|HOME | SPORTS | COLUMNS | HARSHA BHOGLE|
|July 1, 2000||
Small screen, big battlesHarsha Bhogle
Nothing stirs cricket administrators as much as money does and so last week they gathered in Paris, in boring dark suits I'm sure, ready to throw some pies at each other. The amazing endurance of Courtney Walsh and the revitalisation of Wasim Akram were the last things on their mind. They were talking hundreds of millions of dollars of television money and when that happens, there are always two sides.
Apparently two factors went in favour of the World Sport-Nimbus-News Corp. bid, and one of them was a fascinating qualitative factor -- the commitment to build the ICC as a brand. It is just as well that they presented a thought like that to the ICC for if they had approached the BCCI to make a brand out of Indian cricket, they would have been thrown out with the classic line from Jerry Maguire, "Show me the money".
To be fair, the ICC has done very little about making itself a respectable brand either, at the moment it is a bit like making the Accountant General's office a brand, but intent is often a good starting point. Now, they must hold the successful bidders to the clauses in the contract.
One of the things you do to a brand is to nurture it, to look after it and protect it like you would a child. Sadly, the BCCI has never understood what a brand is; all they know of brands is how much they can fill their coffers with. No more no less. Talking of nurturing, Indian cricket is in the midst of its worst crisis ever and all we have from the BCCI is a violent look-the-other-way jerk of the head. And now, they have this magical password, CBI, that they believe allows them to close their door, and their mind, to just about everything!
India's cricketers, so revered till a couple of months ago, are being talked about in the unkindest, the vilest language you could imagine. I wonder sometimes if that actually pleases a few people in the administration! If they cared about the game, they would have cast an eye on public opinion which today is convinced that nothing is going to come out of the CBI probe. We haven't, for example, had a word of reassurance to the public about the sport they love and support; nothing along the lines of we-are-going-through-troubled-times-but-stay-with-us. All we get is a periodic juggling of the Ranji or the Duleep Trophy. There is a fire and instead of fighting it, we are talking of whether to serve idli or uttapam!
There is another major crisis round the corner, one that I suspect the BCCI will be better prepared for. World cricket is now closer than ever before to a brown-white split. And that was the second factor that went in favour of the World Sport-Nimbus-News Corp bid. The financial guarantees for their bid came from Rupert Murdoch and the companies he controls. The rival Zee bid, I suspect, would have raised money from investors. Whatever their source, the ICC trusted Murdoch funds more and so went along with them in spite of Zee's "brown bid" being almost a hundred million dollars higher.
For a start, it doesn't say too much for the Made in India label. For a second this is an obvious move by a power bloc to counter the Asian administrative offensive. Over the next three years, with the Australian Malcolm Gray at the head of the ICC, I suspect you will see a dramatic swing of power away from the sub-continent. How the Asian bloc reacts will be a matter of some interest and great concern for, informally at least, they have always countered any Western initiative with a flood of "racist" thought. Often, that comes coated with the arrogance of the wealth they can generate from cricket followers in India.
Now that assumption is under threat, and it has happened because the BCCI took cricket followers for granted. There was no association built up, no trust generated, indeed no gratitude expressed either. Instead, small men spoke with the arrogance of power and wealth. That is why I am so disappointed that even in this moment of crisis for cricket on the sub-continent, there are no reassuring words from the BCCI, nothing at all on what they hope to do to prevent cricketers from being tempted. They are sitting in their bunkers and they cannot hear the firing around them. Or maybe they choose not to.
The best way to get over this crisis, and indeed to counter the perceived "white" attack on the "brown", is to win. Nobody can ignore a winning side, and you would have thought this was a very good time to formulate a strategy to create a winning team.
And surely, they cannot hide behind a CBI probe on that one !
Mail Harsha Bhogle
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