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It has always been a precedent to discredit the BCCI for what it has achieved during the last three decades for Indian Cricket. As the Indian cricket team is about to start its campaign at T-20 world cup, there will be voices that will say this country only gives attention to the cricket, audience, sponsors, government, everyone just loves cricket and other games are ignored in order to promote cricket. In my opinion, such arguments are not only irrational but I believe these are arguments that emphasize that we do not want to look at reality. If one remembers early 90’s Hockey matches attracted huge audiences, much better than cricket. So what happened in between these years? If we analyze the causes with a rational approach we will find that all the magic lies in the professionalism, good governance, commitment for the sport, domestic structure and marketing of the particular sport.
I firmly believe that all the sport administration bodies and associations need to either replicate or develop an administration system inspired by the BCCI administration structure. So what is it that the BCCI does and other sports admin bodies don’t? Let’s find out below.
There was a time before the early 1980’s when cricket was not the darling of brands for endorsements. International players were not millionaires and cricket actually had less audience than Hockey and Football. We can give credit to the 1983 world cup for turning things around for cricket in India, but the story actually starts after that. After that historic win, the BCCI saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. The administration was structured in a more professional manner and all affiliated state bodies were brought under a centralized governing body. The core administration was always in the hands of ex-players or coaches. When the money started flowing in, the centralized BCCI system ensured that state bodies receive their fair amount for the development of cricket at the domestic level. This structure allowed Indian cricket to develop as a formidable force in the world arena with the backing of a solid domestic league structure. Unfortunately organized structure and professionalism have been missing from most of the sports administration bodies and in some cases, people in the highest position have never been associated with that respective sport. Therefore, any other sport that wants to do well and attract sponsorship and audiences, needs to clear up the mess in their administrative bodies on a priority basis.
Robust Domestic Structure:
It is a well-known fact that in the previous few decades BCCI has developed a solid domestic cricket structure that functions well. They have successfully created the most prestigious professional leagues like IPL, Ranji Trophy, Dileep Trophy etc. While the other sports have lagged behind in this regard. There have been few professional leagues that have been initiated in sports like Kabbadi, Hockey, Tennis, Badminton and Football but the problem is that respective sports governing bodies are not directly involved in the conceptualization and organization of these leagues. When we compare domestic sports infrastructure developed by BCCI in various states to the infrastructure of other sports, the difference is huge. On the one hand, State cricket associations have International level facilities for domestic junior-level players, whereas in other sports this is not the case. Therefore, kids and parents are more inclined towards cricket.
When it comes to marketing sports, BCCI has certainly done a great job, which in turn attracted an audience and sponsors. Again other sport administration bodies will have to pull up their socks and invest in the marketing of their respective sport. Cricket is not a popular sport around the world, only 16-20 countries participate in the world cup, whereas Football is played by literally every country on the planet, despite that cricket is the most popular game in India. We can say that along with professionalism BCCI’s aggressive marketing has put the sport on the top sought for the Indian audience.
Safeguarding the Interest of Players
If you are a cricketer and you haven’t represented the country at the highest level, still you will have enough opportunities to make a career out of it, whereas if you are an athlete in India who has represented the country at the highest level, there is still no guarantee of a stable financial future. We have to appreciate BCCI for implementing a lucrative salary structure even at the domestic level, they have great pension plans and enough opportunities within the domestic league circuit where a player can have a long and sustainable career with financial security. On the other hand, we have examples of many great athletes who were ignored by their associations and ended up as financially vulnerable individuals. This is an important issue and administrative bodies of all the sports must work towards this on the lines of the BCCI.
BCCI has evolved with time in its operational capabilities and it holds an important and decisive position at the International Cricket Council, it is one of the richest cricket boards in the world and IPL is among one the richest professional leagues on the planet. We should be actually proud of these facts and instead of criticizing cricket for our shortcomings, we should work on the shortcomings that we are facing in the administration of other sports. BCCI has set a great example for others to follow, now it depends on all the sports bodies if they would want to follow the BCCI in the interest of their players and the sport or it will be business as usual.