While the latest revelations about the possibility of the Essel group forming a rival cricket governing body has already created ripples in the cricketing world, Nabanita Sircar spoke to cricket historian and MCC member Mihir Bose. Excerpts:
How is Essel’s registration of cricketing bodies with names similar to existing ones being seen in England?
It has attracted the attention of the ECB because it didn’t like what Lalit Modi did by launching the IPL, and let me tell you Modi does not get along with ECB president Giles Clarke. The Big Three, that is, India, England and Australia, are seen as some cricketing club and other countries are being left out. The Essel group’s interest is seen as a revenge attack.
Is England county cricket more vulnerable to such an offer?
They could be. English cricket has not recovered from the launch of the IPL. Lalit Modi always exaggerates, but this time, not without merit. If a rival cricketing organisation can provide a lot of money, then there will be a lot of attraction. However, the problem will be whether they will be completely marginalised by the ICC. What happens if anyone who plays for the rival becomes an outcast? This is a big danger.
Do you think there’s scope for a global cricketing establishment parallel to the ICC?
I don’t think so. At the moment, the ICC’s financing is done though India, which has all the lucrative TV contracts. A rival group will have to rely on other cricketing bodies like Pakistan, West Indies. Do they have the money? In the past, we have had sporting circuses, but the problem is they will miss out on the biggest country, India. The BCCI is so powerful they will stop their players from participating. And if Indian players don’t take part, will TV companies pay top dollar?
After what happened with the ICL, do you think the Essel group can succeed this time?
Look at what happened last time. The ICL players got banned, many were not paid and the BCCI set up their own IPL. And that IPL exists and is making a lot of money. The new set-up may attract the second string of players who haven’t made it to the IPL.
Will Chandra get support from the smaller, less prosperous Test-playing nations?
Essel must be targeting the lesser cricketers or cricketing countries who feel they have been demoted by the Big Three. I suspect—I have no way to confirm it—that Pakistan may be a lead player in this. In the last few years, they have suffered the most. It no longer plays international cricket at home. Very few want to play Pakistan. There are other countries like Windies, Lanka and Bangladesh who are also struggling. And if this new venture offers them a lot more money, they may be attracted.
Is this all about TV broadcast rights?
True, it’s not just a cricket matter but also a battle of TV groups. An outsider is trying to muscle in because it hasn’t got the TV contracts. This is very similar to what happened in 1977. Kerry Packer didn’t get TV rights to televise England/Australia matches and so started his own cricket circus. History could be repeating itself...we don’t yet know with what results.