WTC 2023 Final: The great divide in cricket family

Welcome to the world of international cricket where some teams are God while others have to look for coins inside their sofa to enter the sanctum sanctorum.

Published: 06th June 2023 10:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th June 2023 10:19 AM   |  A+A-


Indian captain Rohit Sharma with his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins. (ICC | Twitter)

By Express News Service

LONDON: By the time you finish reading this 5-minute piece, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) could earn as much as $2,190. If the same proposed revenue distribution model of the International Cricket Council (ICC) — first reported by Cricinfo last month — is ratified in the next few weeks, non-Test playing nations will make, on an average, $7 in that same 5-minute period over the next four years.

Welcome to the world of international cricket where some teams are God while others have to look for coins inside their sofa to enter the sanctum sanctorum.

This kind of financial inequality will be on show in the two ICC events in June. First the undercard. In Zimbabwe, the World Cup qualifiers will be on. There will be genuine jeopardy as four full members join six associate nations to earn the right to feature at the 50-over competition in India this winter. Just before that event begins, two of the elites, Australia and India, will contest the final of the World Test Championship.

Per the proposal, India ($230 mn) and Australia ($37 mn) stand to make just south of $270 mn per year over the next four-year period. In Zimbabwe? While the four full members combined could earn just north of $85mn, the six associates between them, including Nepal, the sport's latest hail mary, will combine to take home less than $5mn a year. If the proposal receives the green light, the associates — in itself a pejorative term — will receive roughly $1.1 for every $10 the ICC distributes (the BCCI, as it stands, will almost make 4 out of every 10).

It is this disparity that Sumod Damodar wants to address. Damodar, one of the elected associate member representatives and a part of the 20-strong ICC Chief Executives Committee, makes the point that 'associate members will always be second cousins'. At the outset, he explains that he's not against India getting a bigger share of the pie. "I don't think anybody opposes India getting (a share of the revenue), there's no doubt that India generates more money. But... the focus is that when you are dividing the pie, instead of a top-down approach, can we not look at it bottom up?" 

There is a reason why Damodar, who is the chairman of the African Cricket Association as well as the deputy chair of the Botswana Cricket Association, echoes the same sort of sentiments shared by the likes of Michael Atherton, a cricketer-turned-commentator, and Gideon Haigh, a cricket historian. Right now, the money is going to places that least need them. While nobody says no to more money, some countries need it to put food on the table while others want it to season their Michelin star restaurant.

Here's Damodar. "What are the associates getting and why are they getting only so much? That should be the focus. The highest-ranked associate (according to the scoreboard) gets $800,000 per year. The lowest-ranked associate gets $18,000.

 "That's the kind of disparity that exists, even within the associate structure. You can't promote any cricket on that basis. My argument is middle and lower-ranked teams to get more and to increase the overall kitty so that there is a proportional increase."   

While the likes of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have come out in support of the proposed distribution, not everybody is happy. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), for example, wanted the ICC to give them an explanation of how the figures were arrived at. "We are insisting that the ICC should tell us how these figures were arrived at," Najam Sethi, the head of the organisation," had told Reuters in May. "We are not happy with the situation as it stands. Come June, when the board is expected to approve the financial model unless these details are provided to us, we are not going to approve it."

Here's a very rudimentary idea of how these figures were arrived at. All Test-playing nations have a standing start before various factors — history, achievements of both senior teams at the ICC meet, commercial contribution et. al. — are keyed in to arrive at the final figure. In other words, The Big Three of India, Australia and England already have a hardwired advantage because, by default, these teams tend to enjoy home advantage at most ICC events. And because India enjoys the biggest TV market, they have an add-on advantage that no other nation can hope to match.

Take for example, the West Indies. They have hosted one ICC white-ball event since 2008 (the women's T20 World Cup in 2018). And with the Islands having fewer people than Mumbai, TV revenue is low. Atherton makes that point in his column. "... In a region of only five million people, its television revenues are low (how much it contributes commercially to the ICC deal is put at 0.1 per cent)." So, naturally, this system will permanently be weighted against countries like the West Indies and will always reward nations like India and, to a lesser extent, England and Australia.

Damodar, who has his roots in Kerala, understandably doesn't want to focus on what the BCCI makes in one hour or one day. "The minute you say India is getting so much in one hour and so much in one day and associates get this much in one hour, sorry to say but you are already pissing people off. That's how it works. This isn't about how much India is making... what is the ICC speaking about? Development, growth, expansion... all nice things but how do we put these things into practice? This is where the element of funding is key, coupled with the right personnel. What we are saying is they (ICC) have overlooked certain factors. It's not a done deal yet. So, it's good to get our views out into the open as well." 

At a time when there is a genuine push to see the sport at the Olympics, this is a reminder about the miles it has to travel before it can truly satisfy the first line of the 'Olympic Solidarity' chapter. "It aims to ensure that athletes with talent have an equal chance of reaching the Games and succeeding in the Olympic arena."

As the world braces for yet another final of a global cricketing event, the proposed ICC revenue distribution model shows how it affects the countries that need assistance more to grow the sport in their backyard.



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