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Pinch hitting and penny pinching, and the rise of money in cricket

By Cameron Turner - posted Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Australia is just now starting to recover from Ashes fever. We have all been captivated, and frankly relieved, by the national cricket team's return to form. Gaining less attention on the back pages is the most significant change to cricket's governance since Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. This on the back of recent changes to fetch larger broadcast right revenue in Australia, and new findings of corruption in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) should make fans question if financial gain is being put ahead of the game itself.

A document leaked in January this year revealed the plans of a "working group" comprising Indian, English and Australian cricket boards to gain a larger portion of the game's revenue and more power within cricket's ruling body the International Cricket Council (ICC). These "Big Three" boards are already the wealthiest, and are now pushing through reforms to gain UN Security Council-like veto on any decisions made by the ICC, previously made by equal votes of all member nations.

The proposed reforms are being spearheaded by the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and its head, the Indian cement magnate Narayanaswami Srinivasan.


India is responsible for between 60%-70% of the game's revenue, and is essential for the game's functioning. Playing India is payday for the cricket boards of other countries, sustaining their local competitions. As such, the BCCI is using a financial carrot-and-stick approach with individual boards, as well as threatening what would be tournament cancelling withdrawals from the ODI and T20 World Cups if its demands are not met.

This approach - which Shadra Ugra, Senior Editor at ESPNCricinfo, described as "blackmail" - is proving effective. On the 8th of February the ICC passed a resolution containing the core components of the leaked document, with only the Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricket boards abstaining to vote.

The ICC marked the passing of the resolutions giving the Indian, English and Australian boards a greater proportion of revenue and power with the statement:

Full Members will gain greater financial recognition based on the contribution they have made to the game, particularly in terms of finance, their ICC history and their on-field performances in the three formats.

Cricket is a game known for its quirks and pomp and ceremony, arising from the game's long tradition. In recent years there has been a tension between cricket's traditional 5-day Test match format,which dates back to 1877, and the new "action-packed" Twenty20 (T20) format, which had its augural international match in 2005. Cricket lovers have watched nervously to see if these two w rs have watched nerviously hich dates back to of revenue and power with the statement: "formats will synergise; with the purist hoping the integrity of the 5-day game will remain intact, as the casual viewer is enticed by the big-hits and frequent wickets of the considerably shortened 20-over-aside T20 format. Caught somewhere in the middle is Kerry Packer's invention: the 50-over-aside One-Day format.

Close followers of the game generally agree that the Test match is the ultimate measure of mettle and is decisive in arbitrating who is the better team or player. The shorter formats while definitely requiring an impressive, yet slightly different, set of skills can be highly influenced by luck or the good performance of one or two players.


Some commentators have seen the coup in the ICC as benevolent, helping to grow the Test game, with part of the deal being to set up funds to support Test cricket through to 2023 and to support a pathway for new nations to play Test matches. For instance, former English captain Mark Butcher, talking to ESPN's Switch Hit program, expounded a hopeful view of the changes:

Do the other boards deserve to take the riches of the big boards who have taken better care of their business? Perhaps not.

Going on to argue that the Big Three, have seemingly proven themselves better custodians of the financial side of the sport.

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About the Author

Cameron Turner is a neuroscientist.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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