In an interview to The Indian Express a couple of days ago, ICC chairman Shashank Manohar had posed this query. “So why would a person waste seven hours for five days, from 10-5 watching Test cricket?” It was in response to a question pertaining to the two-tier system and centralised marketing of the broadcast rights of bilateral series.
Manohar’s comments evoked sharp reaction from BCCI chief Anurag Thakur, who said such comments only raised a big question mark on the future of Test cricket. “What was he doing meeting officials for so many days in Dubai? I think he (Manohar) must make a clarification on that statement. Such a statement from him raises a big question mark on Test cricket,” Thakur said, while addressing the press here. He added that the BCCI hosting 13 Test matches in the coming season only illustrated the board’s intent at keeping the game’s oldest format sacrosanct.
Thakur had another dig at Manohar, who had in the interview snubbed the BCCI to mind its business. Thakur specified that being the BCCI president did not mean that it would only look at it’s own personal interest. The Board also forced the ICC to go back on its proposed two-tier Test format and questioned the proposed budget of the 2017 Champions Trophy’s, which was scheduled to take place in England. “It’s our duty to stand by Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. We want to stand by every nation that wants to do well,” he stressed.
Also came into conversation the BCCI’s indignation at giving England a heftier purse to host the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017. Manohar had made it clear that he was under no compulsion to look after the BCCI’s interests and he takes every decision in the interest of all the 105 countries in the ICC. “Just compare the budget of World T20 with that of the Champions Trophy. We have hosted 56 matches, while the Champions Trophy has around 15 matches. We had 8 venues, while England has just three venues. We conducted a 49-day event, while the Champions Trophy is only a 20-day event. The per match cost is three times higher than that of the World T20. So we have raised this issue as the BCCI wants every single penny saved. Every single penny saved is every single penny earned, not only for the BCCI but for 105 countries,” he said.
The interaction, overall, was a platform for the BJP MP to launch an acerbic attack on Manohar. Soon he slipped in the captain-of-a-sinking-ship analogy, accusing Manohar of leaving the board when it needed him the most. “When the Board needed Manohar as president (locked in a legal battle in Supreme Court), he simply chose to desert them. And now as the ICC chief, he is working against the BCCI. It is like the captain of ship leaving a sinking ship before other members,” he said.
He was also upset that when the ICC’s constitution was changed, as president of board, Manohar should have kept the BCCI in confidence which he did not. “One needs to understand that when the ICC constitution (abolishing Big Three) was changed, Manohar was the BCCI president. He should have taken members into confidence. But then he was looking for a position in the establishment,” he said.
Thakur also opined that the new ICC regime under Manohar was trying to sideline BCCI, saying it had chose to remain quiet when “we are being arm-twisted at home,” in a veiled reference to the Lodha panel.
On the common pool for TV rights revenue for all nations, the BJP MP said: “If Australia and England are finding it difficult to sell their broadcasting rights you can’t blame BCCI for that. A game of soccer is popular because its rules don’t change often. We are open to changes. We are having pink ball Duleep Trophy and we are in no hurry. We will experiment in Ranji Trophy and then I will seek a detailed report,” he said.