The Cricket World Cup is in full swing, but the Indian team is watching the action from the periphery, preparing over the last week as if for some other event while other sides battle for supremacy at the points table.
The question on the minds of most Indian cricket fans, then, is natural: why has their team not played a single match yet?
Six days since the start of the tournament, Virat Kohli and Co. are still waiting for their turn to take the field, and are using the time to acclimatize themselves to the conditions, as well as recuperate after the grueling Indian Premier League.
That India’s match has been delayed beyond what can be considered reasonable can be judged from this: India’s opponent in the opening match, South Africa, would be playing its third match in the tournament after having already played England on May 30 and Bangladesh on June 2.
Apart from the Proteas, hosts England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan would all have got two games out of the way by the time India plays its first match on Wednesday, June 5.
The Indian team will be the only one to get so much time, 13 days to be exact since their arrival in England on May 22, to settle down and get used to the English conditions – a luxury not afforded to other sub-continent teams. This clearly showed in the dismal performances by Pakistan and Sri Lanka in their opening fixtures.
But the answer for the delay apparently has got nothing to do with acclimatizing.
According to reports, India were supposed to play their first match on June 2 against Bangladesh but the International Cricket Council (ICC) changed the schedule at the request of the all-powerful Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI).
The BCCI “source” cited in the reports said the board cited the guidelines of the Lodha Committee, formed by the Supreme Court to clean up cricket administration in India, to get the ICC to push back the date of the first match.
The Lodha Committee guidelines mandate, among other things, that India only play International Cricket post a 15-day recovery period after the IPL. For the record, the IPL final was held on May 12, so the recovery period would have ended on May 27, well in time for the June 2 match.
But to be fair, according to the initial schedule, the final of IPL 12 was to be held on May 19. Fifteen days from then would have been June 3, so it would have fallen in that 15-day window. However, the dates of the tournament were revised to avoid clash with the general elections.
The question, more importantly is, why did the International Cricket Council heed to the BCCI’s request? After all, the Lodha Committee guidelines are not binding on it. It could have always asked the BCCI to change the schedule of the IPL, a domestic tournament, and not tinker with the timetable of the World Cup.
The answer then is simple: it is a well-known fact that India has financial muscle in cricket and the BCCI is not scared of flexing it. Angering the BCCI could have put the entire tournament in jeopardy and it was in best interests of the ICC to humour the request by the Indian board.
This, however, raises eyebrows about the very sanctity of the fixtures of the premier cricket tournament in the world. Such a thing would have never been possible in any other popular sport.