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the godfather cup

Hari Seshasayee is part-time cricket enthusiast, and a full-time Latin Americanist.

  • India plays six of its nine league matches on holidays or weekends. This is an overwhelming number. All of India’s big-ticket matches, against Pakistan, Australia, England and South Africa, are on holidays or weekends.
  • This leaves less space for other countries to play on the weekends. Ironically, even England, the hosts, somehow end up playing only two matches on weekends, one of which is against India.
  • India will not play a single day-night match this World Cup—presumably, so as not to inconvenience millions of Indians who would have to watch these matches till 2 am IST.

It just so happens that India’s first match is on a holiday, Ramzan Id (Eid-ul-Fitar). And five of India’s subsequent eight matches will be played over the remaining weekends of the World Cup. Why is this the case? Aren’t fixtures of major global sporting events chosen randomly, through mathematical scheduling algorithms? Is this just the result of random lots offered by the ICC, or is something else afoot?

This is obviously not the first time the BCCI has flexed its muscles, and it will certainly not be the last. Most recently, at the Asia Cup in 2018, the BCCI made sure that the Indian cricket team played all of its fixtures in Dubai (regardless of India’s position at the end of the group stage), while every other team scuttled between Dubai and Abu Dhabi from one day to the other.
This scenario is juxtaposed perfectly with South Africa, which will be playing its third match of the tournament on Wednesday, when India plays its first.
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In a practical sense, it is worth analysing what the BCCI’s overhanded behaviour means for Indian cricket, and how it impacts the future of the sport in India and abroad.
For the future of cricket as a global sport, perhaps nothing has as much of an impact as the ICC’s decision, nudged by the BCCI and other cricketing boards, to reduce the number of nations playing the World Cup. The number of teams in the World Cup had been steadily rising since the inaugural edition, from eight in 1975 to 12 in 1996, and eventually peaking at 16 teams in 2007. Since then, it has reduced to 14 in 2011 and 2015, and to 10 in this edition. This does not bode well for the future of cricket as a global sport. Sikandar Raza, the Zimbabwean all-rounder adjudged man-of-the-series for the Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament in 2018, expressed his dissatisfaction noting that, “When I started playing cricket, I thought it was to unite countries, players of different background coming together to play this beautiful sport. Unfortunately, you’ll see that’s not going to happen in next year’s World Cup. It’s certainly quite a tough pill to swallow.”

The BCCI’s heavy-handed behaviour is unwelcome, but this is the reality of cricket in India today, where money and politics, rather than professionals, steer cricket administration in a direction that maximises profit and influence. Money is the key driver: after all, India now receives nearly one-fourth of the ICC’s total revenue distribution. This amounts to a total of $405 million for the BCCI during the 2016-2023 cycle, more than the next three largest countries combined, including the cricket boards of England ($139 million), Australia ($128 million) and South Africa ($128 million).

The fact that India plays six of its nine World Cup matches on holidays is not just a matter of coincidence, it is because the BCCI demands it.