand at the PCB. The PCB and its patron need to wake up to the insidious plan put into play and the opportunities it offers to them to end the isolation of Pakistan cricket.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2014.
"Nay! man is evidence against himself. Though he puts forth his excuses." Holy Qur'an (75:14-15)
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