Dial BCCI for help to save TV revenues

Cricket boards have been worried on how to make money from TV contracts if no matches are held. The shortcut is to get a series with India, and fast.

The aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak has almost pulled the covers on the cricket field. Given their dire financial situation in these social distancing times, every cricket-playing nation is eager to have a bilateral series with India, the home of the richest cricket board in the world, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which generates almost 70% of the revenue for the International Cricket Council (ICC). Most of the series under the nascent World Test Championship have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak and some are on the verge of being delayed. Similarly, ODI and T20 series have also been put on the backburner. Given how cricket boards have sold broadcast rights for crores of rupees, it is a perplexing situation for them: how will they earn if there is no cricket? Cricket Australia, which has lost millions of dollars by investing heavily in the stock market, has had to lay-off 80% of its staff. They are finding it difficult to even organise the T20 World Cup. Australian government guidelines are strict too, no foreigner can enter that country until mid-September. The Australian guidelines can prove to be just the insulation since the ICC, which organises the T20 World Cup, will need to pay the host’s their share. But it is small change compared to a bilateral series with India. Ever since the Covid-19 havoc began to snowball, their frustration has also increased since the series has not been sealed and delivered. To make the deal sweeter for themselves, Cricket Australia has proposed to the BCCI to extend the 4-match Border-Gavaskar series with one more match. Second, the Australian board wants to host the Indian players at a luxurious hotel in Adelaide Oval for the 15- day quarantine as per guidelines. Further, Cricket Australia is ready to even hold the full series behind closed doors at the Adelaide Oval where India has done well. The reason for this generosity is the fact that Cricket Australia has a six-year deal with Fox Sports and Channel 7 for $1.2 billion. If the series does not take place, then Cricket Australia will lose at least $2 crore. The India-Australia series has gained in prestige and comes almost second after the Ashes now. It would not be wrong to say that the India-Australia series has replaced the India-Pakistan series in terms of popularity. India and Pakistan have not played a Test series since 2008, and the reason the India-Australia series has been highlighted is because of India winning the 2001 home series against Australia thanks to the heroic performances of V.V.S. Laxman and Harbhajan Singh. The Indian team is on a high in world cricket after becoming the first Asian team to beat Australia in Australia and has become world number 1. In recent times, barring New Zealand, India has done well against every other country and has become a broadcaster’s delight. Though Cricket Australia had been pretty upset with India’s disinterest for pink ball cricket, the scenario is much different now. At the Adelaide Oval, India defeated Australia last year where Cheteshwar Pujara scored a century in the first innings and a half-century in the second while Rishabh Pant equalled the record for most dismissals behind the wicket in that Test. Meanwhile, the hopes of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are pinned on the Asia Cup and they have stated that they will not push dates even if it collides with the Indian Premier League. Their frustration is felt by everyone. Pakistan’s series against Bangladesh has not been completed. Similarly, England-West Indies, New Zealand-England, South AfricaWest Indies, New Zealand-West Indies series have been postponed. The ODI series between India and South Africa has not been completed due to coronavirus. Even this year’s Pakistan Super League has not been completed. Similarly, the coronavirus sword hangs over the Caribbean League, The Hundred and the IPL. Although, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is in better shape, it is definitely losing a lot of revenue due to the postponement of many series including The Hundred. England, India and Australia generate more than 3/4th revenue in the cricket world but the ICC has scrapped the “Big 3” model. Cricket West Indies has admitted the non-payment of match fees to the players. Their men’s team has not been paid for the home series against Ireland in January and the Sri Lanka tour in February and March. It is not a secret either that to help its balance sheet, the BCCI has been playing bilateral series with Sri Lanka time to time. Other boards like Bangladesh and Pakistan are eyeing the allocations for the T20 World Cup. But the priority of the BCCI is to organise the IPL. If the T-20 World Cup is not taking place this year, the BCCI wants to use that timeframe for the IPL. That will surely bring a smile on the faces of cricketers across the world.