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December 14, 2000

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CBI versus the BCCI -- Part V --
The Sharjah syndrome

The Rediff Team

Continuing our examination of the CBI's charge sheet against the BCCI and the latter's response, we turn today to the question of India's participation in various tournaments in Sharjah.

As always, let us set the stage by quoting the CBI's indictment relating to the subject in question.

The CBI case

"Some of the policies of the BCCI during the past decade which have directly contributed to match-fixing and related malpractices are:
(a) Frequent tours to controversial venues like Sharjah, Singapore, Toronto etc; (b) Thoughtless increase in one day internationals."

The BCCI defense

Sharjah Now, here is something strange. In the entire CBI report, the agency mentions Sharjah just once, that too not highlighting the venue, but mentioning it as one of the irregular venues the Board keeps scheduling ODIs in.

But that passing mention seems to have hit a raw nerve, judging by the length and detail of the BCCI's response. Check out the first paragraph of the BCCI's response to this charge: "Apart from specific mention of the Coca-Cola Cup in Sharjah in 1998, the CBI report has generally castigated India’s participation in the Sharjah tournaments. It is therefore, important to deal with the background of India’s participation in the tournaments at Sharjah and the rationale behind such participation over the years."

Strange -- the CBI in fact has not specifically castigated India's participation in Sharjah, which makes you wonder about the vehemence of the BCCI's response. A case of "Methinks the lady doth protest too much"?

Here is the entire text of the BCCI response to this particular indictment. Given its length, we are attaching it as a separate document.

To further underline the BCCI's aggressive stance on Sharjah, check out this excerpt from a conversation our Special Correspondent, Faisal Shariff, had with BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele on December 7:

Faisal: On another subject, the other day I learnt that our contract with the CBFS is to play in Sharjah once a year. How come we keep going more often? What is the attraction for playing in Sharjah?

Lele: India will play 15 times in Sharjah, who are you to ask why we are playing there? According to the contract we are supposed to play once, yes, but it is our prerogative how many times we send our team there.

Faisal: But the problem is that in the process, we do not get such tournaments happening in India. There has been no quadrangular tournament in India after the Independence Cup in 1997, for instance. This means that the local associations lose chances to make money...

Lele: India is ready to host quadrangulars and six-nation tournaments, but are the countries ready to come? Can Pakistan come and play here? Will the Indian government permit it? All the other countries are busy with their own schedules. No country wants to take the risk of saying yes and then having to rethink the whole season if the government cancels the tour.

That just about sums up the BCCI attitude on the subject -- "Who are you to ask me?" And the BCCI's response to hard questions -- fudging. The question is about why triangulars haven't been held in India. And the BCCI promptly shifts the blame onto the government. The government did in fact permit Pakistan to tour. The government denied permission to India to tour -- just a couple of months ago. How can that be the reason for not having any tri-series for the last three years? Further, where lies the logic in arguing that other teams are scared to come here because they think the Indian government might deny permission? Incidentally, Lele's knowledge of politics is not an issue, yet the question needs asking -- is India engaged in a covert war with any of the other top cricket-playing nations? If not, where lies the risk of the government denying permission to other teams to tour?

Is this arrogance justified? Is the BCCI above and beyond all questioning? Is the BCCI's defence of Sharjah on the money? These are the questions we attempt to answer here.

The Facts of the Case

Check out the table given below:

ODI MATCH results at Sharjah since 1984

Team Played Won Loss Tie
Australia 18 10 8 -
Bangladesh 5 - 5 -
England 13 7 6 -
India 72 35 37 -
New Zealand 21 6 14 1
Pakistan 86 57 28 1
South Africa 10 8 2 -
Sri Lanka 57 20 35 2
United Arab E 2 - 2 -
West Indies 35 18 17 -
Zimbabwe 15 4 11 -
TOTALS 167 165 165 2

For starters, it is clear that India is second only to Pakistan when it comes to playing at Sharjah. And the difference between the two teams is explained by the fact that for two years, the BCCI did not send its teams to the venue. Further, India's participation is far more than that of other nations -- the difference in fact is startling when you consider countries like Australia and South Africa, which have made a conscious attempt to balance Tests and ODIs, and refused to take part in meaningless one-day thrashes.

Sri Lanka is third in the list -- a statistic that is easily understandable when you consider two factors: One, till very recently, Sri Lanka was not able to persuade other teams to tour their country with any regularity, nor did it get consistent invites to tour abroad. And secondly, following the win in the 1996 World Cup, asking Sri Lanka to play ODIs became financially attractive. India for its part last won a World Cup in 1983.

Does India, as the CBI charges, give inordinate importance to ODIs? That point has been addressed in an earlier part of the series (See the link below this article).

Now to take a look at the board's own attitude towards Sharjah, and how it has changed over time. Exhibit one, this verbatim extract from the Minutes of the Working Committee Meeting of the BCCI on June 2 and 3, 1990, at the Taj Palace, New Delhi:

"Item No.6: To consider the letter dated 26.6.90 received from CBFS requesting to reconsider the decision of the Board for participation in Sharjah tournament in December 1990.

Letter dated 26.6.1990 received by Shri Ranbir Singh Mahendra, honorary secretary, from Shri Asif Iqbal was taken up for discussion.

Members were of the opinion that there was no reason to reconsider our earlier decision not to participate in the tournament being conducted by the CBFS in December 1990 and that they should be informed that Indian team's not participating is for this year only. Honorary Secretary was requested to take further action in the matter."

If you check the list of beneficiaries contained in the BCCI's defence, you will find that by December 1990, as many as 20 Indian cricketers had already received purses from the CBFS, as beneficiaries. Which is close to half the total number (46) of Indian cricketers who have benefited thus far.

The BCCI says that it plays in Sharjah at every opportunity simply because Indian cricketers benefit. Does it not beg the question -- how come the board, in the meeting cited above, was prepared to turn down an invitation to play in Sharjah? Was the benefit to Indian cricketers not a paramount consideration at that date?

Subsequently, no less than Abdul Rehman Bukhatir wrote to the board, asking the BCCI to reconsider and go ahead with the tour. The Board refused.

Move on, now, to the Special General Meeting of the BCCI at HOtel Connemara, Madras, on January 10, 1992. In course of which two very important resolutions are moved, and debated. The text is somewhat lengthy, and is therefore reproduced here as a separate document.

Read it? Now please note: In 1992, no less than Jagmohan Dalmiya is stinging in his indictment of Sharjah. He suggests that "rules are bent to suit the organizers" -- does it suggest match-fixing? He exhorts the board to pass a resolution that India will never, ever, play in Sharjah again. And the board then moves on to discuss ways of replacing the Sharjah tournament with a home-grown version, in order to benefit Indian cricketers.

We move on. To the Board's Working Committee meeting at Calcutta, August 9, 1997. Where it is discussed that India should not play in Sharjah more than once a year.

And finally, to that famous meeting at the Taj Coromandel on November 6 and 7, 1997. The meeting during which annual elections to the BCCI had to be postponed, while a vicious faction fight broke out between the Dalmiya and Bindra factions. The meeting where Dalmiya, as ICC Chairman, participated with full voting rights despite the ICC clause that prohibits him from doing so (This particular incident was highlighted in full in an earlier part of this series).

Here, attached as a separate document, is the relevant extract from the Minutes of that 1997 Board meeting.

Through reading? Do note the salient points: I S Bindra argues that India should not visit Sharjah a second time in the year. He points out that the Independence Cup was a huge success and that by organizing more such tournaments instead of playing in Sharjah, India will in fact be able to earn more and as a result, pay out greater sums as benefit to our cricketers.

Sharjah B Y Lele says there is no reason why India should not go to Sharjah more than once a year. P M Rungta, who earlier was backing Dalmiya's stand that India should never play in Sharjah again, does a right about turn, and argues that while it is true that the Board earns less in Sharjah, we should "consider the yeoman services of the CBFS...". And Dalmiya, chairman of the ICC at the time, puts the seal on it by saying that if India can organize tournaments, fine, but if it can't, it should play in Sharjah any number of times.

Does it strike you, in passing, that this "if India can organize tournaments" is a bit like the story of the girl who went around claiming "I wouldn't go to bed with the king" and got a reputation for chastity as a result? Till, that is, the day someone turned around and asked her, "Fine, but tell me, did the king ever invite you to his bed?"

Similarly -- when the Board keeps saying that India goes to Sharjah because it has no other commitments, the question that needs to be asked is - did the Board try to invite any other team or teams during that period?

To round this off, some more relevant facts. The CBI charge, remember, is that the board is not only giving excessive weightage to ODIs in irregular venues, but also in the process underselling itself, and taking a financial loss by playing in venues like Sharjah. The BCCI says not. The facts? Here goes -- and since the Board has picked on 1998 as its line of argument, here are some facts culled from the Board's own annual financial report for the year 1998-1999. What follows is an itemized list of all tours undertaken by India during the year in question, as also the occasions when India hosted tournaments:

1) Australia's tour to India:

Total income: Rs 51,467,341. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 24,880,853

2) India's tour to Sharjah, April 1998:

Total income: 16,233,534. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 5,235,554

3) India, Kenya, Bangladesh Triangular Series:

Total income: Rs 25,875,000. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 1,031,164

4) India tour to Sri Lanka

Total income: 17,276,863. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 7,840,751.

5) Sahara Cup, Toronto

Total income: Rs 57,900,442. Excess of Income over Expenditure: 38,536,944

6) Indian tour to Zimbabwe:

Income: 9,139,869. Excess of income over expenditure: Rs 2,000,315

7) Wills ICC Knockout Tournament:

Total income: Rs 10,194,690. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 3,393,943.

8) Tour to Sharjah November 1998:

Total income: Rs 18,247,592. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 761,702

9) Indian tour to New Zealand:

Total income: Rs 23,783,690. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 9,328,839.

10) Pakistan tour to India (two Tests):

Total income: Rs 23,230,189. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 2,642,770

11) Asian Test Championship:

Total income: Rs 15,348,000. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 9,116,780.

Pepsi Triangular -- March 1999:

Total income: Rs 36,501, 768. Excess of Income over Expenditure: Rs 12,293,630.

That's it for the various tours. Please remember that the Excess of Income over Expense is calculated after deducting contributions to the Benevolent Funds of both players and umpires, transfer to the Ranji Trophy Fund, and transfer to the General Benevolent Fund -- in other words, these are profits after the players and officials are taken care of.

Now then, is the Board better off touring Sharjah, or organizing tours at home? One simple comparison gives the answer:

India toured Sharjah in April 1998. Total income 16,233,534, Net Profit: 5,233,554. Immediately thereafter, India played a triseries at home, the other teams being Kenya and Bangladesh. You will agree that on paper, the home series does not have the glamor and appeal of Sharjah. Yet, what are the figures? Total income: 25,875,000. Which is considerably higher than the income earned by going to Sharjah. Net profit from the triseries: Rs 1,310,164. Which is considerably under the profit from Sharjah. So when the board justifies playing in Sharjah, it is right, right?

Wrong. It is merely clever accounting. Remember that net profit is calculated after deducting payments into the benevolent and Ranji funds. So here is the trick:

For the April 1998 Sharjah tournament, the Board has paid into the various benevolent funds and the Ranji Trophy fund, a sum of Rs 1,258,104. For the Kenya tournament immediately following, the board paid into the three funds a total of 3,687,272.

So why are profits down for the home series -- against Kenya and Bangladesh, for god's sake -- as opposed to Sharjah? Because the board padded the expense sheet for the latter tournament.

And how about the second time India toured Sharjah that year? Net profit -- Rs 761,702.

??!!. Just seven lakh? How does that stand comparison with other earnings, and profits, that year? How does that justify sending the team to Sharjah a second time?

And finally, there's this: In its defence, the BCCI accuses the CBI of fudging figures. By way of example, the BCCI says in its defence that for the Wills ICC Knockout Cup, the CBI in its report has said that the Board received Rs 46 lakh by way of guarantee money, that the BCCI in fact received Rs 51 lakh, and that there is a 10 per cent discrepancy between the facts, and the CBI's version thereof.

Is the BCCI charge, that the CBI figures are less than accurate, true?

Not unless the rupee is in bigger trouble than we think it is. Remember this tournament was in 1998. The Guarantee Money paid by the ICC to India for the tournament in question was US $110,000. During 1998, the highest that the rupee traded against the dollar was 44.8 -- it never crossed 45 during the year. At that rate, how does $110,000 become Rs 51 lakh as claimed by the BCCI?

But why bother theorizing? Refer again to the BCCI's own financial statement for the year in question. Page 59. Accounts of the Wills ICC Knockout Tournament. And there, in bold type, at the very top, is this entry:

Guarantee Money from ICC: US $110,000 == Rs 4,634,300.

46 lakh. Which is exactly what the CBI said. Where is the 51 lakh the BCCI claims to have got as guarantee money? There is a 10 per cent discrepancy -- but it is the BCCI, not the CBI, that cites the wrong figure. So who is lying here?

To wrap this segment, a couple of questions need to be asked:

1) A few years back, a private consortium approached the BCCI with a proposal to host a one day triangular or quadrangular in India every year. The consortium offered to do all the work -- line up the top teams, organize the entire tournament from soup to nuts. And to pay the BCCI more than twice the guarantee money it was getting from Sharjah. Further, the consortium said that at the end of each tournament, four Indian cricketers would get benefit purses (as opposed to three in Sharjah), and the amount paid to each cricketer would be double what was handed out in Sharjah. Why was this proposal, so clearly to the BCCI's benefit, turned down? Is it because the one thing the consortium asked in return was the television rights, and this did not suit certain members of the BCCI?

2) Up till the middle of the last decade, the BCCI went out of its way to organize international triangulars at home -- even roping in Kenya and Bangladesh when the leading countries were unavailable. Why then has the BCCI not organized a single tournament at home, given the obvious monetary benefits, after the Independence Cup of 1997, while at the same time being ready and willing to play twice a year in Sharjah during the same period? Again, will the BCCI tell us whether television rights had anything to do with this willingness to play at a venue where, according to Mr Dalmiya himself, "organizers were bending the rules to suit themselves"?

The Series

Part I - One dayers versus Test cricket

Part II - International players and their domestic commitments

Part III - Transparency in appointment of coaches and managers

Part IV - A question of appointments

Part VI - Keeping it in the Rungta family.

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