The story so far: At the board meeting of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in Dubai on October 13-14, days ahead of the election of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the ICC passed a resolution to stage “one men’s ICC event year” for its next event cycle from 2023 to 2031, raising questions about broadcast rights and other issues. The proposal includes hosting at least four T20 World Cups and changing the World Cup (ODI) cycle from four to three years. The BCCI has vehemently opposed the proposal.
Why is the BCCI upset?
The BCCI’s biggest contention is that a specified timeframe for an ICC event every year will eat into its window for bilateral series at home for at least six of these eight years. Among the three major cricket boards in world cricket, England has specified that it cannot stage more than two events during its home season (July to September).
That effectively means the remaining six events will have to be staged between October and March every season, the period when India and Australia host a majority of their bilateral series at home. With Cricket Australia unlikely to let its prime summer of mid-November to mid-January be affected, it will mean the ICC tournament can only be staged either in October-November or in February-March.
The BCCI feels sacrificing 30 to 45 days of the home season every year will hit them hard on multiple counts.
First and foremost, such a window will see a drastic reduction in international cricket in India, thereby affecting all the stakeholders. Moreover, such a move will be detrimental to the BCCI’s plans to expand the Indian Premier League (IPL) into a 10-team affair.
What is the grouse against the IPL?
The BCCI has been contemplating expansion of the IPL well ahead of the next ICC rights cycle starting 2023 to beat the ICC in the race for broadcast rights revenue. While a 10-team IPL may add to the BCCI’s coffers , it would also require an addition of at least three more weeks than the existing seven- to eight-week window for the IPL in April-May. In a bid to ensure revenues from potential broadcasters and sponsors, some feel the ICC may have devised this plan to clip the BCCI’s wings.
What are the financial stakes involved?
At the moment, the BCCI earns approximately ₹65 crore for every international game held in India, while for every IPL game, the figure is approximately ₹55 crore through the sale of broadcast rights. If the BCCI has to sacrifice a 45-day window of bilateral cricket at home, it will see a reduction of around 15 games every year, from which it could have earned close to ₹1,000 crore annually. Similarly, if the IPL expansion is stalled due to the ICC’s proposal, it may result in a notional loss of at least ₹1,800 crore per season, since the number of games in an IPL season is slated to go up from 60 to 94 in a 10-team format.
Is the players’ workload a factor?
While opposing the ICC proposal, BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri also touched upon workload management of cricketers being a factor. However, it appears more a smokescreen than being a serious issue. After all, in the worst possible scenario of a shrunk home season, it is anybody’s guess what will be sacrificed more: number of matches or the recovery period between games.
What are the options of the new BCCI regime?
It will be interesting to see if Sourav Ganguly can find an amicable solution to the problem. The former India captain who will become only the second India captain to be an elected chief of the BCCI will have to deal with two fellow Indians — ICC chairman Shashank Manohar and ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney — to ensure that the BCCI’s interests are not compromised. The last resort for Ganguly and company will be to refuse signing the Members Participation Agreement and decline to participate in ICC events. But considering India’s clout in world cricket, at least in terms of attracting revenues from all stakeholders, even the ICC would not want such a situation.
The ICC may consider offering the BCCI a larger assured participation fee for the next eight years. While the ICC intends to finalise the programme in its next annual conference in June, Ganguly cannot be the BCCI chief for more than 10 months due to the Supreme Court-directed administrative overhaul of the BCCI. It remains to be seen if Ganguly can pull Indian cricket out of this hole.