Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The need for Indian Cricket League

The BCCI - Board of Control for Cricket in India - has been a monopoly, controlling professional cricket played in India. Similar organizations do the same in other cricket playing countries, but in countries like Australia and England, the cricket boards are professional bodies.

In India, on the other hand, BCCI is filled with all the undesirable elements in the society - led by the politicians. BCCI's aim is supposedly to promote and manage cricket. They fail miserably in this aspect. Cricket promotion in the country happens on its own, through corporate involvement and television coverage. BCCI merely extracts its annual income from television rights and sponsorship of matches. They pay a portion of this to the players, but rarely explain what they do with the rest of the money.

BCCI office bearers are supposed to be honorary, elected members. So they cannot draw huge salaries. But, they also deal with more than a billion dollars each year. Huge presidential suites, massive expense bills, and financial mishandling is the norm. BCCI top honchos also act as bullies when they deal with television companies and their own players.

You cannot find a single good thing they have done in the last 10 years. No new statium anywhere to speak off, no pension to past cricketers - though there were fancy statements thrown around, but nothing concrete has happened, no cricket scholarships for under-16, under-19 kids. Nothing. They have increased the salaries to players playing in International matches, and also the domestic matches. But that is nothing compared to their earnings.

They have fought paying taxes. They put enormous strain on the cities that hold cricket matches and do not adequately compensate the city administrations and police force during that period.

The stadia owned by the constituent state cricket associations where International matches are held are extremely poor. They are concrete blocks with very poor civic amenities such as toilets. Food served is invariably poor. Crowd control is horrible - the policemen whack spectators with lathis. Ticket sales is pathetically organized. You will have to stand in long queues for days and may still not get a ticket, while bulk of the tickets are siphoned off and given for free to politicians and other VIPs. Tour schedules are poorly organized. As a comparison, tour schedules in Australia and England for the next year is made available well in advance and tickets can be bought over the Internet.

BCCI do not publish annual reports. They do not have a vision statement, or a list of their accomplishments. Heck, they don't even have a web site in this age! They do not issue press releases. They do not explain any of their actions to the people of India.

Every year they conduct elections. Horsetrading abounds, making Goa legislative assembly a sweet place. The current President is a Minister in the Union Cabinet, handling an important portfolio - Agriculture. He had to be brought in to check the growing clout of the previous incumbent, who was considered extremely autocratic. BCCI has never been democratic.

In all, it is amazing that despite BCCI, the national team wins a few matches.

It looks next to impossible to clean the system from within.

It has to be done from outside.

While I have no special sympathies for Zee's Subash Chandra, the Indian Cricket League (ICL) floated by him could very well shake the board to change its ways.

ICL seems to be quite motivated and willing to spend money.

Whether they succeed financially or not, if they help in achieving a sensible administration and a change of constitution in BCCI, it will go a long way in reforming the game in India.

(Strangely, ICL's website is also down now! So can't link them.)

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