BCCI must give up dreams of being first among equals, at least for now

India won the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. It would be unwise to deny the players the chance to defend the title.

There can be no greater ache than being made to feel alone in a room full of people, no worse feeling than being let down by folk who turned their back after walking some distance together and raising visions of a victorious partnership. Yes, the rebuff that the Board of Control for Cricket in India got in the International Cricket Council meeting in Dubai would singe for long.

The cricket boards of Australia and England had already ditched BCCI in their quest to form the Big Three within the international cricket fraternity. Clearly, the backtracking of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe from their understanding with BCCI to at least delay the changes to the ICC governance and financial structure came as a big blow to its plans.

Perhaps, the Indian representatives who went to the ICC meet in Dubai assumed that the patterns would not change. But for those who have watched BCCI mandarins at work over many years, such shifting of loyalties is not a new phenomenon at all. It was perhaps a bitter lesson to the crop of administrators to never assume victory until it was finally won.

There is no doubt that BCCI would feel let down by everyone in ICC but it is perhaps paying the price for alienating many other cricket boards with its attitude that smelt of arrogance and high-handedness. At a time when ICC was clamouring for a level-playing field so that it could increase its footprint in more nations, it seemed natural that the idea of the Big Three was doomed.

The inexperience – within the portals of ICC, that is – of the officials and their inadequate diplomatic expertise would have made it easy for Manohar and Boards from other nations to reject the BCCI’s demands that no change be made to its revenue share. Without being empowered to make decisions, these officials were caught napping and had to eat humble pie.

There were strong whispers that the Committee of Administrators Chairman Vinod Rai had had diplomatic conversations with the ICC President Shashank Manohar. Perhaps, as a result of that, Manohar offered BCCI a face-saving compromise by offering it an extra $100m. It would have taken some skill to reject that – perhaps a lesson for the officials who represented BCCI.

It is a wake-up call for the sport’s administrators in India, old or new, organic or supplanted by a court decree. They must accept that the world order has changed and that BCCI’s claim of greater revenue-share simply because 70 per cent of ICC’s earnings are sourced from India does not come across as strong.

Having tasted defeat on the bargaining table, it would be a childish – even outrageous – response for BCCI to order the withdrawal of the Indian team from the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England. That and the threat of invoking a clause in the Members Participation Agreement would be risky propositions and would only worsen ties that are now bound by a slender thread.

There can be no doubt in any clear-thinking person’s head that the COA will knock the doors of the Supreme Court if the Special General Meeting of BCCI takes the extreme step of not fielding the Indian team in the ICC Champions Trophy. The argument that such a decision would affect the careers of Indian cricketers would be enough for the Supreme Court to rap the mandarins again.

The time for posturing and saber-rattling has passed BCCI, which is facing a storm in the wake of the Supreme Court’s extreme interest in overseeing changes in its administrative structure. It is no secret that BCCI’s partners in world cricket saw this as an opportunity to drive back its push to gain greater control of ICC’s governance and revenue distribution.

BCCI officials of all hues and with varied experience must come to terms that the wind is not blowing favourably for them. It would be fool-hardly to turn down the ICC’s renewed offer to grant it extra revenue and remain in sulking mode. It’s like being given the opportunity to follow-on. It may make sense to play smart, waiting for time and tide to turn its way in the future.

It would be most sensible for the BCCI to take the ICC’s offer of an extra $100 million. To keep the Indian team away from the ICC Champions Trophy would be the worst step, especially against those plying their trade on the cricket pitch. No official of a Board, flush with funds, should have the right to make that decision without exploring all other solutions.

BCCI officials should get their collective heads together and find a good way to retreat without losing face. They will understand that in cricket no team has found the formula to keep winning each match that it plays. They can draw from the experience of its teams, past and present, that victory and defeat is never absolute.

By all accounts, BCCI has no option but to give up its dreams of being first among equals. At least for the moment. The sooner it picks up the pieces and gets back to rebuilding its relationships with other cricket boards the better it will be. It must accept that it has been outmaneuvered and overcome the massive setback like cricketers would. The game, after all, must go on.

This piece first appeared on Catch News