How the Indian Cricket Board uses Cricket for monetary gains and Politics

Cricket is a sport that emerged from Britain, later as it colonised various countries the game of cricket spread because of its cultural export to different parts of the world. As the sport originally is a longer format which is known as “Test” goes on up-to five days of playing. However, due to inconvenience and for the ease of play has produced reduced versions of One-Days and Twenty20s to expand the game and to attract other countries who are not part of the British Commonwealth.

Today’s world of cricket is being dominated by the Indian cricket franchise IPL short for Indian Premier League. As cricket comprises of a 10-15 professional playing nations, the majority comprising of the British Commonwealth, the sport is not very popular in the rest of the world. The IPL is an NBA or MLB style franchise that focuses on viewership and sponsors. This attracts the best players and with the large revenues generated and the formidable sponsorships, this, as a result, makes it the Holy Grail of cricket.

Cricket has had a significant impact in these countries particularly the developing ones. Further, it has been used as diplomacy, known as “Cricket Diplomacy” to mend relations of India and Pakistan. After the Bombay attacks, Pakistan and India stopped playing cricket with each other, also in other times to ease relations between the two countries cricket has had a big role in doing so.

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Pakistani President Zia (left) handing a cricket bat to the Indian Cricket captain Kapil Dev (right) in 1987. Source: Samaa.tv

India with an over 1 billion population and cricket being its unofficial national sport, a vast majority of the country is comprised cricket fanatics. It was estimated in the last World Cup match between India and Pakistan there were about 1 billion viewers worldwide making it one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Further, due to the monopolisation of the IPL, this enables BCCI the Indian Cricket Board to have significant leverage over the ICC the International Cricket Council the equivalent of FIFA in cricket.

This enables BCCI to dictate terms and conditions of every cricketing matter in the world. With the influence of IPL, BCCI has had a stronghold over the world and recently have allied with two other major cricketing country boards the ECB the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia. This turned once great cricketing teams such as the West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and others to have less influence in the cricketing decisions which are being conducted by the BCCI.

Recently, BCCI proposed an unpopular decree with the largest viewership and revenues that makes the majority of the cricket revenues to be distributed in an unequal manner that leaves BCCI with 33% of all revenues, 8% going to ECB, 7.6% going to Cricket Australia and the rest is divided up to the other cricket boards. Consequently, the BCCI prohibits Indian players to play in any foreign franchise equivalent to its own IPL in order to keep the dominance of the IPL, so the viewership cannot be shared. In order to keep the Indian viewers only watching the IPL, the BCCI bullies other national cricketing boards through the ICC to reschedule their tournaments or to abstain from pursuing Indian cricketers.

The ICC has turned into a figurehead while BCCI really controls what goes on in the world of cricket today. In addition to that, the BCCI threatened when the Indian player had racially abused an Australian player who is of native origin by calling him a “monkey” (later known as the Monkeygate scandal), the Australian board initially took the matter to ICC, while BCCI threatening to pull out of the ongoing series made the Australian Board to reverse the decision and to withdraw the complaint against the Indian player. This sort of harassment is made possible due to the sheer strength of the Indian viewership in the world of cricket.

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The two players involved in the “Monkeygate” scandal. Australian Andrew Symonds on the left and Indian Harbhajan Singh on the right. Source: wwos.nine.com.au

The IPL is not exempted from corruption, there have been various corruption scandals in the IPL, the franchise founder Lalit Modi has been banished from Indian cricket after his scandalous cases which include, match-fixing and various other betting scandals in addition with sponsorship scandals. There has been an investigative documentary by Al Jazeera that revealed there are large Indian based syndicates that deal with match-fixing.

The betting syndicates have paid Australian and English players when visiting India and other places as well as other teams visiting their countries to underperform in some segments of the matches and were paid large sums of money. The documentary revealed one spot-fixer named Munawar had dealt with 7 English, 5 Australian and 3 Pakistani players. This shows that the Big 3 of cricket (India, England and Australia) rarely or ever get charged for match or spot-fixing. But, for notable non-Big 3 players who were previously handed long bans include Pakistani Mohammad Amir, Bangladeshi Mohammad Ashraful and South African Hansie Cronje.

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Lalith Modi (right) former IPL commissioner with Sushma Swaraj (left) the Minister of External Affairs in India. Source: OutlookIndia.com

The fixing claims are denied by each of the cricket boards of the respective countries further no official investigation took place by ICC. Further, making it more obvious and controversial circumstances surrounding the Big 3. It has been revealed that the fixing takes place under the nose of authorities in India with the help of local politicians and law enforcement.

Furthermore, in Australia and England, all accusations were denied. Interpol sports corruption investigators have given the opinion that these accusations are very worrying and deserve investigations. Influential non-Big 3 scandals include South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and New Zealand. All of whom have confessed and or have been punished. However, the Big 3 accusations have been swept under the carpet while no further investigations took place. This portrays the control the Big 3 have over cricket and have politicised the game by corruption.

Even with the politicised drama of match and spot-fixing, the Indian authorities have blamed Pakistan for harbouring the biggest syndicate as an Indian born criminal Dawood Ibrahim apparently in exile in Pakistan (denied by Pakistan and actually lives in Dubai, UAE). The melodrama surrounding India-Pakistan spills over in the world of cricket as both blame each other continuously for each other’s problems. Apparently, all the fixing in India is done by the Dawood Ibrahim criminal organisation.

The World Cup of Cricket is being played in England starting on 30th May 2019. There is a large scandal surrounding this World Cup as well. In the previous World Cup of 2007 there were 16 teams, in 2011 and 2015 the teams were reduced to 14 and in 2019 the total number of teams have fallen to 10. This indicates two things, one the spread of cricket across the world has slowed or halted and the second and more importantly, this was done on the wish of BCCI. This means with lesser teams, there are more matches of India, making it more profit worthy. Meaning, more India plays, more the viewership. Hence, by sacrificing new teams to enter the World Cup, BCCI along with the ICC decided to halt the advancement of the sport to favour its own monetary agenda.

Furthermore, there has been match-fixing scandals and accusations made by different teams even in the World Cup of 2015. The then ICC director of Bangladesh who resigned over a controversy surrounding a quarterfinal match between Bangladesh and India was seemingly helped by the umpires (referees) by giving unfavourable decisions to Bangladesh and India eventually won the match through the controversy.

Image explaining one of the decisions going against Bangladesh favouring India in the World Cup of 2015. Source: TheDailyStar.net

Moreover, Afghanistan is a country that did not have a cricket team a few years ago, now Afghanistan has a promising cricket team who will part take in this World Cup. Starting with playing in refugee camps in Pakistan and India then moving to play professional cricket has been a tremendous story. However, even with Afghanistan, there has been political motives, for instance, due to geopolitical reasons India favours Afghanistan as a competition to Pakistan. As India-Pakistan relations are in sour conditions, India attempts to promote neighbouring countries to outperform its rival Pakistan and to gain significant goodwill by helping these countries to develop their cricket.

In addition, the recent downturn in the relations between India-Pakistan officially made the Indian authorities to pursue a ban on Pakistan from the 2019 World Cup which did not materialise. Contrastingly to Afghanistan, for Zimbabwe, West Indies (two times World Champions), Kenya, Netherlands, Ireland and many more once promising teams all are left out by the ICC and the BCCI on further development.

All the countries mentioned above (apart from West Indies), rarely play any high-profile cricket matches and this significantly reduced the popularity of the sport in those countries. These unfavourable attitudes are more obvious as the English, Australian and Indian teams play the most amount of international cricket, making them the best-performing ones for obvious reasons. At the expense of the other teams including the above mentioned and other teams who are participating in this year’s World Cup.

Due to BCCI pressure on ICC international teams outside the Big 3 struggle to play international cricket with other teams, this happens as ICC restricts the number of games each team can play. After the 2015 World Cup controversy, the Bangladesh cricket team did not play international cricket for a year and a half without any explanation, as the Bangladeshi board attempted to invite other teams and attempted to visit other countries these were made difficult by the ICC who in reality serves the BCCI.

The future of cricket looks quite dim; however, the game is famous across the world, with Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman (although majorly played by immigrants from the subcontinent) along with Hong Kong, Japan, Korea Republic, European countries and South American countries have national teams but due to the lack of exposure they do not invest and do not participate in international events. If these countries were to be included this sport could have become truly international. However, with the money-obsessed BCCI and its firm grasp over the ICC, this makes it nearly impossible for Cricket to become a truly global sport. Should the true fans of Cricket boycott the upcoming World Cup as a protest?

Further Readings 

IPL Scandals: 20 biggest IPL Scandals;

BCCI’s control over ICC: Is the BCCI sitting at the helm of ICC?;

BCCI and Indian politicisation: India is holding back world cricket;

Cricket World Cup team reduction: Cricket World Cup reduction of teams for 2019;

Cricket Corruption summary: Cricket Corruption – Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj;

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