BCCI: From payer to payee

How Indian cricket board took on Indian govt for a broadcast rights deal in 1993.

Published: 17th June 2022 08:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th June 2022 09:56 AM   |  A+A-


Board of Control for Cricket in India. (File | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  Do you remember that time when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) banned Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Mohammed Azharuddin, Kiran More, Dilip Vengsarkar and Arun Lal for taking part in a non-sanctioned one-day series against teams from West Indies and Pakistan in North America in the late 80s? Six other active cricketers were given a hefty five-figure fine. The ban and the fines were reversed by the BCCI after the Supreme Court came down heavily on the body.

This isn’t a story on the ban but the growth story of the BCCI. How this penny-pinching body who were fining World Cup winners (Mohinder Amarnath was fined Rs 20000 for calling the selectors ‘a bunch of jokers’)  became a global behemoth? Why pick this incident from 1989? Around that time, the BCCI was forced to live a hand-to-mouth existence. The losses they were suffering were crippling. The state broadcaster, Doordarshan, used to be paid money to broadcast matches.

A couple of years later, though, the fiscal landscape of the country began to change. As 1990 wore on, it was clear that the country was facing a full-blown balance of payments crisis. The centre, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), kick-started the process of liberalising the economy. 
The rupee was devalued, enterprises were privatised and roadblocks were cleared to bring in significant foreign direct investment (FDI). 

With New Delhi taking active steps to resuscitate a dying economy, the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai sensed an opportunity. Trans World International (TWI), a subsidiary of IMG, won the broadcast rights for a one-off series (England in India in 1993). The move meant DD had to pay TWI to pick up the rights, earning BCCI a fat sum of $600,000. It opened the floodgates but not before an acrimonious, bitter fight in Court. 

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) wanted to celebrate its diamond jubilee in the grandest possible way. Jagmohan Dalmiya, then head of CAB, did a BCCI by selling the rights to TWI. In turn, TWI signed a contract with Star, an Asian channel that was newly acquired by Rupert Murdoch. The tournament, named the Hero Cup, would be on Star, a first-of-its-kind for an international match on Indian soil. 

An angry DD cried foul. Multiple parties including ministers got involved with the Calcutta High Court becoming the centre of attention. The 1885 Indian Telegraph Act received a lot of airtime. Remarkably, DD went on to label CAB and the BCCI of being ‘anti-national’.  The first games of the tournament went televised. TWI equipment was impounded by government officials. 

India may have won the tournament but it had many losers and there were serious doubts on whether India could successfully host the 1996 World Cup given the politics at play.


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