Love them or hate them, the brothers Narayanaswami Srinivasan and Ramachandran can’t be ignored – that’s their raison d’etre. Even if they don’t want to, they stay in the news. The focus is back on them, this time for different reasons.
The rise of the brothers, even if they do not see eye-to-eye on many a familial issue, is disquieting for many sports administrators. Big sport today is controlled by big business honchos and by promising moon to the stakeholders they think they have won them over.
What the minions, who either with ulterior motive or helplessly, hail the two, fail to see or deliberately ignore the potential damage the two could do to sport in the long run.
In Srinivasan’s case a handful of cricket-playing countries worldwide may legitimise his grandiose ideas of running sport with the Indian board’s financial clout, disregarding the moral compulsion of being barred by the Supreme Court from discharging his duties as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) pending a probe into serious corruption charges in the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL), BCCI’s flagship event.
Of course, the apex court refused to go beyond what its own appointed Mukul Mudgal committee prima facie listed corrupt practices in the IPL, saying it has nothing to do with his international commitments. One can legitimately ask, like many anxious aficionados world have done, whether a person under suspension from his native board is fit to chair the International Cricket Council (ICC)? Some former ICC presidents and commentators see it as the doomsday for world cricket with the ‘Big Three’ — India, England and Australia — getting a stranglehold over finances as well as scheduling of the game.
Elder brother Srinivasan’s funda is clear: If you have the financial clout you can arm-twist anyone. Not that his immediate predecessors in the Indian board were any less trident when it came to dealing with the once mighty Australia and England, their concern was limited to getting Indian cricket its due game wise. They, too, flexed their big bucks muscle, but Srinivasan has taken it to a ridiculous level, interfering in every aspect of the game, not sparing even the umpiring decision review.
Intriguingly, the cricket chiefs of the Australian and English boards have come up with the facetious argument that they had to fall in line to prevent India from breaking away. It is their way of wiping the egg off their faces and Srinivasan stoutly refuted the insinuation first made by his handpicked loyal board secretary Sanjay Patel.
Yes, India has been telling the ICC member nations that they should give preference to the IPL even if it meant killing their Test cricket by freeing their cricketers to play in the six-week-long social gathering where cricket is played as part of nocturnal entertainment. BCCI sold the idea to world cricket that the IPL-generated money is for its benefit.
If a six-week window for the IPL is created the players to benefit the most are the English whose board has so far refused to release its big guns to play in the marquee event because it clashes with the preparation for its domestic season.
Once a window is created for the IPL, even Australia cannot say their players can be pulled out of it or even County cricket to keep them fresh for its international commitments. Now you don’t need others, under the new constitution if the Big Three decide on ruling, it will be binding on others. Simply put, the ICC has bought the silence of all the boards barring Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who is part of the pack with grave reservations. For instance, the Pakistanis will also accept the suzerainty of the Big Brothers now that they have been promised bilateral tours in the next cycle of the ICC Future Tours Programme.
What Srinivasan, Australia chairman Wally Edwards and England’s Giles Clarke have done is akin to land grabbing by connivance, forcing the lesser mortals to accept a decent compensation unmindful of their existence as a cricketing nation. As it is New Zealand and South Africa have found how difficult it is to deal with India when it comes to scheduling the tours and for someone like Pakistan there is little choice. The West Indies is smart and by kowtowing to the Indian board they are able to get a $4 million dole from the ICC in the shape of a loan.
The three can, in a profit-sharing business proposition, make a case for pocketing nearly three-fifths of the revenues generated from the game but the sport is not run on money alone. In other words, what they say is they form the circus group and the world will have to watch them perform. Needless to say which one is the lion and which trainers are going to put their heads in his mouth!
Ramachandran is as ambitious as his brother, but less diplomatic. It was clear in the couple of months since his election as Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president that he has already started identifying his friends and foes, never mind even if he insists that the apex body of Indian sport is united and fully behind him.
He clearly stated that India’s priority should be to get financially independent, not hosting mega events like the 2019 Asian Games. And when he saw his secretary general and treasurer leading a revolt of sorts, he quickly tried to close the ranks saying he was only pointing out the enormous paper work and clearances needed from various government and civic agencies with little time to prepare the document. Now he says it is the National Sports Federations (NSF) which are keen on the Games and so the IOA is working on the bid in conjunction with the Modi government and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
Ramachandran has opened another front, against Hockey India (HI) secretary general Narinder Batra, who used some colourful language to attack his Olympic chief for getting embroiled in the boxing controversy.
Batra is creating a caucus of his own to be relevant in the Olympic movement. In the new Central dispensation, he has started counting his chickens before they are hatched. Things are heating up and the question is who will take the plunge first.