This is unbelievable! Through a surreptitious manoeuver, the world’s three most influential cricketing countries have managed to divide the world cricket on the basis of money-making clout and credentials.
What an irony that in their lust for power and money, world’s three most influential cricketing countries, India, Australia and England claiming to be the champions of democracy and equality, recently joined together in opting for most undemocratic means in acquiring arbitrary control over world’s cricket. Money was the endgame.
India’s BCCI was at the back of this whole sinister plan. It had been threatening cricket’s power-brokers for quite some time to withdraw from major global events unless there was radical reform of the International Cricket Council (ICC). It finally managed to take Australia and England on board and formulated the divisive plan in the name of the self-avowed “Big-Three” or B-3 giving their cricket boards arbitrary decision-making powers and creation of two ‘divisions’ for test cricket with no change in their own status by virtue of their own commercial importance and also because between them they represent the game’s wealthiest nations.
The B-3 thus not only grabbed control of the five-member executive committee atop the ICC Board in charge of all policy but also will remain immune from relegation in a new two-tier competition, and extract vast “contribution costs” that are essentially appearance fees for their participation in ICC events such as the World Cup and the World T20. At stake is also the current ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP), a system that ensured all the 10 test-playing nations played each other over a set period with no selectivity or exclusion, guaranteeing, in particular, the smaller countries won’t be starved of Test cricket.
The very concept of “Big Three” smacks of discrimination. Dividing the cricketing nations in two unequal classes is nothing but a neo-colonial adventurism in sports. By virtue of their money power, the B-3 have become a new elitist privileged club with complete control over ICC. It reduces the other seven countries (Bangladesh, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Indies and Zimbabwe) into a non-consequential group of “Scrawny-Seven” if not Subordinate-Seven” or S-7. It is demeaning for them.
A BCCI official was candid enough to admit the B-3 plan was meant only to formalise dadagiri (an Indian equivalent of “bullying or throwing one’s weight around) in cricket. In Pakistan, we call it “Qabza Group.” The world is already familiar with India’s power-wielding ‘Qabza’ proclivities as witnessed in its continued military occupation of Kashmir in violation of the June 03, 1947 Partition Plan and UN Security Council resolutions. No wonder, a vast majority of cricket fans all over the world were shocked at BCCI-led “dadagiri” in global cricket management.
Despite global reaction, the B-3 bullies managed to bulldoze their devious plan at ICC Board’s meetings in Dubai and Singapore in a pre-choreographed setting. ‘Carrot and stick’ was used to bring intense pressure upon the other seven boards, especially the vulnerable ones, forcing them to submit to their power game. They threatened them of ‘isolation’ in world cricket if they did not go along but promised them of ‘benevolence’ if they became obedient followers of their planned architecture of global cricket hierarchy. New Zealand and Zimbabwe surrendered immediately.
The real challenge for the boards of other five countries, Bangladesh, South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan was to act fast and act jointly to preempt the controversial B-3 plan. They had the potential in terms of their numerical strength (population) and cricketing credentials to counter the B-3 agenda and should have been coordinating among themselves as well as with the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) whose chairman Paul Marsh, the son of Australia’s great Rodney Marsh, had publicly castigated the B-3 plan which in his view will not serve the best interests of the global game.
Unfortunately, Pakistan Cricket Board’s ongoing internal wrangling and poor leadership inspired no confidence among the other four cricket boards which initially looked at Pakistan for steering the second B-5 grouping but soon discovered the PCB was too enmeshed in an internal crisis of its own to forge a credible alliance against the masterful gang of B-3. No wonder, they could not align their future with a weak and unreliable partner and grudgingly accepted the B-3 package. Typically representing our national scene, PCB was caught clueless of the brewing B-3 conspiracy and now stands totally isolated.
Nevertheless, no one with genuine cricket conscience can accept the B-3 take-over that makes the BCCI, Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board virtually a privileged “oligarchy” of world’s cricket. There couldn’t be greater tragedy for the game of cricket. Might always considered wrong was never claimed so right. They seemed to have lost sense of time altogether. This is the 21st century. The era of colonialism and apartheid is long gone. Other than the notorious P-5, a post-World War Two anachronism in the UN system, there is no room for any more vestiges of power.
But the money-conscious cricketing boards of world’s three principal democracies seem to have lost not only the sense of time but also of the fundamental values and norms including the cardinal principle of sovereign equality on which is predicated the very moral edifice of today’s global order. Instead of seeking to create elitist centres of power and privilege, these boards should have been promoting greater democracy, participation, transparency and accountability in the work of the ICC. But they shamelessly signalled to everyone in cricket world: “Ok guys, enough with democracy. Forget about high ideals or moral codes. Power and money are the new “spirit” of cricket.”
Three former heads of the ICC found the B-3 plan totally unacceptable. “Giving into blackmail never works,” said one, “what will the next demand be? Another former ICC president questioned the very integrity of the plan by exposing gross inaccuracies in its facts and figures calling for an independent review of the document. Ironically, nowhere in the document was there any serious attempt to grapple with the underlying problems of administrative incompetence and venality within the ICC hierarchy. Whatever the pros and cons of the B-3 plan, its auspices were highly questionable if not malafide. They never engendered an environment of trust or fair dealing.
The newly-appointed PCB chairman has all the abilities and skills needed to negotiate. One hopes despite his known Indophile proclivities, he will not accept the B-3 fait accompli. Pakistan is not a small country and has its own cricket stature. It just cannot be treated like this. At stake are the fundamental principles and values. Any surrender in this case will not be without negative impact on our principled stand on other larger issues.
At the UN, for nearly two decades, Pakistan has successfully steered an international campaign against expansion in the permanent category of UN Security Council membership. We started this campaign with a small group of six countries initially called the “Coffee Club” which today has become a large group of 154 countries known as “Uniting for Consensus” as a bastion of sovereign equality and democracy. No matter what, we also remain steadfast in our commitment to the cardinal principle of self-determination.
Najam Sethi, this is the test of your grit. Play the game but not the losing one. In any case, your cricket team is at its weakest level. Because of security situation at home, it is almost out of international cricket. Instead of giving in to the B-3 blackmail for the sake of foreign cricket tours, focus inwardly and consolidate your cricketing stature. You need to shed the dead wood and chisel up a new talent pool altogether. More domestic cricket is what you need, not falling in line with another “India fait accompli.”
The writer is a former foreign secretary