The Hard Power of international cricket revenues

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This is departure from the usual foreign/military policy related post, but not entirely unconnected to the subject of hard power central to this blog. The last time I wrote on an extraneous subject was when in November 2013 I excoriated the Manmohan Singh government for conferring an entirely undeserved Bharat Ratna on Sachin Tendulkar  — “Bharat Ratna for thwacking the ball?” ( For reasons I cannot fathom, this piece in the archives of this blog is truncated. Should I smell a conspiracy?!)

I have just returned from lunching with a high official presiding over the fate of Indian cricket, and hence world cricket. What he said may be of interest and, in any case, is a story I am now breaking! But I will get to it after the preliminaries!

The Indian people turning on their television sets and tolerating unending advertisements for this and that between sessions of cricket (currently,  in the ongoing one day ICC championship in Britain) are the reason India is the cricketing super power that it is. If you pay the piper, you get to call the tune. But that’s not what all the other cricketing states think is right. The billions of dollars that television advertisements generate, fill the coffers of the BCCI, of course, but also sustain the game in all the other countries. The trouble is India is the global purse other cricketing powers want to raid, for which purpose they voted to have a fairer, more equitable, distribution of the revenues, in which India’s take from the worldwide cricket revenue pot was restricted to $339 million, when it was responsible for for almost all of it.  Originally, India, Australia and England took the giant’s share of the monies so generated, with India helping itself to $445 million.

Correctly judging such shanghai-ing of India’s monies to be intolerable, the Supreme Court appointed Committee (SCAC) has told BCCI reps to negotiate with the ICC but as a compromise to accept nothing less than $420 million as India’s share, a figure amended to $425 million (owing to the unfortunate allusion to the IPC provision 420 for the crime of cheating!) So, India will have its $425 million — a full $20 million less than its original take — or the ICC and international cricket can go take a hike!

There’s no wiggle room afforded the BCCI reps. Either the world cricket body accepts the revised Indian position that involves India’s  taking $425 million, or India will decide, I presume, to cut separate deals with cricket control boards of various countries. That’s the story here! But, if it comes to that stage, then GOI may want to coordinate with SCAC to use the leverage of interest in cricket and generosity to reward friendly cricketing states and punish states not toeing India’s line, as extension of the Indian foreign policy. This is at once right and necessary. Think of it as a sports great power imperative!

This person also revealed the shenanigans of the Sharad Pawar group and the more powerful Srinivasan group (with the much smaller Anurag Thakur coterie on the sidelines) that, in their tussle to control BCCI, tried everything, including upending the recently concluded IPL by denying the use, as reported by the press, of stadia for the matches, etc. In this standoff the BCCI staffers, most of them contract workers, cagily weighed the balance of power between these two groups before siding with this or that group on issues of import. It led to an ultimatum to the BCCI staff from SCAC to implement decisions taken by SCAC, or to not turn up for work, which did the trick.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Australia, Decision-making, domestic politics, Europe, Geopolitics, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian democracy, Indian Politics, society. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Hard Power of international cricket revenues

  1. Ram Natarajan says:

    Typo – Anurag Mathur should read Anurag Thakur.

  2. Arijit Chakravorty says:

    Differing from the above subject , here is what is obvious to me.

    We have it good in Cricket as there is limited competition . Out of Appx 195 Countries barely 12 nations play the game, introduced to the rajas & maharajas in the subcontinent along with the rest of the common wealth countries by the British.

    Thus a lazy sport has evolved well for physically limited peoples of the subcontinent. Nowadays barely 8 nations qualify to play ( As we saw in the ICC championship in 2017). The phenomenon called West Indies which was the genuine cricket great in all its forms from the 1970s till the early 1990s is now as good as the cricket team from Khar Gymkhana in Mumbai.

    But what seems amazing to me was the Times of India headline the day after we lost to Pakistan in the ICC 2017 championships . It read “Hockey heroes restore India’s pride”. We beat Pakistan in Hockey …..

    Even after 70 years of Independence being almost 5 times the size of Pakistan and an economy approx 10 times the size of Pakistan, we need to a headline of an isolated, long forgotten, sport so that it comforts us.

    So frágile even today is our psyche …..and we claim to be better off. Why blame Pakistan for being paranoid about us?

    With our 24 hours TV news channels which echo the Arab TV stations during the Arab Israeli wars and encouraged by our cheer leaders of Nationalism we have reduced our ambitions to the level of Pakistan.

    That country sees us as a mortal threat, justifiably so. Since we have no idea of strategy we still harp about Pakistan and do not stop to think about the actual reasons why Pakistan behaves the way it does.

    It is also amazing how few subcontinent experts exist within our policy think tanks and in the corridors of powers in New Delhi.

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