What can be done about India?

Yesterday it was revealed that not only were Sky making plans to cover the India v England Test series from home, the BBC had also been asked to pay an extra fee to get into the ground and now they might not cover the series at all.

Although it is good that neither Sky nor the BBC are giving in and that no one in England will be stuck with the ESPN STAR Sports commentary, not having TMS would be a tragedy. It is also a breathtakingly petty and spiteful move by the BCCI and their attitude makes one’s blood boil. It almost goes without saying now that the next time India tour England the ECB should treat the Indian broadcasters the same way or better yet, just refuse to let them in the ground full stop. This is in essence what the BCCI are doing already. I would love to see the ECB properly stand up to them and engage in a bit of tit-for-tat: sell them the rights, but then claim that the rights did not actually include entrance to the ground and close the door on them.

But this is just the latest in a much broader pattern of behaviour from the BCCI. It’s most notable in their stubborn and irrational refusal to allow the DRS to be adopted and in their imposition of their T20 schedule (both the IPL and ‘Champions’ League) on the rest of the world. The problem is not, or at least not primarily, that the BCCI have too much power. They do, but with the current structure of world cricket and the ICC it is almost inevitable that someone will have a disproportionate amount of power and influence. Right now it’s India. But the problem is that the BCCI use that power not only to secure their own interests, but to actively impose themselves on all other nations. There is no excuse whatsoever for their current behaviour with the broadcasting rights; it is simply a transparent attempt to use dodgy means to dictate terms to England.

The ECB, Sky and the BBC are not just rolling over and accepting this, which is good. As mentioned above, Sky and the BBC both refused to pay the exorbitant fees the BCCI demanded and the ECB have pulled the counties from the farcical ‘Champions’ League. But all are small matters to the BCCI and whilst they are all heartening they will have no long-term effect. Indeed, shutting the English broadcasters out of the grounds may be seen as a desirable outcome for the BCCI. The ECB need to then think more deeply about how to check the BCCI’s impositions. Obviously this is easier said than done and there is every chance that there is already discussion on this matter. The financial stakes are still much higher for England and the rest of the world than they are for India, but with India steadily becoming more dismissive of Test cricket that may start to change.

Until a better option comes along it looks like England, ideally in collaboration with the other established nations and particularly Australia, will have to simply continue to engage in tit-for-tat. And, of course, inflicting as many 0-4 series on India as possible!

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