Help Cricket Expand: An open letter to BCCI

Dear BCCI,

I write to you this letter at the risk of being branded as “just another jealous non-Indian who envies the power of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)”. When the FIFA World Cup 2014 was going on, and when everyone in the cricket-crazy Island was discussing the strengths and weaknesses of teams as if they have been following soccer all their lives, one of my friends who a href=”” target=”_blank”>despises cricket asked me, “Will Brazil ever discuss about cricket?” My response was a sheepish smile. Even someone as highly opinionated as me could not respond.

This raised a question within me. Cricket is the most popular sport in the world, second only to soccer. Cricket is not dull or boring as people claim it to be. If so, 10 countries would not be crazily following the sport; it would not have spread to Afghanistan and Nepal. Then, why is cricket not so popular world over? It is not popular because we didn’t make any attempts to make it popular.

Being a Sri Lankan, I must tell you that I am extremely happy that finally a South Asian country has gained control over cricket. Cricket may not have been born here, but here is where it lives. Having been humiliated by the West many a time, Sri Lanka sighed with relief at the eventual shift of powers. If the notion that cricket in South Asia is a religion is true, then South Asia should maximize their current ascendancy.

First of all, BCCI, you must understand that cricket is not a business venture. The ICC is not a profit-driven body whose only objective is to make money. Of course, money is important for the growth of cricket, but money alone will not help cricket grow.

Earlier this year, you brought a new system called “the Big 3”, by which all the other comparatively smaller cricketing nations would lose precedence in world cricket. Using your new financial model, you will receive a lion’s share of the income churned out by international cricket. It is true that you bring most of the revenue to cricket. But did you get that alone? If you can gain income solely through India, then your domestic games must be engendering surplus amount of money. Do you think, without the other cricketing nations competing with you, you can earn such a lot of money? No, you need other international teams to play with you to propagate such revenues. So, don’t you think other countries are also entitled to receive an equal share?

You are the richest board in the world. Why do you need more money? Isn’t it the poor boards that need more finance? If the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer, do you think cricket can survive?

I must also question you about how you make use of the financial resources. Cricket matches in India do not make use of sophisticated technologies like the Hot Spot and the Snickometer. Despite being so rich, what hinders you from employing such technologies?

With most cricket boards in a state of recession, do you think it is right to let money stagnate? Don’t you think money should be put to use? Don’t you think, if you would be courteous and philanthropic enough to vouch safe some of your financial resources, the poor boards can nourish themselves?

Another intrigue you executed through the Big 3 policy was stripping the non-big 3s off the chance of hosting any ICC tournaments. Sri Lanka won’t be hosting any ICC tournament for another 10 years. Being a cricket fan, I must tell you that, in Sri Lanka, cricket is facing a stiff competition from rugby. Cricket is insidiously losing its battle with rugby. In another 20 years, Sri Lanka will no more be a cricketing nation if there is no change in the current status quo.

Through Big 3, you also decimated the Future Tours Programme (FTP). I must admit that the new bilateral agreement on tours have brought Sri Lanka more opportunities to tour high profile cricket nations.  At the same time, non-existence of a system also gives the Big 3 the power to easily ostracize a cricket nation that they detest.  Since there is no system in existence to regulate the FTP, any board that opposes you risks a chance of being ousted. History has many lessons on the perils of being ruled by a tyrannical body than by legislature.

Cricket has a tremendous opportunity to gain world-wide fan base should it be included in the Olympics, but you ditched any chances of such things happening by rejecting the Olympic Committee’s invitation to apply for the inclusion. The reason you cited was that the ICC will suffer short term financial losses. Do you think the short term financial losses are more important than the advantages cricket can gain by being an Olympic sport? Olympics can open new frontiers for cricket in countries like China and the USA. This can bring in more revenue to cricket. To be honest, if you had really wanted cricket to be in the Olympic Games, notwithstanding the complications, you could have succeeded in doing so, in the same manner you went ahead with the many editions of the IPL despite problems.

Furthermore, you have cold shouldered the requests from Nepal and Afghanistan to use the training facilities in India. Being the second home of cricket and being a prominent cricket playing neighbour, don’t you think that you should help cricket thrive in Nepal and Afghanistan? Even when financially bankrupted boards like Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) help cricket in Afghanistan flourish, being the richest board, the onus is on you to push the envelope of cricket. You should also not forget the fact that it was the BCCI who helped cricket in Sri Lanka survive through its adolescence. You even paid some of the coaches of Sri Lanka in the 90s.

I am also disappointed with the approach you have towards the Indian Premier League. It is no-brainer that the IPL is the biggest T20 league in the world. Even though there is no official window for the IPL in the ICC calendar, the league is strong enough to create itself an “unofficial” window in the calendar. All cricketers yearn to be a part of the biggest league. Shops are shut and offices closed: a unanimous Hartal is observed during the entire tournament. But, outside of India, IPL is not received with the same fervor as it is received in India.

The publicity of the IPL can be used to spread cricket across the globe. To do so, you should lift the current restriction of only 4 foreign players per side. Even though it will hinder Indian youngsters from gaining exposure, I must ask you how many youngsters have gone on to represent India permanently through the IPL? There were players like Saurabh Tiwary, Rahul Sharma, Paul Valthaty and Manpreet Singh Gony who rose to popularity through the IPL. But how many of them have a permanent place in the Indian national side? Out of all franchises, only Rajasthan Royals seem to promote the participation of Indian youngsters. So, you should stop looking at the IPL as a stage for young Indians to show case their talents.

If you can allow more than 4 foreign players to play for a team, it will only do good to the IPL. Just like the English Premier League in football, you can start drafting talented players from the associates. Ryan ten Doeschate is a perfect example for the existence of talented cricketers in the associate nations. In the same way, if the IPL can exploit talents in Ireland, Canada, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, you will have done an enormous service to help cricket grow in the respective countries.

There cannot be a better leader for cricket than the BCCI. It is high time that you take a leaf from the wonderful kings of India and rule cricket judiciously and piously. If cricket is a religion in your country, then you are incumbent to spread it across the globe. Despite having a fan following of around 2.5 billion, cricket is yet to become a global sport.

It is widely believed that you fear that your dominancy will collapse should cricket expand. “It is believed that a few high-ranking BCCI officials are averse to the idea of letting the game grow beyond the Full Members.”, reported a href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Cricinfo. You fear that cricket’s dependency on you will desist if cricket expands to the lucrative territories of China and the USA.

So, BCCI, please don’t be a virus to world cricket. A virus in the process of feeding off its host will ultimately kill it. Eventually, without the host, the virus would die, as well. In the same way, if you are going to financially exploit cricket, one day, cricket will be done and dusted. If cricket ceases to exist, then how can you survive? If you don’t change your attitude towards cricket, it will steadily and gradually decline resulting in sports like soccer raising its head in India.

You have a very big responsibility of shielding cricket. If you can help cricket grow in leaps and bounds, cricket will always reserve a special place for you and your country. Your name will be immortalized in the history of the sport. But will you assist cricket to go global? The answer will determine the future of the sport.

This article also appeared in Sportskeeda a href=””>here

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