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Sports Commentary: Apartheid in cricket again?
Published on January 27, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Ardon Nelson

The late Nelson Mandela is not even properly settled in his grave, but apartheid is once again, not only trying to raise its ugly head to take control over international cricket, but also threatening the survival of his Proteas team in the fray! This time, the bigotry is being prompted by no other entities than the current ‘Massas’ of world cricket themselves, better known as: the ICC, the BCCI, the ECB and CA!

Ardon Nelson is an urban planner by profession and holds a MSc. degree in International Urban Planning from the University of Cardiff; a BSc. in Physical Planning from CAST/University of Technology in Jamaica; a Diploma in Planning Technology from CAST/University of Technology in Jamaica; and a Teachers Certificate from the St Vincent Teachers College/University of the West Indies. He is an ardent cricket fan and lifelong supporter of West Indies cricket. He is also a caustic critic of the manner in which the ICC has been administrating international cricket over the years.
But, is this the most appropriate way that these power hungry gorgons of world cricket can best honour the difficult life and times of the Great Nelson Mandela; such a distinguished human, who spent all his life fighting to try to eliminate the scourges of social discrimination, apartheid and wanton bigotry, in order to bring welcomed peace, justice and fairness to South Africa and the world? A struggle that also helped the said South Africa to eke out a prodigal journey back into international cricket.

Why does the ICC want, once again, to introduce discrimination in the game that Mandela and all of us love so much; to the point that it may hurt the members of the team whom he knew so well?

In fact, the current proposed move by the ICC to give sweeping powers for the control of international cricket, to ‘minority leadership’, meaning just three of its ten permanent members, is not just grossly absurd and disrespectful to the ignominious struggles of the late Nelson Mandela, it is also an atrocious insult to the progress that has been made by all five legendary titans who spent their entire lives fighting for peace and justice for the world – the others being the great Martin Luther King Junior; the great Mahat Ma Ghandi; the great Mother Theresa and the great Pope John Paul II – Nelson Mandela was the last surviving member of these five famous titans for world peace.

The big question is doesn’t the ICC and its cohorts know that in modern society, in every system that’s comprised of a collectivity of human beings, the only principle that is acceptable within the requisite interactive process, is that each part that makes up the whole system is equal to the other; meaning, that all human beings are equal? And that anytime in that system, the minority is given special powers and privileges over the majority, this is tantamount to a system of apartheid? And, that apartheid in any colour, shape or form is grossly wrong?

For those who don’t quite know, the particular issue of concern that’s being addressed in this article has to do with a ‘bombshell’ item of cricket news that was released on the ESPN/Cricinfo website last week – worrying news which has the rest of the cricketing world singing the chorus of ‘outrage’. A synopsis of the details is as follows:

The ICC is now considering a recommendation from its Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee (IFCAC) for “a comprehensive structural overhaul of world cricket administration that will effectively cede most executive decision-making to the India Cricket Board of Control (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and the England Cricket Board (ECB)” (ESPN/Cricinfo, 2014)! According to the ESPN/Cricinfo’s article, some of the main recommendations include:

(i) “….Creating a four-member group called the Executive Committee (ExCo) between ICC committees and the Executive Board, which consists of the heads of national boards. The ExCo, the proposal recommends, will include three permanent representatives [one each] from CA, ECB and BCCI, who will share an annual rotating chairmanship. A fourth member of the ExCo will be nominated by the ICC's Executive Board and come from the seven other Full Member nations. The ExCo, if created according to the draft, will become "the sole recommendation committee … on all constitutional, personnel, integrity, ethics, development and nominations matters." In my view, this recommendation is interpreted to mean that exclusive rights to own world cricket have been given to the three mentioned nations; with no apparent mechanism to reversible it till eternity.

(ii) As far as Test Match promotion and relegation is concerned, the report recommends that "relegation exceptions will apply to India, England and Australia [only]”. This is in relation to a touted proposed two-tier system that is being considered for test cricket, where only the four top ranked teams would compete against each other; and the top-heavy bottom tier would also only compete among themselves! It this proposal is implemented, it means that there is a very slight possibility that any bottom tier team will ever be promoted to what would become sacred ground, belonging to India, England and Australia. This is so because, if we look at the current rankings, South Africa is the highest ranked team in the world currently. So, South Africa would have to do extremely badly, to fall to the bottom of the top tier that any another country gets a chance to be promoted. Can this be a proposal in world cricket for real?

(iii) A “recently-created post of ICC chairman, (meant to reduce the powers of the president and be given to the ‘the best man for the job will, according to the new proposal, become an annual rotation between ‘one of the nominees of the ECB, CA or the BCCI.’ Similarly, the BCCI-CA-ECB will nominate the annual chairman of the Finance & Commercial committee, thus nominating their own candidates in three key ICC positions: the head of the ExCo, the F&CA committee and the chairmanship of the ICC. The ICC chairman will not head other major committees of the ICC, its F&CA committee or the IBC, the commercial arm of the ICC”. What is noticeable about this proposal is that the only three administrative positions where anything meaningful and worthwhile decision is possible would always be occupied by these three nations! In my view, it appears that they think they’re the only ones with brains – what an insult to the rest of the cricketing world!

(iv) “The bulk of the ‘position paper’ comprises a section focusing on a 'distribution model' of ICC revenues. The ICC's current funding model distributes surplus revenues equally among Full Members and, in smaller proportions, to its Associate and Affiliate members. This, the proposal says, ‘does not recognise the contribution of individual members" and provides for a "distorted distribution model that undermines self-sufficiency." The "value contribution" of India is listed as "over 80%” with the other Full Members' contribution ranging between “0.1% to 5%.” The proposal says: ‘If ICC funds were entirely allocated on the basis of where they came from, all members bar two would suffer a seriously damaging reduction in their funding," a position "not favoured by BCCI, the ECB or CA’." In this case, no one can fault any nation, and particularly India, for seeking fairness in the distribution of surplus funds in accordance with their disproportionate financial contribution to the running of the sport worldwide. It thus constitutes the only of the recommendations with any level of pragmatic fairness and merit.

As noted earlier, the outrage is worldwide – very vociferous and lamentable in tone. For example, Sambit Bal, the editing chief of ESPN/Cricinfo Magazine writes, “Cricket needs leadership and reform but setting up an oligarchy in the name of democracy reduces the sport to the level of commonplace commerce” (S. Bal, 2014); also, former New Zealand batsman, the Great Martin Crowe writes, “This doesn't feel right. It's not right to abandon upstanding nations, countries that have given their all to prop up the game, to cast them adrift. It is so disappointing that the ICC has failed again to find the right formula for showcasing Test cricket…….It's not right to abandon teams like New Zealand and West Indies who have given their all to prop up the game over the years..(Crowe, M, 2014); and Cricket South Africa (CSA) has called on the ICC for the immediate with-drawl of the offensive proposals (Cricinfo. 2014).

What is most outrageous about this galling and feisty attempt to introduce bigotry into international cricket once again, is the selfish role that India, of all countries is playing now, to ensure its fruition! It’s outrageous because, not so long ago, before India had reaped any notable degree of success in the international cricket arena, the said Indians were always in the vanguard of the group of dissatisfied and disgruntled critics who chastised the ICC incessantly about their lopsided cricket administrative system; and now that they have experienced the sweet savor of success, finding themselves among the four teams in the top-tier of world cricket, they are trying not only to join ranks with their administrative arch-rivals, the ECB and CA for whom they showed so much contempt in the past, but are also trying to kick down the ladder of success that took them to the comfort of their domain! It all started after 2009, when they for the first time, successfully climbed the last rung of the ladder of success to test cricket’s No 1 spot - it appears that they are now forgetting that it took them over seven and a half decades to do so!

And, what is it that is really driving all this exuberance by the Indians, who have always been trying to enthrone themselves above everyone else in world cricket? Two things: (i) The Indian society is made up of a caste system that practices the social norm of human worship! Hence, they would very much like the rest of the cricketing world to be subservient to their officials and players in the sport – we’ve had our experiences with the way they treated Sachin Tendulkar when he played – they referred to him as the “God of Cricket” – that is even after the fact that he tried for three consecutive years; batting in 40 consecutive innings (half of Sir Don Bradman’s entire career) to compile a good score (a century) to culminate his inordinately long career in convincing fashion, but failed miserably to do so; even though he was allowed to handpick the weakest bowling attack in the world to try to accomplish that feat! (ii)

They are also obsessed with the title of “best in the world” for their nationals, especially those involved in the different fields of sport – especially cricket. And they would do anything to help their nationals to achieve this title.

Hence, they think that if they are in ultimate control of the system, they would be in the position to create the standards that would dictate how “the best” is determined, but it would always be at their whims and fancies – that is, even if it means chasing down the weakest teams in the world to provide below par competition for their players – something that they’ve shown that they’re not in any way bashful of doing!

In conclusion, I think that notwithstanding the fact that the BCCI, ECB and CA contribute the lion share of the funds that run the affairs of international cricket, allowing the three such sweeping powers, is just the same as giving them absolute ‘ownership’ of the sport - that is, in accordance with the tone of the current draconian proposals before the ICC Board - this is grossly wrong! All three countries should however be adequately and fairly rewarded within ‘the financial parameters’ of the sports management, in accordance with their individual contribution towards the sport’s administration.

Hence, the pending proposals are offensive to the rest of the cricketing world, and should be withdrawn with immediate effect. The ICC should now seek the services of an independent professional agency, to study the myriad problems affecting the sport, and mandate them to also present sensible recommendations that would ensure a democratic system that caters for a successful competitive future for international cricket.
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