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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised



The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions. The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams and Mendel Rivers to eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary. The revolution will not be televised.

Word has reached the International Cricket Council (ICC) and its full member boards that there are nefarious moves behind the scenes to upset their hold on the world game. Thanks to some excellent reporting in the Guardian (and from some others), details have emerged that the Essel group, the owners of Ten Sports and the people behind the now defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL), are setting up companies and websites that could be considered potential rivals for the current status quo.  

There was talk of all this being the work of Lalit Modi, who has long argued that the BCCI and other cricket boards are not fit for their purpose. As the architect of the ridiculously successful Indian Premier League, Modi certainly has a history of making big things happen. He has denied his involvement in this new move, but reiterated his belief that change is needed.

He tweeted: “Currently there is one private sports body [the ICC] - if another private sports body globally was to come up [the] beneficiary will be players and fans. So I support anyone making attempt.”

The chairman of the Essel Group, Dr. Subhash Chandra, has confirmed that Modi isn’t involved, and that the ambition is to expand cricket beyond its traditional territories. This is without doubt an admirable desire, and something the ICC and its full members have singularly failed to achieve in over a century of existence. If Chandra and his TV network make that happen, it would be fantastic for the sport. Certainly, the ambition seems to be not just to sit alongside the ICC but to usurp it.

The real question is whether the Essel Group are the people to bring the change that the administration of cricket needs. Their last foray into the world of sports governance at the ICL saw a tournament that was beset by corruption, and some of the players involved in the tournament are still awaiting payment, five years after the competition was wound down.

They have reportedly held talks with FICA, the international players union, in an attempt to get the world’s cricketers on their side. FICA walked away from those discussions, apparently uncomfortable with the clandestine nature of this attempted coup. FICA would undoubtedly need to have some serious assurances that there would not be the same problems with fixing and salaries that beset the ICL, before they advise any of their players to get into bed with this rival organisation.

Cricket undoubtedly needs change. For too long the sport has been run by the self-interested few with only a view to maximise their own standing and wealth. The recent moves to reduce the World Cup to a ten team affair, the Big Three takeover of the ICC, and the reduction in development funding for those further down the pecking order are just further examples of the myopic approach that those running the game have adopted.

The emergence of an organisation that has the good of the sport at its heart and a genuine desire to see it expand would be fantastic, but it is extremely unlikely that the motivations of the Essel Group are this altruistic. The move is driven by the fact that Ten Sports have been frozen out of covering cricket in India: Star Sports has the rights to India games, Sony televises the IPL. They want in, and as the ICL proved, they are prepared to go to extreme lengths to get a slice of the action.

The time has come for associate nations to admit that the ICC doesn’t care about them. Well, truth be told, they already know that. But now they need to do something about it. They have lived off crumbs from the top table for so long that they are used to living on this starvation diet. A rival organisation is no bad thing; in fact, those who have watched associate cricket with interest in recent years have long argued for it.

Doing this gives them the chance to push for Olympic involvement, a move that has until now been blocked by the ECB as it will damage the primacy of the English summer in the cricketing calendar. Creating a true governing body, not a private members club that is a collection of large poultry birds voting against Christmas, would allow cricket to become a truly global sport.

The people to do that will not be a TV company. They will be a collection of likeminded individuals who have a properly constituted governing body that thinks first of what is best for cricket.

When the revolution happens it will not be televised.

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