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Neeru Bhatia
Neeru Bhatia


Going overBoard?

56AnuragThakur Et tu, Manohar? Anurag Thakur (right) says Shashank Manohar deserted the BCCI when it needed him the most | AFP

The BCCI vents its anger against ICC chairman Shashank Manohar’s moves

  • "When, today, Manohar says he has got nothing to do with the BCCI, he should remember it was the same BCCI which gave him the platform to become ICC chairman" - Anurag Thakur, BCCI president

  • What stung the BCCI most was Manohar’s alleged advice to ICC officials to “buy time”, whenever the BCCI raised issues.

If you try to sideline India, you will have trouble. Do not do that. Who does he think he is—'Bernie' Manohar?”

This was what a top official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India had to say to the cricket world, in general, and Shashank Manohar, in particular. The first independent chairman of the International Cricket Council should not try doing a Bernie Ecclestone, the “dictatorial Formula One supremo”.

It is no cloak-and-dagger affair. The knives are out. And the target is clear. Just three months ago, Manohar was one of them. Not any more, believes the BCCI.

The Indian cricket board is furious. Facing an uncertain future, thanks to judicial intervention, the BCCI alleges that it is being ignored and Manohar is undermining its interests.

Adding to the strain, the Australian, English and South African boards have joined forces, yet again to pressure the BCCI on multiple fronts.

The dissolution of the Big Three (which puts an end to the India-Australia-England triumvirate), budget allocation for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, restructuring of Test cricket and the BCCI's exclusion from crucial ICC sub-committees are some of sore points raised by the Indian board members.

Over the past two months, criticisms against Manohar's elevation from BCCI president to ICC chairman, and his subsequent decisions impacting the BCCI, have been booming in the Indian boardroom. A BCCI working committee meeting in Delhi on August 21 unanimously slammed Manohar's unilateral decision to dissolve the Big Three.

In November last year, Manohar—who was then ICC chairman as well as BCCI president—created a flutter saying: “I do not agree with the three major countries bullying the ICC.”

The ICC's Big Three arrangement, crafted by former BCCI president and ICC chairman N. Srinivasan, had given executive powers and permanent positions to the cricket boards of India, Australia and England.

Manohar, while dissolving the Big Three, also revised the distribution pattern of ICC revenue, under which India, as cricket's largest financial powerhouse, stood to gain 22 per cent of ICC's revenues and 4 per cent of its profits. Under the revised system, the BCCI says it would lose about 0900 crore over the next nine years.

BCCI president Anurag Thakur accuses Manohar of deserting “the sinking ship”, and using the Indian board just to climb to his current position. “He was expected to deliver,” says Thakur. “Nevertheless, the BCCI will look after its interests.”

For one, the BCCI has managed to spike the proposed two-tier Test structure off the discussion table, saying it went against the interests of smaller member countries. Australia, England and South Africa had backed the proposal.

The BCCI's main issue is with Manohar behaving as if he has been given carte blanche. “He never took the BCCI's approval to undo the Big Three,” says a member of the board's working committee.

Manohar had announced his plans as soon as he took charge of the BCCI in October last year, after the death of incumbent president Jagmohan Dalmiya.

The move, however, made him popular among ICC members—six of them went to Nagpur and requested him to become the ICC's first independent chairman. Earlier, the ICC chiefs had been backed by cricket boards.

The BCCI accuses Manohar of making constitutional amendments in the ICC, too, without its consent.

“How was the ICC constitution changed, amendments made?” asks an angry Thakur. “As former president of the BCCI [earlier], he should have taken all its members into confidence, which he did not. Once he became the [ICC] chairman, he left the BCCI when it needed him the most. In a way, at the back of his mind, he must have been looking for a position somewhere to establish himself. When, today, Manohar says he has got nothing to do with the BCCI, he should remember that it was the same BCCI which gave him the platform to become the ICC chairman.”

What surprised many people was BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke's open criticism of Manohar and the ICC, on the eve of a recent two-day workshop on restructuring cricket. The barrage, in fact, went on for a few days. Shirke, who had been a close friend of Manohar, even went on record about the BCCI mulling the option of withdrawing from the Champions Trophy.

The BCCI had raised questions over reports on the ICC's budget allocation of $135 million for the tournament, which will be held in England in June next year. The BCCI's grouse was that it received only $45 million to host the World T20 championship this year.

Also, the ICC was hesitant to reveal details about the allocation. Later, however, Manohar clarified in a media interview that the allocation for the Champions Trophy was only $46 million.

What stung the BCCI most was Manohar's alleged advice to ICC officials to “buy time”, whenever the BCCI raised issues, given that the Lodha Committee deadlines were looming and the BCCI was set to be restructured in two months.

“The new ICC regime is trying to sideline the BCCI. Just because of one of its [Lodha Committee's] recommendations, we are not taken seriously anymore,” laments Thakur.

The BCCI is also angry that the ICC failed to condemn “external interference” in the board's working. The ICC had suspended the boards of Nepal and Sri Lanka because of government interference.

Manohar, however, argues that, unlike the cases of Sri Lanka and Nepal, it was the Indian judiciary—the Supreme Court—that appointed the Lodha Committee, and the ICC could not legally challenge it or issue a letter against it.

“This is absolute nonsense,” says a BCCI official. “Where have we approached him for any letter? This is utter stupidity. Does the ICC have any clear rules on what amounts to interference, or is it up to the convenience of the president or chairman? If there is no such rule, there is a large element of subjectivity.”

All that the BCCI was looking for was, perhaps, a statement condemning the judicial intervention.

News of Australian, English and South African boards trying to sell overseas rights of their international cricket in a collective bundle is being viewed as a challenge to the BCCI's financial might. These boards believe this is the only way to counter the drop in revenues because of a shrinking Indian television market.

The angry BCCI official rubbishes the view. “The BCCI will not succumb to any pressure. We are the biggest cricket market in the world,” he says. “Just wait for the IPL rights to open—all things will be clear.”

Some top BCCI officials believe Manohar's growing proximity to England Cricket Board's Giles Clarke has resulted in the ICC treating the BCCI shabbily. Taking on England, or any other rival board, has never perturbed the BCCI, which has always relished power struggles. And, this time, all camps within the BCCI seem to be united.

“If Giles Clarke is confident he can run world cricket without India, good luck to him,” signed off the BCCI official.

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