Ehsan Mani’s appointment as chairman of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Finance and Commercial Affairs (F&CA) Committee ended a Big Three hegemony. Over the past several years, India, England and Australia had a stranglehold on the powerful panel, which decides the budget for ICC events, distributes revenue to the Members and most importantly, sets the global body’s financial roadmap.
Mani, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, had headed the F&CA in the late 1990s till the turn of the century. The ICC’s first-ever broadcast rights deal, close to $550 million, was signed during that period. Mani went on to become ICC president. This is his second innings and he appears to be on the same page with ICC chairman Shashank Manohar.
Mani was never a backer of the Big Three coup. The ongoing financial cycle – 2015-2023 – has witnessed upheavals in the governance and financial model of world cricket’s governing body. When the Big Three held official sway, they were entitled to a larger share of the revenue based on their bigger contributions to the ICC coffers. After Manohar became ICC chief, he worked towards dismantling of the Big Three structure and bringing in a more equitable revenue distribution system. And Mani was all praise for the ICC chairman.
“Mr Shashank Manohar played a big role to change the arrangements of the Big Three and he is still there. That’s very reassuring. The majority of the ICC members are not flush with cash. Some countries are, but most are struggling. So obviously, one has to look at the funding, what should be the model going forward that benefits the Member countries as a whole,” Mani told The Indian Express.
The BCCI, under former president N Srinivasan, was a strong proponent of the Big Three model. He and a vast majority of Indian cricket board officials had their logic. Over 70 per cent of the ICC’s revenue comes from Indian cricket. During Mani’s previous stint at the ICC, India and Pakistan were on excellent terms cricket-wise but things have changed of late. Mani, though, disagreed.
“The relationship between the Boards (BCCI and PCB) is very good even today. Some very good people represent India at the ICC, both at the Board level and the chief executive level. Unfortunately, as far as cricket relationship is concerned, that is a political matter. Hopefully, the politicians will realise that it’s very important to resume cricket between the countries. Beyond that, I can’t say much,” he said.
In fact, not only India and Pakistan; there used to be an Asian bloc at the ICC, with the late Jagmohan Dalmiya championing the cause of the Asian Member countries. Mani fondly remembers his friend, the former ICC and BCCI president. “Mr Dalmiya was a genuine lover of the game. A very unique person. He made a huge contribution to cricket; not only to Indian cricket but world cricket. One can never underestimate that.”
Then again, with India and Pakistan no longer playing bilateral cricket, the Asian bloc probably has a divide within. Mani, however, said the Asian members still work together for the development of the game. “There’s no doubt that the Asian countries worked very well together. And they still work together. The ACC (Asian Cricket Council) voluntarily, or with the ICC, gave up a lot of funding that they used to get for the development of the game from the ICC. So there’s more responsibility on the Asian countries now to generate funds to develop cricket in Asia.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened that way and one can’t go back and reverse that. But I think today all the major Asian cricket countries are very keen to develop the game. You have seen the result; Afghanistan have come through very well. They are playing good quality cricket. And there are potentially one or two other countries in Asia that would be playing cricket at the highest level. So long as we work together to do that, I don’t see any concern for Asian cricket in the long-term.”
Mani clarified that the ICC’s demand of $23 million from the BCCI doesn’t come under the F&CA Committee’s purview. In December last year, the ICC asked the Indian Board to pay that amount, as the Indian government didn’t waive off taxes for the 2016 World T20.
“The (ICC) Board has already dealt with that. Mr Manohar has dealt with that. There’s nothing for me to add. That’s a Board matter,” the F&CA Committee chief said. He refused to comment on the speculation that the BCCI might lose the hosting rights of the 2021 World T20 and the 2023 World Cup if it fails to ensure tax waiver for the events.