Taking cricket to the Olympics has had been one of the foremost issues on the ICC agenda, and the global body’s Strategic Working Group (SWG) expectedly focused on the globalisation of the game, as they discussed global strategy for cricket with the BCCI in Delhi on Thursday. The 72-point SWOT analysis—18 each of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats—done by the SWG mentioned cricket’s over-reliance on India’s money and the Indian fans. The ICC representatives, it is learnt, spoke about the need to tap a wider market for alternate revenue sources.
According to a BCCI representative present at the meeting, the ICC feels that cricket’s entry to the Olympics would open up a relatively closed economy, as it creates the possibility of wooing countries like China. The Chinese getting into cricket would give the game a serious boost, money and market wise. Also, government funding for an Olympic sport would help a lot of cricket boards gasping for survival.
While the BCCI officials agreed to the extent that alternative revenue sources would help cricket prosper, they stressed the fact that the Indian money can’t be seen as a weakness. The Indian board so far has objected to cricket’s participation in the Olympics and it still remains non-committal on the subject. “All these need to come to the general body. The members will decide,” a BCCI official said.
The Committee of Administrators (CoA) head Vinod Rai, however, offered a different perspective. “The BCCI has played cricket in the Commonwealth Games (the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games). So the BCCI is not averse to participating in multi-sport events. Why they stopped, we don’t know,” Rai told The Indian Express. The Indian board fears that cricket in the Olympics (in T20 format) might devalue the ICC World T20, both in terms of popularity and revenue. And the ICC members in turn would be affected. Rai begged to differ. “If cricket gets into the Olympics, the ICC would create a cycle (for the World T20) such that the two don’t clash.” At the conclusion of the ICC conclave in Kolkata last month, chief executive David Richardson exuded confidence that cricket could be part of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Rai, though, left the matter to the BCCI general body to decide India’s stand.
Issues like the Olympics participation, the proposed conversion of the 2021 Champions Trophy to a World T20, the BCCI’s reduced revenue share have irked a vast section of the Indian board. In fact, the BCCI members haven’t taken kindly to the ICC’s expansion policy. Eighteen member units had a teleconference yesterday and took a “dim view” of some recent developments in the world body. There’s a feeling within the BCCI that the ICC’s ‘greater good’ of the game theory is basically aimed at weakening India’s global position as the game’s only superpower.
Rai allayed the fears. “The Strategic Group of the ICC, the first presentation they have made, which is to the CoA. They haven’t taken it to the (ICC) Board as yet. They said they would first discuss with the BCCI and only then they would discuss it with any other country,” Rai told this paper, adding: “It was clarified today that the way ‘weakness’ is written implies that they (ICC) only want to develop other countries, with greater amount of revenue generation. An item in the SWOT analysis has said the revenue at present is coming from the BCCI. And they are saying that other nations should also be encouraged to raise more revenue. Nothing wrong in it.” But the BCCI functionaries appear to be far from convinced. Questions have been raised over the veracity of the SWOT analysis. A note prepared by a board official ahead of the today’s meeting had said: “Where is the data to support all of this and the source of the data?” It added: “Why did ICC feel the need to hire an external consultant to assist in development of the Global Strategy for Cricket? Was he paid 250K USD for this?”
Although the 2021 Champions Trophy’s conversion to a World T20 wasn’t formally an item on the agenda today, the world body maintains it’s been a unanimous decision of the ICC Board. According to a source, the minutes of the last two Board meetings, in Dubai and Kolkata, would confirm that. The BCCI has denied the claim, while a cricket board member said, “only the general body is authorised to take the decision”.