Forget Revenue-Share Models, the BCCI Needs to Lobby for Another Slot for the WTC Final

Credit: IPL

BCCI is the most powerful cricket board in the world. Anyone who is at The Oval for the World Test Championship (WTC) final can see the truth about where power rests in world cricket. Jay Shah, Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and head of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), is arguably the most powerful man in cricket at the moment. And there is nothing that will change this power dynamic in the foreseeable future.

That’s what brings me to this point. Much has been said and written about the new revenue-distribution model proposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The figures, involves, however, are small change compared to what the BCCI rakes in every year from the IPL, the jewel in its crown. Analysis after analysis looks at BCCI ‘bullying’ being behind this new revenue pie.

But if the BCCI really did want to throw its weight around, what it should be doing is lobbying for a change in the scheduling of the WTC final. However much the Indians are castigated for underperforming with the bat at The Oval, the truth is that even Sir Donald Bradman would have found it difficult to come and perform in English conditions against the moving ball after two months of slam-bang IPL cricket. 

It is just not possible to make the technical adjustments and adapt to bowler-friendly conditions in a week. No practice match and not a single first-class game means you go into the final without a single long-form game for months. And if this scheduling is allowed to carry on, India will never be 100 percent prepared for a WTC final.

In 2021, New Zealand were in England for close to a month, and played two Test matches against England before the WTC final. They were accustomed to the pace, bounce and lateral movement on offer in Southampton, and it was no surprise that they used the experience to their advantage. Kane Williamson had referred to this after winning the inaugural WTC.

If it was New Zealand then, it is Australia now. While the Australians were practicing with the red ball in Sydney, most of the Indian players who are here were busy playing the IPL play-offs. And with the IPL schedule being sacrosanct and the tournament being the beating heart of India’s cricket economy, the only option for the BCCI is to push for the WTC final to be hosted at a later date. A one-off Test could certainly be played in September in England, and such a schedule would allow India to prepare better.

While we are all disappointed at the way the Indians batted, truth be told, there was always the apprehension that they wouldn’t have enough time to prepare. In each of our broadcasts on RevSportz, we have been asking this question. We asked the same question to Greg Chappell and Gideon Haigh, and also to Sourav Ganguly. Sachin Tendulkar too alluded to this in an interview he did for 100MB. It is slightly unfair on our batters to expect them to make the transition with ease. 

That’s where the BCCI can step in. A small tweak to the schedule that moves the WTC final closer to the end of the English summer would allow the batters to do justice to such an opportunity. 

If we do an analysis of social-media trends, the one common thread is that the Indian batters aren’t good enough. Rohit Sharma is past his prime, Virat Kohli hasn’t scored big overseas in over two years, CheteshwarPujara is on borrowed time, Ajinkya Rahane isn’t the same anymore, and KS Bharat is not Test-match material. A huge number of fans have also started attacking the IPL. 

These so-called fans are the very same ones who were busy celebrating the IPL and raving about the brand just a week earlier. And now, the IPL is to blame, and a target of all frustration. It is allegedly because of the IPL that India is behind in the Test match, with the players only interested in making money. These fans aren’t really individuals who know or understand the sport. 

Each of the players playing the final are proud sportsmen doing a job for their country. Each of them want to win. That’s why they are here. And that’s why a slight push from the BCCI would enable them to prepare better. Frankly, it would make the WTC final a level playing field, and save the team from unfair social-media ire. 

Just as I was walking out of The Oval, I overheard a few journalists saying that these players could all hit the ball during the IPL, but here they turned into duds because this is the real deal. Each of these journalists, one can bet, were all praise for some of these players during the IPL. The truth is that the IPL calls for a particular kind of skill-set. Test cricket, on the other hand, requires a very different kind of skill and focus. And the transition from one to the other needs time. 

That’s where we need the BCCI to lobby the ICC. For, only then can India be at their best for a WTC final. 

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