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BCCI and the free-rider problem


It is a fact that the hegemon exists. Across various spheres. While some use political one-upmanship to achieve things the way they want, others use economic largesse. There also exist a few who make their military take control of the geographical areas vital for their own country or for the allies that eventually support them. The use of military force to dominate the sporting world is non-existent among countries.  But political manoeuvrings and economic supremacy often play a key role in decision making.

Applying this idea to sports; cricket in particular, England for a long time were the hegemon. In the current scenario, it is known that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have taken over what England did for a few decades (backed by better on-field performance). There are accusations against the BCCI’s high-handedness on cricketing and non-cricketing issues. Their refusal to use the Decision Review System (DRS), their opposition to two new balls rule in limited overs cricket and resistance to implementing World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) policies in cricket are some of the examples of their political manoeuvring.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is one such master-stroke that has strengthened BCCI's position as the hegemon in world cricket. It survived BCCI’s fallout with Lalit Modi- IPL’s creator and the court-room drama that eventually ended with Modi getting banned. The management of the recent IPL spot-fixing scandal involving team owners along with cricketers welcomed many brickbats too. But with financial irregularities and frequent involvements in dubious off-field events, BCCI have damaged their name to a great extent.

While the BCCI are often criticised on the grounds mentioned above and more, just like the hegemon in a global order, BCCI argue that other countries have willingly or unwillingly played the role of a free-rider. In political-economic theory, the free-rider is a group of countries or states that benefits from the policies of the hegemon. The beneficiaries of such policies though bear no cost to produce such rewards. In fact, the free-riders can be very critical of the hegemon’s policies if those are not helping them much. But the hegemon can claim that (a) they cannot always please everybody (b) And it is because of the hegemon that the free-rider can afford to enjoy the benefits and not otherwise.

Similarly, the BCCI get targeted as it directly or indirectly influence the finances of the other cricketing boards. It is well documented that whenever an Indian team travels abroad, the host board along with the media partners have a windfall. That eventually helps them add volumes of money to their accounts. Tour of Bangladesh and/or Tour of Zimbabwe are as much to contribute to the development of cricket and adherence to International Cricket Council's (ICC's)' Future Tours Program (FTP) as it is to gain their support on various issues during ICC meetings. These tours definitely give the players much needed exposure. However, the financial or political motives of either side involved in such tours cannot be completely ignored.

As Team India’s presence in Bangladesh/Zimbabwe or a few other countries help them a great deal, their cricket boards in return support BCCI on key issues regarding cricket administration and playing conditions. For example - Sri Lanka and Pakistan’s support to BCCI's opposition of the two balls rule. Or Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and South Africa’s support apart from a few other countries to Sharad Pawar when he was elected as ICC’s President. It can be said that BCCI pressurise cricket boards across the globe. But the BCCI, rightly or wrongly retaliate highlighting that the cricket boards support BCCI, as the gains involved are too heavy to ignore. While the cricket boards are at liberty to go against the BCCI’s wishes/demands (just like Cricket South Africa did recently), the consequences are too unpleasant.

One can condemn BCCI for their attitude while dominating every sphere of cricket. BCCI, being the US (or the hegemon) of world cricket can counter argue by putting forward the free-rider problem they are riddled with.

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