Florida jaunt in US shows Lodha lessons have not been learnt at BCCI

First, the stingy Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was drawn out of its control tactics to revolve all development in the sport around India on a rare occasion.
A plan to have two Twenty20 matches against West Indies over two days in America was reluctantly agreed with other vested interests in mind. Certainly not to promote cricket at the neutral and burgeoning market waiting to be explored.
But more on that later.
And then when all things fell in place, the television company Star Sports were caught on the wrong foot in Florida – at a crucial moment, not just for India but also world cricket. India, needing a win to square off the two-match series, were denied by rain as much as a technical glitch. Only West Indies players and fans did not have a frown on their faces on Sunday.
The match bizarrely started 40 minutes later because of malfunctioning equipment on a truck which was not ready to broadcast the action live. The fans could wait even if 10 overs were lost. For a result in a rain-shortened game by Duckworth-Lewis method, a minimum of five overs each side is mandatory.
Then it rained for only 20 minutes during the break. Nobody could predict that. But there were no Super-soppers or equipment to speed up the ground’s readiness. Surely that could have been thought of.
The match could still be played but teams ran out of time. The 40 minutes of procrastination had cost India a result and denied Indian fans value for money for their tickets.
The lowest ticket price was 75 US dollars. Some fans drove for four-and-half hours or more to attend games, stay at hotels over the weekend and drive back to work on Monday – without full satisfaction of a complete result.
In contrast, according to Fan Cost Index chart prepared in a Team Marketing Report, an average Major League Baseball ticket costs around $25. If American fans have to be sold cricket as baseball’s equivalent and more exciting longer version, this certainly was not a good advertisement.
The BCCI are yet to give out an explanation to the stakeholders and media, let aside assuage the sentiments of fans with an apology. Barring secretary Ajay Shirke, most of the top brass of the BCCI were in attendance in Florida. But it was Shirke who gave a terse explanation while others opted to head to the airport for the return flight. “We knew the importance of this match for India. You can’t blame us for rain,” said the BCCI secretary without going into the details.
At the time of writing this, nearly three days after the incident, the word is that the call to defer the game lay at the door of the ICC match referee Rannjan Madugalle but there were “requests from the two competing members” to do so, according to the ICC.
Even if the BCCI management was not at fault, it was an opportunity for them to showcase their promise of professionalism putting their first chief executive Rahul Johri into operation for the firefighting.
They did go out of the way to have this series for the sake of Star Sports, even foresaking plans for a mini-IPL in the UAE. If reports are to be believed, Star Sports was given the telecast rights for the American experiment as a deal sweetener, and without any tenders being floated.
Star Sports had suffered as the rights-holder for India’s international matches when West Indies aborted a India tour midway in 2014.
Sony, which has the rights for the cash-rich Indian Premier League, and Star Sports are the only two big companies expected to go all out when the IPL’s next 10-year rights go up for bidding for the 2018 season.
Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away in small-town Dambulla in Sri Lanka, 45,000 fans crammed into a 17,000-seat stadium for the fourth one-day international against Australia. Thousands risked safety by climbing on to trees to witness their share of international action which came after a six-year gap.
The manic rush in Dambulla prompted Sri Lanka to apologise for the fiasco even though they had every reason to say they could not predict such large amount of gate-crashers. But the genuine ticket-paying public has been inconvenienced and so were the players, sponsors and the stakeholders.
Important to note was the wordings of a statement issued, that read: “Due to the above situation contingency measures were taken to protect the playing area and the two teams, which was considered as a priority for the continuation of the game.
“SLC wishes to state that it will take adequate measures to ensure that proper security and ushering will be in place for the upcoming matches and apologise once again for the inconvenience caused to our fans.”
On the other hand, there are no signs that the jaunt in America is haunting the BCCI even with India’s supreme court keeping a close watch after its RM Lodha-led committee dissected the BCCI’s way of functioning over the years and have laid out reform guidelines.
And that is worrying.

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