The Rs 1500 crore dilemma - cricket for india
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The Rs 1500 crore dilemma

- By Vedam Jaishankar    

How on earth is the Board of Control for Cricket in India going to spend the whopping Rs 1500 crores it hopes to raise through the awarding of television rights? Forget the controversy surrounding the Zee Vs Espn Vs BCCI tussle. Instead, dwell for a minute on the Board's bonanza. This has more than a semblance to a fairy tale, where Ali Baba stands in front of rocks in Persia and yells `Open Sesame.'

It is a tribute to the business acumen of Jagmohan Dalmiya that his `Open Sesame' call has brought this mind-boggling booty to Indian cricket. But pray, is there a plan in place to put to good use this astronomical sum?

Knowing the Board and its style of functioning, it would be out of character if it has thought out the use for the money.

ashok mankad

Jagmohan Dalmiya, President, Board of Control for Cricket in India

A casual calculation of the booty is truly revealing. The Rs. 1500 crore is worth Rs 12.5 crore annually for each of the 30 affiliated units of the Board. Of course, there could be an argument that the Board has expenses to meet like the running of the National Cricket Academy, Zonal academies, first-class cricket, junior cricket, India 'A' team tours, Board set-up, meetings, etc, etc. But it also has other incomes to bank on, by way of sponsorships (for example the India Vs. Australia home series has TVS as the main sponsor), Guarantee money, share of ICC money, etc and these also run into millions of dollars.

However, accepting that the Board requires 50 per cent of the Rs 1500 crore to meet its commitments to run the game, each of the affiliated units still stands to gain a minimum of Rs 6 crore per year. What will some of the units do with this enormous sum of money?

It would be pertinent to point out that in the Board's set-up, each unit, no matter whether it is the little known, little active Kolkata's National Cricket Club or tiny Tripura Cricket Association or an ambitious and active body like Mumbai Cricket Association, has one vote. In the Board's scheme of things, Tripura's vote is as valuable as Mumbai's.

The latter might have produced dozens of international cricketing heroes, run massive cricket leagues for decades together, won the Ranji Trophy umpteen number of times, conducted innumerable Tests and One-dayers, thrown up reputed coaches, umpires, sponsors, etc. Tripura, on the other hand might have done nothing of the sort. But in the boardroom, it is the equal of Mumbai and is as powerful as the cricketing powerhouse. In fact, such is the peculiar constitution of the Board that if all the small associations ganged up, they could keep the major associations (Mumbai, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, et al) out of the picture for all time to come. Truly, the Board politics is staggering and many are convinced that there exists a situation where the tail wags the dog.

Thus, associations like Tripura, Baroda, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, et al; even if they do not have their own infrastructure (some of them have major corporates who own stadia) will end up with pots of money in their kitty when the new sale of television rights goes through. If they do not have a programme like the Karnataka State Cricket Association does (of upgrading the stadium to international class, running a State Cricket Academy that takes the game to the nook and corner of the state, setting up State-wide infrastructure which includes grounds, gymnasiums, swimming pools, nets, turf pitches, Frank Tyson-directed coaching certificate schemes for rural coaches, etc) they could well end up handing over a major portion of the money to the tax man (new tax laws call for 80 per cent of the earnings of Trusts, Society and such bodies to be spent for the cause the same year. Money could be set aside only for major infrastructure projects to be completed within two years).

In such a scenario, what would an association without a stadium to build or improve, massive junior cricket programme, tremendous promotional activities and the like do with sums of money as huge as Rs. 6 crore? Would the office-bearers fly around in chartered flights, or conduct meetings in exotic locations, or whale in vulgar luxury? I have no idea. I suspect, neither do the affiliated units.

Probably the pressing need is the services of reputed financial consultants, money managers, professional CEOs and the like. Sure, they would cost a packet. But they would bring expertise in management that many of the Board units now lack. Transparency could be a welcome by-product. Irrespective of which channel bags the television rights to Indian cricket, one thing is certain: We are in for interesting times.