Why did it surprise no one that the International Cricket Council (ICC) while taking cognizance of the BCCI letter to boycott Pakistan stated emphatically earlier this week that it had no say in the subject? Undoubtedly it has to do with the fact that for a fair time now the ICC has been seen less like the supreme governing body for the sport and more like an innocuous host and a figurehead for the gathering of cricket playing nations.
Pushed to show some kind of action and accused of being patronizing of their neighbours despite the repeated infiltration of cross border terrorism in the aftermath of the Pulwama attacks on army personnel last month, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sent forth a letter to the ICC calling for a boycott of all nations that sponsor terrorism although it did not go as far as to state Pakistan explicitly by name. The general consensus was that even this late redressal at the ICC was simply lip service on the part of the BCCI, pushing the onus on the ICC instead of taking its stand independent of the stance taken by the government of India.
Even more on predictable lines was the understanding that while the ICC would put the letter on the agenda, it would not carry any weight because the ICC neither has the power nor is influential enough to carry forth the substance of the matter. Besides, the ICC can ill afford to turn away established, traditional Test playing nations with a formidable reputation. In a rather closed group of established teams that number less than a dozen, the ICC is not in a position to alienate any team by letting their political situation interfere the governance of the sport. It is why Zimbabwe cricket, once competitive, was allowed to fall away at one point, to virtually zero significance.
While it is another matter that the internal wrangling within the BCCI have kept the news reeling (pun intended) leading to a rather embarrassing situation at the ICC meeting, what is of relevance here that is while the ICC response was on expected lines, it, also, betrayed the fact that the ICC has very little hold on what happens within every cricket playing nation and for that matter, what happens between cricket playing nations. It explains a lot why things have languished with regard to Zimbabwe cricket as the ICC turned a deaf ear and why the West Indies unfortunately continue to remain in a perennial state of turmoil and their players in flux despite their rich cricketing legacy.
While it speaks to the truth of the matter, at a time when the ICC is making a bigger push for cricket to become a part of the global disciplines of participating sports at events such as the Asian Games and the Olympics, it cannot look like a toothless body running the show. This feeble, almost dismissive response from the ICC with a simple euphemistic notion that it cannot intervene in political matters between states and has no say in the matter does not speak very highly of the ICC as the entity that will take cricket globally. While the ICC is right in this stand given its history of indifference and inaction, it is not the message it would want to take to the world in its position of authority if it is looking to create a powerhouse status for cricket.