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To Host And How To Host: A BCCI Primer On Negotiating Profit

BCCI General Manager for Game Development Dhiraj Malhotra’s comments regarding the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup scheduled for later this year have left many baffled. Malhotra has insisted that India will host the tournament regardless of whether it takes place in the country or not — a statement that throws the idea of hosts in the air and provides a glimpse at how India-centric the cricket economy really is.
2021 ICC T20 World Cup could be shifted from India to UAE if Covid-19 situation remains grim

The 2021 ICC T20 World Cup is scheduled to be held in India in October (Pic: Twitter, Cricket Addictor).

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the cricket body equivalent of the spoilt-brat bully who gets his way no matter what the situation or how absurd the demand. The Board wanted the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE last year. It got it at the cost of the 2020 T20 World Cup that was to be played in Australia around the same time. It wants to continue with the IPL in India when the whole country was inundated by a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections. As things stand, nobody is stopping it or bursting its biosecure bubble. 

The Board’s latest wish is the right to remain “hosts” of the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup even if it shifts outside of India in case the Covid-19 situation makes it impossible to stage in the country. The shifting of venue — to India’s favourite destination, the UAE — seems reasonable. Or is it? 

On a BBC podcast, BCCI General Manager for Game Development Dhiraj Malhotra said the Board will try its level best to organize the October tournament in India but will shift it to the UAE in a worst-case scenario.

“I’ve just been named one of the tournament directors, so I’m doing everything we can to make sure it happens [in India],” Malhotra told the BBC’s Stumped podcast. 

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“We will be doing normal scenario, Covid scenario and worst-case scenario, so with all that we're talking to the ICC [International Cricket Council] at the moment," Malhotra added.

"It would be the UAE. We're hoping again that it will be done by the BCCI. So, we'll take the tournament there, but it'll still be done by the BCCI," Malhotra said, stressing on the point that BCCI wanted — and probably would get — the hosting rights for the tournament in the middle east nation. 

But how or why should the Indian board host a global tournament in another country and brand itself as hosts. Won’t the cricket body of that country be interested in that honour and also earn the perks and windfalls that come with it, including the chance as “host” for its players to feature in a top ICC tournament? Since UAE is a choice destination for staging of big tournaments, why not do something to develop cricket further in the country. One way to do it is by giving the population, and the cricketing community, a tournament with a closer-to-heart connection and not just novelty interest (like the case of IPL).

The other glaring point that comes out is how the World Cup that was scrapped in Australia — cited as due to Covid-19 but spoken about in hushed tones as a convenient way to accommodate the delayed IPL 2020 in the UAE — has been rescheduled to 2022. Now, in the scenario of the BCCI unable to host the World Cup in India, wouldn’t it be better to shift it to Australia? That way, Cricket Australia would get to host its postponed World Cup, and India would also get its World Cup staged right at home, in 2022. 

There may be other scenarios with valid cases for consideration. However, the scenarios can only be mulled if the decision making process at the ICC is one that facilitates it. What is evident from the many decisions of the world body, and also from various reports citing sources, is that the ICC’s moves and stances are influenced by the Big Three, and monopolised by the big Board. 

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So, yes the Indian cricket board will get to act as hosts to a World Cup party in the United Arab Emirates, in worst case scenario as Malhotra puts it. One is amazed at the callousness of the Board bosses, trivialising the grim Covid-19 scenario as a side narrative while they focus on one tournament after another.    

The UAE it is, then. And, the Emirates Cricket Board — an associate member of the ICC — will act as cricket’s most reliable event manager, having successfully hosted the IPL, the Pakistan national team’s “home” matches and the country’s T20 League, and other experimental formats and tournaments. 

If the game was a priority for the ICC, then the global body would have put its foot down last year and insisted that the World Cup be held Down Under. After all, that would have ensured cricket (the global game) restarted after reeling in lockdown through 2020. Or if it was impossible to host in Australia, there was always the UAE. That would have given many teams — including struggling Test sides as well as associate nations — a chance to play the game at the top level and come out of Covid-19 shutdowns. Earn some revenue as well. The game’s global aspirations would have gotten a fillip too. Instead, a domestic league that makes the elephant (or rather the bully) in the room richer was facilitated.

Over the coming years, these vested decisions may well be looked at as cricket’s monumental failure, letting a single nation’s interest supersede that of the game as well as the larger good of all its member nations. 

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