Cricket shares an uncomfortable position between two powerful bodies. While one rules the world on a technicality, the other dominates by the strength of its clout. As cricket is welcomed back into the Asian Games fold, the obvious is being asked: Who needs the Asian Games more: the ICC or the BCCI?
The last time cricket featured as part of the disciplines at the Asian Games was in 2014 and even then, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took the decision not to send the men’s or the women’s cricket teams even though only the men were involved with the Champions League Twenty20, the Indian Premier League spin off, that was operating at the time. Instead it was Sri Lanka and Pakistan as the then only prominent Asian Test playing nations that were present to represent the sport.
Now even as the news has arrived that cricket will feature as part of the Hangzhou Games in 2022, there is muted celebration for the simple fact that while the International Cricket Council (ICC) would welcome any opportunity to further its globalization interests and therefore, exposure for the game at the multi team and multi nation events, there is a huge conundrum over whether the BCCI will be more amenable this time around.
For the ICC, the interests are obvious. The ICC, sometimes labelled a toothless body, as the governing body of the sport needs every platform to generate not only interest and participation but also, revenue as cricket is taken to further corners of the globe. For cricket that has grown rather slowly in terms of induction of members amongst the permanent boards that boast of Test playing nations, the ICC is essentially desperate for any avenue that will spread the word and attract commercial ventures.
For the BCCI, on the other hand, cricket is already a religion amongst the mass of followers and a commercially viable sport in the Indian sub continent, so much so that attracting foreign cricketers has been as easy as drawing bees to honey. To that end, the BCCI working only in the interests of the Indian cricket team, does not need to look to foreign shores to increase its kitty in terms of participation or revenue. Arguably the equation of the BCCI vis-à-vis the ICC is, therefore, a tumultuous one and also, one where the ICC can encourage but not dictate participation of arguably the world’s richest cricket board.
There is some concern that the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) might have to rethink its itinerary as per the Future Tours Programme (FTP) particularly given that the Hangzhou Games are set to clash with the edition of the Asia Cup scheduled for the same month in 2022. However, even as those details will need reworking, the greatest uncertainty remains the participation of the hugely viable and popular Indian cricket team which is undoubtedly generate great interest as well as commercial value and give cricket the platform it needs at such a multi-discipline event.
However, the needs of the ICC are not necessarily on par with those of the BCCI which is what makes this celebration a rather somber one, particularly since the BCCI has the perfect ally in the excuse that presently the board is far from being reconstituted, situated as it is presently under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court, and therefore, is not in a position to confirm its status, with the Games still a fair bit away.