A new spin on India’s SA cricket tour

The immediate future of cricket in South Africa will be decided this week when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) holds its annual general meeting. The two most important decisions for South Africans will be the duration of India's end-of-year tour to this country and the election of a president.

Narayanaswami Srinivasan, the man vehemently opposed to Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA), and equally committed to bankrupting the game in this country by cancelling or severely curtailing the tour, seems certain to be re-elected as BCCI president.

But one of the country's affiliated associations has lodged a request for an injunction to prevent Srinivasan from standing in the wake of Indian police charging his son-in-law, Gurunuth Meiyappan, with "cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy" for his role in an illegal Indian Premier League (IPL) betting scandal. India's Supreme Court has agreed to consider the request.

Srinivasan was typically bullish this week, saying his son-in-law's nefarious dealings with the underworld have "nothing to do with me". Meiyappan, he said, would "have to defend his position. The law will take its own course."

The only problem with that position appears to be that Srinivasan appointed the chief operating officer of the Chennai Super Kings, the IPL franchise that he owns. Yet Srinivasan says there is nothing for which he should feel responsible.

One of the charges Mumbai police laid against Meiyappan is that he told a bookmaker his team would score between 130 and 140 runs in a match against IPL team the Rajasthan Royals on May 12 this year – and lose. They scored 141-5 and lost with 17 balls to spare.

Given Srinivasan's inability to comprehend the gentlest of raised eyebrows regarding his position in charge of the board, which generates around 75% of the game's global revenue, it is fanciful to imagine that he might care about South Africa's plight once a R200-million hole has been punched into its stomach.

Indeed, he has punctuated his attitude and demeanour towards South Africa with metaphorical shoulder shrugs and comments that indicate India has no obligation to South Africa and never agreed to the three-Test, seven-ODI schedule that CSA announced in early July.

Caught out
Could he be wrong? Is there, in fact, a documented commitment to the series? 

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has quietly and understandably distanced itself from the crisis, insisting that it is a bilateral tour and therefore a private matter between the two boards involved. But it is not quite that simple.

All 10 full-member nations agreed in June 2011 to a new future tours programme (FTP) schedule for 2012-2020. This agreement was the basis for all members commercialising their bilateral series rights. The 10 nations agreed to roll over the previous FTP agreement, which governs the FTP schedule, but with one additional clause. No changes could be made to the FTP in the 12 months prior to the declaration of the ODI and Test Championship cut-off dates.

It was a measure designed to prevent manipulation of the rankings with the hasty organisation of a series against weaker opposition outside of the confirmed FTP or the reduction, postponement or cancellation of a series against stronger opposition. There is significant prize money for the number one-ranked team in both formats, never mind the pride.

Srinivasan says India has made no commitment to South Africa and is under no obligation to play any more than the FTP minimum requirement of two Tests and three ODIs.

A concerned ICC insider confirmed this week that Srinivasan has got that wrong. The minutes of the ICC board meeting of June 2011 confirm that the ICC board, which included Srinivasan's predecessor, Shashank Manohar, commits the Indian team to the full original tour schedule. Moreover, Srinivasan was a member of the chief executives' committee that recommended the new FTP for approval and a key architect in producing the programme.

In theory, the ICC insider said, this means CSA could sue the BCCI for losses incurred on a shortened tour, which are expected to be at least R150-million.

Nobody wants to see that happen, least of all the ICC, which would be required to take action against the BCCI: a bookish head boy tackling the corpulent, self-serving headmaster. CSA could also claim compensation from the West Indies and New Zealand for infringing an FTP window reserved for CSA and the BCCI.

CSA might win its case for compensation, perhaps even punitive damages, but the stakes would be higher than almost anyone can imagine. Men like Srinivasan do not take kindly to having their actions questioned. 

If CSA sued successfully, they would have to hope that Srinivasan is a long way from power and influence of any sort the next time a tour between the two countries is organised. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Neil Manthorp
Neil Manthorp works from Cape Town. Talk and write about cricket,golf and most sports. Executive Coach. Cook for the family when at home. Neil Manthorp has over 27405 followers on Twitter.

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