Faintly Orwellian: Wisden slams India’s hosting of 2023 ICC World Cup

Editor Lawrence Booth raises questions about BCCI’s strangehold on the game

India's role as 2023 World Cup host has come in for sharp criticism
India's role as 2023 World Cup host has come in for sharp criticism

NH Sports Bureau

The Wisden Cricketers Almanack’s scathing comment on the authoritarian manner in which the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) is running the sport is not going to win it many friends in India. From the inequal distribution of the central ICC (International Cricket Council) funds — which sees India pocket 38.5 per cent of the revenue — to its role as 2023 World Cup host, all have come in for some no-holds-barred criticism from arguably the most respected publication about the game.

In his editorial, Lawrence Booth — who stirred up a hornet’s next during the 2023 50-over World Cup with allegations of India changing the designated pitch ahead of the semi-final against New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium — has done it again. The inequal distribution of ICC revenues — which sees the Big Three of India, England and Australia walk away with the biggest share of the pie — is in stark contrast to the likes of the West Indies, whose own take represents just 4.58 per cent.

This had been, of course, a contentious issue in world cricket for long with erstwhile ICC president Shashank Manohar incurring the wrath of fellow officials of the BCCI (of which he had been a former boss) as he tried to bring some parity into the system. The argument that the Big Three were entitled to a larger share of the profits as they were the biggest revenue earners were first raised by N. Srinivasan at the helm of the ICC.

Meanwhile, Booth felt it was "faintly Orwellian" in the way the World Cup was politicised, as it sparked an example of "insidious nationalism". There had been several points about which the BCCI seemed answerable as hosts, from a visa clause that members of the Pakistan team and media would have to leave India within 48 hours of their team’s exit to questions over fixtures etc.    

"BCCI’s shambolic scheduling meant overseas fans were scarce, exaggerating India’s home advantage. Pitches were changed at the last minute, without the consent of the ICC, nominally in charge but unwilling to intervene. Even the fixtures list, once finally confirmed, was kind to India: at the last three World Cups, T20 and 50-over, their final group game has been against Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands — convenient, in case they needed a late boost to their net run-rate. The trend will continue this year in the USA, where their last group game is against Canada.

"This is where cricket finds itself, in dreary thrall to the notion that market forces must be obeyed," Booth writes. "Is it really beyond the wit of the administrators to distribute it (cash) according to need, not greed? The answer to too many questions in cricket is now: because we mustn’t upset India. And don’t the BCCI know it," he concludes.

Meanwhile, Australia captain Pat Cummins and Nat Sciver-Brunt were named as the leading cricketers in the world in the 2024 edition of the Almanack. Cummins has been recognised for a stellar 2023 in which the seamer led Australia to the World Test Championship title, beating India in the final. The 30-year-old is the first Australian to win the award since Michael Clarke in 2012.

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