Sourav Ganguly has roused India’s mighty cricket board from a three-year slumber and its push for an exclusive new tournament to be included on the international calendar is set to give the game’s governing body and other stakeholders sleepless nights.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which has been revitalised under Ganguly’s leadership, says it generates 75% of the game’s total revenue and wants commensurate clout when it comes to deciding how it is run.
One demand is for a tournament involving the ‘Big Three’ of India, Australia and England plus another country to be slotted into an already bursting schedule, putting it on course for a clash with the International Cricket Council, which has enjoyed a period of calm in recent years at its Dubai headquarters.
India’s ‘Super Series’ proposal is a concern to many in the game, including the executive chairman of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), Tony Irish.
“We want what is best for the global game," the global players’ union chief told Reuters.
“Ultimately what is best for the global game will also be best for each individual country, even for the ‘Big Three’.
“FICA won’t be supporting proposals around scheduling, governance, or economic models which only benefit a few of the wealthier countries to the future detriment of the entire game."
FICA is also concerned that the ICC is pressing ahead with plans for a new international tournament of its own in the 2023-31 cycle without consulting the players.
While some question why the ICC wants to add a new event to a calendar featuring a growing number of Twenty20 tournaments, the ICC is keen to introduce a new Champions Trophy-style tournament to improve its finances.
If it comes down to a battle of wills between Dubai and Mumbai over which new tournament gets the green light, the ICC is likely to find Ganguly a formidable adversary.
The BCCI’s last serious attempt to assert its clout with the ICC came with the ‘Big Three’ revenue model, which in 2014 effectively put India, England and Australia in control of the game’s finances and administration.
That model collapsed in 2017 and the board was subsequently run by a Supreme Court-appointed panel in an administration that ran until Ganguly was elected in October last year.
India’s feisty former captain has made it clear he will make sure the BCCI gets its fair share of the pie.
India coach Ravi Shastri summed up the BCCI’s position in a recent interview.
“Why should you be a tame little duck? You have to demand your pound of flesh," Shastri told CNN-News18. “That’s the revenue you bring to the table. If I bring that to the table, what do I get in return?"
Ganguly and his colleagues have carried out behind-the-scenes talks with their English and Australian counterparts to garner support for the ‘Super Series’.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has said it is “open" to discussing the proposal while Cricket Australia (CA) Chief Executive Kevin Roberts found the idea “innovative".
“There have been some formal and informal meetings, the content of which I am not in a position to share," a CA spokesman said.
The ICC is not sitting idle and has sent out its top brass to canvass for its proposed tournament.
ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney and commercial general manager Campbell Jamieson met Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) officials in Dhaka last month.
“They have met Malaysia’s prime minister, visited Australia and New Zealand, and they are going to America as well," BCB chief Nazmul Hassan told reporters in Dhaka.
“Those who are interested in hosting ICC events, they are visiting those countries and it will certainly raise the income of the member countries."
Sports historian Boria Majumdar says Ganguly will eventually get his way, though he might be a little more subtle in his negotiations than Shastri’s comments suggest.
“The BCCI absolutely wants to assert itself in the ICC," said Majumdar, co-author of the recently published “Dreams of a Billion" chronicling India’s Olympic campaigns.
“It naturally doesn’t want to lose 13-1 in ICC votes anymore, like it has happened in the last couple of years.
“But confrontation is not the way forward and no one knows that better that Sourav Ganguly."