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Cricket: It's all about money, money, money

A major offshoot of India unexpectedly winning the 1983 World Cup was that the Indian board was emboldened enough to take on the might of England and Australia and end their hegemony over world cricket once and for all.

The then president of the Indian cricket board, Narendra Kumar Prasadrao Salve, better known by his initials N.K.P., vowed to fight the class discrimination in the International Cricket Conference (ICC) -- the previous name for the modern day International Cricket Council -- by challenging the then prevailing world cricket order.

The moment India beat the West Indies, Salve deputed two hard negotiators Inderjit Singh Bindra, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, and Jagmohan Dalmiya, a Kolkata businessman who went on to become the first ICC president from Asia, to dismantle the entire edifice.

As a first step, the World Cup was pulled out of England and held rotationally among member countries. The first beneficiary was India which hosted the next edition in 1987 as holders. India garnered support of non-white members to isolate England and Australia and took away their veto power by making all member-boards equal.

Though it took another 28 years for it to win the World Cup a second time, by now India had changed the dynamics of world cricket to become a big bully.

The current Indian board president Narayanaswamy Srinivasan, unlike his predecessors, smartly got England and Wales Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia (CA) to form a troika to gain control of international cricket, browbeating the other ICC member nations to fall in line. For some strange reasons, Sri Lanka and Pakistan decided to oppose the Big Brother.

Srinivasan will take over as first chairman of the ICC in July.

India thus now has an inviolable veto -- which in any case it has been exercising for almost a decade by refusing to accept the Decision Review System (DRS) or arranging and scrapping tours to reduce the Future Tours Programme (FTP) to a mockery. Under the new dispensation there will be no FTP, it will all be bilateral arrangements.

The three boards will now decide what is good for other players in the ICC after the far-reaching changes to the organisation's structure, governance and revenue sharing. Like Hitler ordering soldiers to "volunteer" for do-or-die assignments, the Big Three left no choice for the member boards except to give their consent to the proposed changes in their own interest.

Even as Srinivasan says that the ICC board is supreme, the Big Three will act like super powers and also share huge chunks of revenue as the major contributors to the growth.

India contributes 80 percent of the ICC revenue and holds the whip in deciding on tours. Every board would now want to play India in India and that means it can remain the world's best team walloping everyone in its own backyard! England and Australia will get more than others.

The first to jump on to the gravy train were the West Indies, New Zealand and Bangladesh, realising that their revenues will go up manifold. Sri Lanka, once a Srinivasan favourite, is no longer willing to play ball with him, though they and Pakistan may not be able to hold out for long.

South Africa, which is sore with India for reducing its recent series to two Tests, was won over promising a full tour plus playing Indian Premier League in that country for a second time if the general elections here clash with the Twenty20 tournament. 

India and Australia have been fixing bilateral tours in recent years and it will now be legitimised. India has in recent years decided the number of Tests and One-Day Internationals it plays, keeping an eye on the ICC rankings.

Now the three will decide to play five-Test series among themselves and possibly with South Africa and, in India's case, money -spinner Pakistan. Against the rest they will pay hefty sums for a three or two-Test series and reduce them to second grade teams.

Money talks -- and Srinivasan, ECB chief Giles Clarke and Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards, like good corporate honchos, know it. The ICC generated $1.5 billion during its 2006-14 revenue cycle and in the next cycle (2015-2023) the Big Three expect to negotiate a mind-boggling figure to sell television and multimedia rights.

Frankly, it's all about money, money, money -- and nothing else.

(11.02.2014 - Veturi Srivatsa is IANS Sports Editor. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at v.srivatsa@ians.in)