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The sellout in Singapore

For CSA, the heady prospect of a filled kitty was way more exhilarating than say, standing by Nelson Mandela’s ideals — a trite out of place in the 21st century corporate culture anyway

The sellout in Singapore
Narayanaswami Srinivasan.

So how did BCCI President Narayanaswami Srinivasan lure his CSA counterpart Chris Nenzani into romancing the revamp a week before the Valentine’s Day?

Singapore of course, is an idyllic rendezvous to arrive at a more than nodding acquaintance with good fortune. With a pleasant breeze blowing by the pool, soft music playing in the background and the host in a generous mood to let bygones be bygones (see box), Nenzani felt transported: the heady prospect of a filled kitty way more exhilarating than say, standing by Nelson Mandela’s ideals, which seemed dry by contrast and perhaps, a trite out of place in the 21st century corporate culture anyway.

By Friday night, Nenzani had tossed the ideals and democratic spirit he had been harping on before the Srinivasan embrace into the Singaporean sea, leaving Pakistan and Sri Lanka feeling a bit like Titanic’s Jack Dawson after the shipwreck.

Cricket is a wonderful sport. If anyone has cared to note, it imbibes irresistibly life-enhancing and impossibly heartbreaking lessons. And it all depends on the characters playing the sport, on or off the field. It was deemed a gentleman’s sport for a good century, invoking what is now disdainfully dismissed as a relic of the Victorian age.

It is now more akin to a gaudy mistress of the corporate world thanks to the greed of a ‘Big’ maverick or three, who can override popular sentiment, nix the once-fabled spirit of the game, and blur the order of merit* because they want to own, not merely run the casino. With its own jaunt guaranteed, CSA have basically, allowed the hustlers to decide who will come to the party.

It is patently obvious, the Greedy Three, led by a scheming Srinivasan, had a well thought out plan all along for the takeover. To their good fortune, the Scrawny Seven were in deep slumber, and by the time they came to, survival instinct had kicked in.

Go through the chronology of events and it becomes obvious: deliberately, a tougher draft paper was released initially, — in hindsight, the so-called “concessions” were probably all factored in. The same were “doled out” periodically, and in the end, save for two of the Scrawny Seven most boards were all too encumbered by immediate selfish interest to think big, to take a stand for principle, to allow for the hard yards in favour of an equitable long term and sustainable future.

The bone of contention

In 2012, Lord Woolf delivered a report, suggesting a series of reforms whose centerpiece was handing over power to an independent executive to make cricket’s governance more transparent. The BCCI not only rejected the recommendations but hounded out Haroon Lorgat, the-then chief executive of the ICC, for advocating the Woolf Report.

The BCCI was so miffed at Lorgat’s return, as the chief executive of CSA, last year that it threatened to scupper a series in South Africa, which materialised only after Lorgat stepped aside from handling matters pertaining to India. Not satiated, the Srinivasan-led BCCI drove home the humiliation by shortening the series and causing CSA a potential loss of $20 million in broadcast rights.

From Dubai to Singapore, CSA appear to have only raised the stakes for a deal that would take care of their own interests. PCB’s opposition — for obvious reasons (inability to host international cricket and lack of a bilateral arrangement with BCCI) — was a given. A gullible SLC getting lured into a solidarity siesta was like a stroke of good luck for CSA.

With two decent boards to rely on, CSA had a fair gambit to employ. But what had Nenzani smelling of roses — like Titanic’s Rose — was that the BCCI chose to embrace the strongest of the three left in the fray, certain that a little insurance sop for future tours, especially in view of a profitable engagement with the top-ranked ICC Test team, would do the trick. It did.

Conventional logic suggested SLC would capitulate, but like PCB, it was floored by the CSA jazz in Dubai — after they heard Nenzani describe the position paper as “fundamentally flawed”.

The BCCI began the script even before the Dubai summit by offering the crumbs of a bilateral engagement to PCB. It was a sop designed to hoodwink the one certain opposition it saw coming.

But the timing of the move gave the game away — it came too close to the vote BCCI fancied in exchange for its anointment as the ICC head honcho.

Having said that, let’s not kid ourselves about “morals” and “principles”: the PCB didn’t fall for it only because the prospect of the offer materializing seemed too good to be true — a point proved in Dubai and Singapore when the BCCI refused to give any commitment, let alone bankable guarantees, in the event of pulling out of any bilateral engagement.

The Srinivasan-led BCCI’s double standards were evident in how, at the same time, it gave assurances of “contractually binding” bilateral agreement to CSA!

It is abundantly clear to all and sundry now that the BCCI, nay India, is deliberately isolating PCB (Pakistan, by extension), which forced SLC to announce this week that they would now follow the other members of the ICC.

With CSA jumping ship, PCB unable to host international cricket, and its own cricket heavily dependent on BCCI-linked market economy, SLC did not have an option.

As I had forewarned in a piece a fortnight ago, Pakistan is not even left with any leverage to negotiate, which brings one to the moot point: was the PCB’s now-on, now-off chairman Zaka Ashraf to blame for the Waterloo and, could his equally ‘on-off’ successor Najam Sethi have done better?

Let’s be honest: this is not about personalities although arguably, someone like Ehsan Mani, the former ICC president, could have made a much more formidable case.

If there is anyone to blame for making it worse, it is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who failed to rise above politics, choosing to first contest the PPP-affiliated Ashraf’s reinstatement by the Islamabad High Court in the Supreme Court at a critical juncture, and withdrawing the petition only when it became obvious that the government would look bad if the PCB lost its case in the decisive Singapore sojourn.

But even worse, the PM refused to give Ashraf any appointment despite his plea for policy direction, and instead, conveniently made him the fall guy early this week.

PCB, nay Pakistan, has become the butt of all jokes with the decidedly whimsical chopping of the board’s management regardless of who the executioner is — a court of law or the PM.

With such pantomime on offer, who can really blame the Greedy Three or Scrawny Six for not taking Pakistan seriously.

*ICC top dog India have lost 10 of their last 11 Tests overseas (in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand). One was drawn after South Africa choked on the brink of a world record chase. They have also not won an ODI in three months with South Africa and New Zealand swamping them during this time.

ICC’s Second Biggie, England, lost all of their Ashes Tests (five), four of five ODIs and all three T20s against Australia just recently.

Kamran Rehmat

Kamran Rehmat
The writer, a former editor of The News, is a political analyst and cricket aficianado. He may be reached at [email protected]

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