BCCI-ECB-CA Coup d’etat
By Roger Sawh
Once upon a time, the Indian cricket team was, by a long way, my second favorite team in the world (after my beloved West Indies). It was in the earlier part of the new millennium, when I was becoming a more mature and analytical cricket fan, and when I could start to devote significant time to watching and appreciating the sport globally.
The storied 2001 test series against Australia, when VVS carved Shane, Pigeon and others and Bhajji had Punter and company in a web of misery, was my personal highlight. The superb run to the 2003 World Cup final (particularly Sachin’s imperious innings in the semifinal) was also an exciting time to root for the tricolor. Supporting team India was fun – they had great talent mixed with an underdog steel. Their strengths and weaknesses made them captivating to cheer for.
A few years later, their memorable World T20 win sprung happiness for fans of an all-round team, while their 2011 World Cup triumph was satisfying for anyone that could appreciate good cricket and the value of legacies. It felt as if that win perfectly capped off a memorable era for Indian cricket – a period that boasted, in no particular order, Srinath, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Laxman, Sehwag, Kumble, Dhoni, Dravid, and, of course, Sachin (among others).
That time evokes particular nostalgia because many of the highlights of those humanely-flawed Indian teams came against the two nations that stood at the opposite end of my spectrum of support – England and Australia. As traditional heavyweights, they have always had an almost inexplicable grip on the sport both on and off the field. They were always seen, begrudgingly, as the ‘bigger boys’ on the park. England’s colonial history and Australia’s unapologetic in-your-face attitude made much of the rest of the world wary of them; further, their status (perceived or real) as controllers of the sport coincided with their economic positions as powerful first world nations compared with everyone else. Divorcing their cricket teams from their national contexts was just not possible – they were the antithesis of the likes of the West Indies and India, which made any falterings they experienced all the sweeter.
It is eerie, therefore, to say that watching India today isn’t the same as it used to be, but it’s the truth; somewhere along the way, my feelings as a supporter have shifted. In fact, I think I know why I have experienced this shift – in a simplistic way, India seems to have left the side of ‘us’, and become one of ‘them’.
While it was inevitable that the appeal of the Indian team would wane with the retirement of icons over the past few years, reducing my change in attitude to such a basic explanation is insufficient. New talents have emerged, and I admire the Dhawans, Kohlis, and Pujaras of the game. What has transpired instead is the emergence of other factors that make me actively rally against India – seeing a team like New Zealand beat them actually provides a level of gratification similar to my delight in seeing England or Australia struggle.
The loss of support for India is not strictly about the field of play (just as it was never that simple for England or Australia); it’s how the team’s reputation is manifested in the mind of a fan. It’s the result of whom and what is associated with the team, and how the deeds of all connected parties are perceived. It is the combined notion of the ‘team’ that ultimately creates a level of support or opposition. Thus, while England or Australia’s players may have been quite impressive as cricketers, their representation on the field was always an embodiment of numerous things: cricket skills, management, professionalism, board relations, national approach, bilateral relations, politics, economics, attitude, and much more. A cricket team is a representative of all of the interplaying factors.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) runs Indian cricket. This organization’s bullheadedness towards the cricket world has served to seriously diminish support for India on the whole. As the handlers of Indian cricket, they have managed to make connecting with the Indian team increasingly unpalatable – while the players have been celebrated and the nation has been a friend, the Board’s deeds have grown ever more detestable as time has worn on. The BCCI’s clamoring about their major influence due to the massive revenues the Indian team generates is the latest instance of their self-aggrandizement, and it seems to have the makings of a major shifting point in the foundations of the game as we know it. The new disposition of India in cricket governance is categorized by aggression and, apparently, perceived superiority. From virtually monopolizing world cricket for 2 months a year with the IPL to actively resisting technological advances via DRS to rejecting the recommendations of the Woolf report for improved ICC governance to the most recent moves to partner with England and Australia to elevate themselves to ‘better than the rest’ status, the BCCI’s maneuvers and manipulations have been simply unsavory. In fact, it is the whispers of their threat to not participate in future ICC events if the recent governance proposal is not passed that have elevated my annoyance to a new high.
Regardless of motives, the BCCI has made the team very hard to root for because of the inescapable association with the pompous board. The cricket world does not doubt that cricket’s viability relies on India; that, however, is not a license for the powers-that-be to throw their weight around in a way that is detrimental to many.
Support or opposition of a team is difficult to directly pinpoint, but it’s more than simply the players on the field. It’s an associative step, a connection that is deep, complex, and individualized. It is a unique link, and it can in some way, be unique to every person that follows cricket (or any sport for that matter). The BCCI’s monumental influence and control has become simply loathsome, comes across as elitist and retrogressive, and makes it more apparent by the day that the game’s interests are collateral to the cupidity of its controllers. The ECB and CA are unsurprising parts of the axis of control, but India’s position as the third leg is nothing short of distressing.
The allure to support India has been severely compromised by the bunglings of the ‘bringers of cricket calamity internationally’ (‘BCCI’). How the BCCI-ECB-CA coup d’etat of the ICC plays out remains to be seen, but it is more apparent than ever that the power players in the boardroom include the BCCI at the front and center. Somehow, I hope for good sense to prevail and equality for our global game to be maintained. Cricket is already a select sport; the actions of a rapacious few must not take it from exclusive to exclusionary.
Roger Sawh is a lifelong cricket fan who attends Law School at Queen’s University in Canada. A non-test leg spinner, his favorite cricketers are Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Shane Warne. When he isn’t pretending to be busy with books, he’s either watching cricket (or basketball), reading about cricket (or basketball), stressing about his next move in fantasy cricket (or basketball), or pursuing his newest hobby – writing about cricket (and not basketball) for www.wicricketgroup.blogspot.com