Years, India, The Decade Of Srini > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - The age of India, the decade of Srini

The BCCI crown has tightly embraced N. Srinivasan in a decade India could've destroyed everyone in the room. Happily, it didn't.

The BCCI crown has tightly embraced N. Srinivasan in a decade India could've destroyed everyone in the room. Happily, it didn't.

The great and the good, and a fair chunk of the rest, of the world's cricket press gathered around a small, squashed, suited man in the MCG pressbox on the day of the 2015 men's World Cup final. His eyes were glassy behind rectangular spectacles. His skin was the brown of a Montecristo No.4 cigar, his hair had congealed into slick waves of greyed black. Words escaped his flat tyre of a mouth like puffs of air, only just reaching the ears of his audience leaning in from a respectable distance.

Clearly, what he said was important to a great many people far beyond the confines of the room. Even more clearly, he believed he was inviolate. He wore his power as easily as his pinstripes and spoke as if he was instructing underlings. He might have been Al Capone. Instead, his name, all of it, was Narayanaswami Srinivasan, which is often abbreviated to N.Srinivasan, and which, in the many discussions about him, becomes Srinivasan. Or simply Srini.

By then, he was no longer president of the BCCI. He was still the ICC's first chair, but only until November of that year when he was removed after being recalled by the BCCI, where the sands of power are forever shifting. Srinivasan's hand, however, is still apparent, albeit now gloved. In September last year, his daughter, Rupa Gurunath - whose husband, Gurunath Meiyappan, was banned for life for his role in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal - was elected unopposed as the first woman president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.

Srinivasan has lost much of his importance, reduced to hitching his wagon to Sourav Ganguly's bid for the BCCI presidency in October

Even so, the once-most-powerful figure in cricket has lost much of his importance: he was reduced to hitching his wagon to Sourav Ganguly's successful bid for the BCCI presidency in October last year - in order to stay relevant enough to realise his ambition of returning to the ICC as India's representative. If a court decision goes his way and Dubai beckons, he could be in line to serve another term as ICC chair.

If that seems a strange way to begin a review of the decade in the global game's administration, you're probably not a cricket person. The rise of India as the universe boss is the central story of the past 10 years, and Srinivasan is at the heart of it. Without him there could be no BCCI as we know it. Without the BCCI, modern cricket wouldn't exist in the way that it does - and not only in ways other countries would welcome. Like an elephant in the room, India could destroy everyone and everything else in that room if it chose to. Happily, it hasn't.

"India have acted responsibly in a lot of ways," David Richardson, the ICC's general manager from January 2002 to June 2012, (and since then, Chief Executive in a tenure that lasted until April 2019), told Cricbuzz. "They could have sounded the death knell of Test cricket, for example, if they decided that the IPL was the only thing they were worried about; but they've supported Test cricket and they've made sure the Indian team is strong at Test cricket. Through (Virat) Kohli and the modern team, they've moved with the times as far as things like DRS are concerned.

"They're very powerful and you have to acknowledge that. But for the most part, they've been quite responsible. They could have done exactly what they wanted to if they wanted to"- David Richardson (ICC Chief Executive, 2012-2019) on the BCCI

Why hasn't that happened? "Because I think they have the interests of cricket at heart," explained Richardson. "There might be some who think that Indian cricket can survive on its own, but they realise that for cricket to sustain itself into the future, there need to be other countries who are also quite good and can play against India."

So those who sigh at the banality of India's dominance of the Test arena might want to consider what could happen once Kohli's fine team is not as good as it has been. A strong India is good for Test cricket, and it's up to the other teams to provide decent enough opposition. A weaker India, however, could mean less largesse from the paymasters.

The Indian judiciary and cricket

Then there are the Indian courts, who have curbed the BCCI's tendency towards world domination. The Lodha committee's probe into how Indian cricket was run - the upshot of the 2013 IPL fixing saga - resulted in recommendations that the Supreme Court ordered, in July 2016, to be implemented. One of them is that administrators cannot be older than 70, which would rule out Srini's return.

However, successive and ongoing legal challenges could yet undo the reforms.

The Lodha committee was appointed by the Supreme Court to decide the quantum of punishment for the guilty in the IPL spot-fixing case. Over the years, they have brought about a massive overhaul in BCCI's administrative structure

Administratively, international cricket is hostage to its most moneyed entities. Whatever happens takes place only after - and because - India, and to a lesser extent England and Australia, get what they want. That has been the case since the Big Three seized control of the game and its finances in February 2014.

India were to have earned USD 440,000,000 in the ICC's 2016 to 2023 rights cycle. The 93 associate countries would have made USD 230,000,000 between them - just over half of India - over the same period; that's almost 180 times less than India, each.

The BCCI argued that as they generated most of world cricket's revenue, they should keep the largest share of the profits. After the other boards united in defiance, the equation was revised in April 2017 to give India USD 293,000,000 with the rest of the full members taking USD 132,000,000 each and the associates sharing USD 280,000,000.

Amid such inequality, what are the bigger countries' responsibility towards their smaller peers? "Critically cricket has grown up to the realisation that we're a global mega sport that doesn't just serve a few," England Cricket Board chief executive, Tom Harrison, told Cricbuzz. "Cricket thrives on its international platform and it's our duty to protect and encourage growth for all that sit within it."

Does that mean cricket is in better shape now than 10 years ago?

"We took two steps forward, and maybe even three steps back at one point - when the Big Three happened - and then two steps forward again," Dave Richardson said. "Over the 15 years that I was involved, I think the ICC made some progress. We made huge improvements over that time in the quality of the events; how they were staged and hosted - which obviously also depends on how the countries hosting them do their jobs; but the standards that we tried to maintain were improved.

"On the cricket side, we made big progress in the quality of umpiring. And DRS eventually. It took a long time but we got there in the end. Right towards the end, I thought we were in a fairly good place in terms of creating more relevance. We had the World Test Championship, we had the ODI league, all leading to our events as the pinnacle. T20 came on during that period. I thought we adjusted well to the demands of modern society. I don't think cricket can survive with only Test cricket.

The empty stands tell a story: "I don't think cricket can survive with only Test cricket." - Dave Richardson

"A number of sports have tried to follow our lead, golf being a good example. On the whole, the ICC has made progress. It's got more teeth when it comes to implementing regulations, codes of behaviour and things like that. Cricket is in a reasonable place, albeit that we had a big step backwards where the whole financial model was thrown into turmoil. Different countries are at different stages, but overall, there was progress."

The players, cricket's most important constituency and its only means of generating revenue, see matters differently.

"The biggest administrative issue globally is that ICC doesn't see itself as a true global governing body," said Tony Irish, chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations. "It still views itself as a members' organisation. This affects its ability to have a true global vision for the game, and instead it is hampered by country interests. I think there is still only one independent director on the board so its governance model doesn't lend itself to true global decisions.

"Country and regional interests, instead of global interests, are served in three key areas: The bilateral playing schedule - instead of it being structured and centrally managed it is a matrix of individual deals between countries with the Big Three deciding what they want; ICC event distributions - there is no real science around this; and the hosting of ICC events - the main events are only in three countries.

"The members' organisation dynamic allows for the emergence of the Big Three, limits the real growth of the game in smaller countries and opens up the wealth gap between rich and poor. Over the decade we've seen the emergence of the T20 leagues and development of two distinct landscapes for players. The lack of central control by ICC has meant that these compete with international cricket and do not co-exist in a way that is best for the global game. Much of this comes down to the dominance of certain countries and especially of India and of how they want the global game to look."

South Africa were at the receiving end of this dysfunction in December 2013 after India unilaterally hacked seven matches out of their previously agreed tour schedule of a dozen games. That cost Cricket South Africa (CSA) almost USD 14,000,000 in lost revenue. But they would have been USD 34,500,000 out of pocket had India not arrived at all.

Why did this happen? Because Srinivasan's BCCI bore a grudge against Haroon Lorgat (who had become CSA's chief executive in July 2013) that dated back to his tenure as ICC chief executive, when he refused to allow India to get their own way around arrangements for the 2011 World Cup.

The BCCI went so far as threatening to punish CSA if they appointed Lorgat: "We're not telling you who to appoint," an Indian suit told his CSA counterpart, "we're telling you who not to appoint."

Haroon Lorgat was at the receiving end of N. Srinivasan's grudge, dating back to the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup

What would it require for administrators to take their eye off the small ball of national concerns and instead focus on what was good for all? That has long been the model at franchise level across all sport in the United States, for example.

"You'll find very few sports are administered that way at international level," Richardson said. "At domestic level, yes. There are so many instances where sports have made huge progress by going independent. The Australian Football League is a great example. For years they struggled with the clubs being in charge and all looking after their own interests. Suddenly they went with a commissioner system. Decisions were made for the sport as a whole. A lot of people say that in Australian sport the AFL is the best run organisation.

"All the boards that have taken a more independent route rather than relying on their constituents, like New Zealand, seem to box above their weight. England have become more independent than they used to be. Counties play a role but not as significant a role as they might have done 20 years ago. And their cricket has improved at the international level."

Should the ICC, which currently has only one independent director, be structured that way?

"The role of independents on that board would be very helpful, just to help members see the bigger picture," Richardson added. "But at international level you're never going to get away from the fact that members need to be involved because they own the game. Ideally you've got them as shareholders, and they also hold a more independent board accountable for keeping world cricket healthy."

Who, outside of the Big Three, is getting it right?

"New Zealand are a very good example for all cricket administrations, and in fact sporting administrations," Richardson said. "They've got a very small base, their commercial strength is not significant, but they make the most of what they've got and they find a way to be competitive. The example is there for everybody - Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, which would fall into the category of the weaker seven.

"But cricket has had to move, over the last 20 years, from the time of the club presidents becoming the provincial presidents. In large parts of the world that system is still entrenched, and that doesn't necessarily mean that the people running the sport are top class businesspeople. Cricket still has some way to go in becoming more professionally administered in a number of countries."

Corruption and mismanagement in the game are either rife or have been investigated in boards representing Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies, while Pakistan's grounds only returned to the Test circuit in December last year after a 10-year absence because of security fears. Australia fought a running battle with their players for months in 2017 over a contract dispute that veered close to a strike, and were forced to take a painful look at themselves in the wake of Sandpapergate.

With a stormy 10 years behind it, what might the game have to overcome in the next 10?

"I almost don't want to comment because I'm so pleased it can be someone else's problem now," Richardson said with a cheeky smile. "I would like to think, as a former cricketer as opposed to an administrator, that the three formats that we have can be sustainable going into the future. For that, you need the balance between the volume of cricket played in each of the formats. Maybe there'll be less Test cricket, but I'd like to think Test cricket will still exist in 20 or 30 years' time."

Richardson was willing to countenance four-day Tests: "I think it would be a different game, I'm not wedded to either four or five days" - and the shortest international format needn't be T20 - "It could become the hundred".

But never mind what it looks like, cricket there will be. And suits there will be, some less bad than others. The most important among them will still be Indian.

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