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Spectre of cricket apartheid

THE proposal by the so-called ‘big three’ of international cricket—Australia, England and India—for a drastic reorganisation of the International Cricket Council essentially envisages institution of apartheid in the way the game is governed globally. The ‘finance and governance draft proposal’, which is scheduled for debate at the council’s meeting in Dubai today and tomorrow, proposes a promotion and relegation system in test cricket with the three proponents exempted from relegation, regardless of their rankings. While the proposal, which needs support from eight of the ten test-playing countries but has already run into stiff opposition and stinging criticism from South Africa, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Pakistan, is unlikely to be passed, it has set a dangerous tone for the discourse on the game’s governance in the days to come. In all intents and purposes, it seems to have confirmed that cricket may soon be, if it is not already, a game for the moneyed people, as part of what may be called a colonial realignment driven by the old coloniser and two colonised that still suffer from colonial hangover.
In Bangladesh’s context, the raging controversy over the ‘big three’ proposal has exposed, yet again, the gulf between the aspirations of people at large and the ruling political elite. While millions of Bangladesh’s cricket lovers sharply reacted to what amounts to blatant affront to what the game stands for, the Bangladesh Cricket Board, let alone reject it outright, chose to look for strategic (read monetary) benefits on offer under the proposed system and even voted in favour of the proposal on January 23, that too by an overwhelming majority of 20-3. Moreover, the board and its board of directors seem to have acted almost identically as the Awami League-led government and its cabinet, especially in terms of giving precedence to what India wants over what Bangladesh deserves. Although the board has since refuted reports over the vote on the proposal, it seems to have done very little in dispelling the widespread doubt that the top governing body for cricket in the country may not be able, if not willing, to protect the country’s interest, especially after the BCB president’s waffling over the issue at the news briefing following the January 23 meeting.
While the controversial move to drastically reorganise the ICC is unlikely to garner the required support, it may have caused an irreparable chasm in the cricketing community, for which Australia, England and India need to be called into account. Perhaps, the governing bodies of other test-playing countries would be well-advised to subject the three to limited boycotts even. Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Cricket Board needs to do some serious soul searching. If its board of directors is actually as indifferent to the interest of the country in particular and the game in general as it has appeared thus far, maybe it should step down and make way for those who do care.

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