What happens when India says no?

Eight out of 10 Test nations agreed to the new ICC proposals but is India’s guarantee really the way forward?

India's N Srinivasan chats to Giles Clarke during the ICC Board Meeting in London [Getty Images]
India's N Srinivasan chats to Giles Clarke during the ICC Board Meeting in London [Getty Images]

Cricket has changed forever.

These words were probably used when Kerry Packer opted for a change, when Twenty20 revolutionised proceedings and when Viendar Sehwag smashed the first double-hundred in One-Day Internationals.

But cricket now has a new world order. India, that started pulling the strings when Jagmohan Dalmiya became ICC president in 1997, will officially call the governing body its empire and be answerable to no one. England and Australia, will sit under India’s wings, with lucrative series and a greater share of the ICC’s revenue due reward.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka were the only two Test nations out of 10 that abstained from voting. Perhaps wary of what rubbing India the wrong way might result in, they also abstained from opposing the proposals and bought more time instead of saying no in Singapore.

SLC, PCB worries

The SLC is looking into the legality of the proposal while Zaka Ashraf, PCB chief, returned home calling South Africa cheaters after the latter had a late change of heart. But what could Pakistan, South Africa or anyone else do? A series against India ranks highly on and off the field.

New Zealand are currently enjoying the upper hand on the pitch and their coffers would still bear a smile even if the results were the complete opposite. South Africa reportedly lost out on ZAR 200m when India cut short its home series against the Proteas. The PCB had announced a Rs 700m deficit budget in 2012 – the figure significantly lower given India’s proposed series against the neighbours. The series did happen later than year – in India – and the amount of convincing and pleading on the PCB’s part aptly depicted how much it needed that not just for the fans but also for the finances.

For Pakistan to say yes, things needed to be a lot simpler. Ashraf, himself, does not know how long he has the PCB seat for. Pakistan wasn’t to gain significantly anyway. But despite BCCI’s assurance, these things are usually decided on government level and not at their cricket headquarters.

“Abstaining was kind of a strategic option whereby the PCB saved face back home,” said Osman Samiuddin, sports writer at The National who informed the world about the Big Three proposals last month.

“Pakistan’s been offered three series against India in the next eight years but, just like under the old FTP, there are no guarantees. Even if there is a contract between the two boards, the Indian government’s refusal to allow their team to play against Pakistan will nullify that contract.”

Bangladesh’s immediate reward

Even Bangladesh had cancelled its proposed tour of Pakistan in 2012 as it eyed a series against India the BCCI allegedly promised it. Noting came of it but what must’ve worried the BCB most in the initial proposal was the relegation. With that struck off the new list, BCB shook hands and confirmed its maiden Test tour of India in 2016.

But the willingness of six Test nations – with South Africa following the path late in the day – just shows the general acceptance in the ICC board of having India pulls the strings… officially. Apart from a series against India, there is also a small matter of their players taking part in the IPL and the Champions League. The BCCI also threatened to boycott all ICC events unless its demands were met.

Global sport?

The ICC has 107 members – 10 full, 37 associate and 60 affiliate. But it is only the top 10 that play Test cricket, nine of them more regularly than Zimbabwe. Although the proposal benefits financially, the Big Three are essentially within their rights to pick and choose whoever they play. The pool just got smaller.

Wisden India estimated that in the next eight years, the three boards now ruling world cricket will be around $520m better off under the new system (based on the figure of $2.5bn that the ICC is expected to generate in that period). With endorsements, television rights and other sponsorship entering through the gates as well, some had no choice but to say yes.

But the only problem with saying yes outright is what to do when India says no.


Faras Ghani is a sport producer (online) at Al Jazeera English and author of the book ‘Champions, again’. He tweets @farasG

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy. 

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