Deep Backward Point

Blog against the machine.

Tag: Board of Control for Cricket in India

Stop Praying for a Whitewash in Australia

I follow politics– U.S. politics– quite closely. In the two years preceding the 2008 election, you could say I followed it more than anything else.

In politics, broadly speaking, there are two types of people– the partisans and the ideologues. The partisans fundamentally want their party to win, and will give up on smaller points of ideology. The ideologues support a cause, and will oppose everyone opposed to their cause, regardless of party affiliation. Obviously, there is overlap between the groups depending on the cause.

Over a long enough time scale, neither side is obviously right. The partisan can claim to shoot for the 80% good solution instead of waiting for 100%, keeping the big picture in mind, and positing that the only way to effect change is by winning elections. The partisan votes for the team that is mostly like them.

The ideologue favors building movements, affecting public opinion. They may largely vote for a particular party, but this is by providence, not by design. The ideologue may be pure in intentions, but also may have the effect of sabotaging long term gains for ideological purity.

The partisan, on the other hand, may do the opposite. He may sabotage short term gains for electoral success. The mental calculus of the abominable partisan goes something like this: “I hope the economy tanks by November, so the ruling party loses and my party wins.”

And this is where we switch to talking about cricket.

Venkat Ananth, the writer for Yahoo! Cricket, has been beating this particular drum for quite some time now:

Four months ago, when Indian cricket should have been introspecting for its failures in England, the BCCI had two clear options – one, to bite the bullet, conduct a thoroughly honest review of everything wrong with Indian cricket and introduce correctives to fix the inherent systemic flaws; or two, to remain firmly in denial as if they never happened.

He launches in to an epic rant on every popular criticism of BCCI and the Indian cricket establishment. I agree with much of it, disagree with some.

Until he gets to this bit (emphasis added):

Lastly and more importantly, I hope that India gets whitewashed in Australia. Call me unpatriotic (and I’ve defended a lot of that tripe in the past), but quite honestly, that could be the best possible result for Indian cricket’s long-term interest, in my view.

So let me get this straight, dear partisan friend. If India end the series on 2-2, coming from behind to win the last two tests in what would turn out to be the most dramatic series in recent memory, you would be unhappy.

Thank you, I have no further questions.

The thing about partisans is that they need the world to fit their narrative. If the economy tanks by November, Obama is toast. So if you oppose Obama, you may end up hoping the economy doesn’t improve. In 2004, catching Saddam Hussein was viewed as a political victory for George W. Bush. As a partisan opposed to Bush, you may wish Saddam had not been captured. For all the wrong reasons

These are wishes (and people) removed from reality, but they pervade our political process.

The weird thing about Mr. Ananth’s article is that what he ultimately wants is an ideological victory– for the BCCI to change to suit his ideal. And it’s a worthy ideal.

But he’s willing to give up the present. He’s willing to give up on short-term victories, on short-term miracles. He’s willing to give up on the grind. Like a comic book villain, he wishes for short-term devastation, so that he can build a new world order.

If I ever wish for an Indian loss for the greater good, dear reader, I give you the permission to slap me sideways.

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Chennai Super Kings Terminate the Kochi Franchise

I’m going to harp on this until N. Srinivasan is either out of the BCCI or no longer owns CSK. From the Cricinfo report:

When asked if Kochi had any chance of returning, Srinivasan responded: “No, we have terminated the franchise because the breach is not capable of being remedied.”

That is, BCCI president  CSK owner N. Srinivasan announcing the termination of Kochi Tuskers Kerela. I’m not saying Kochi didn’t deserve it, but I am saying this situation is untenable.

For more background:

Why India Needs a Players Association

Over at Cricinfo today, Osman Samiuddin makes the case for a Pakistan cricket players association:

There has never been a greater need for one than now. Shahid Afridi’s needless legal battle with the board is only the latest in a burgeoning collection. Shoaib Akhtar’s fight with Nasim Ashraf, the former chairman, went to the Lahore High Court in 2008. Pakistan’s ICL players took the PCB to the Sindh High court as well. These will not be the end.

I would argue that India needs one as well. The current Sri Lankan Premier League dispute is a perfect case. The BCCI has barred Indian players from appearing in the SLPL, saying that the players may find themselves in a bad contract with a private organization with no recourse. This is the kind of dispute a players association should handle. Players must get advice from a body that represents the players. Not the sponsors, or the team owners, or politicians, or hidden agendas, but the players.

This is largely a conflict of interest issue. What is the mandate of the BCCI? The BCCI has multiple interests to look out for– players, broadcasters, “cricket”, sponsors, politicians, money, state associations. So what happens when two or more of these interests are in opposition?

So far, the BCCI has walked a tight-rope quite well. It’s especially difficult when you can simultaneously run the risk of angering Maharashtra supremo Sharad Pawar, and god-to-billions Sachin Tendulkar, and some of the richest men in the country in Ambani and Mallya. Keeping all these interests straight is difficult, if not impossible.

And sooner or later, I predict, there will be a breaking point. Already the injuries to Sehwag and Gambhir, aggravated through the IPL, have brought up significant conflict of interest issues. The ICL was another issue where players could have used collective bargaining and better advice.

India has a players association. Or at least had one. It was launched with much fanfare in 2002, Arun Lal was its secretary and Dravid was pushing for its recognition as late as 2008. Anyone know what became of the Indian Professional Cricketers Association?

How Lalit Modi and the BCCI (Almost) Killed Willow TV

UPDATE: Willow TV CEO, Vijay Srinivasan, tells me that Willow is alive and well. Willow will broadcast the English summer. Updates to the site are underway. He has disputed the article. Every financial deal I have reported in this article is backed-up by either an article in a reputable news source or an official corporate release. I have simply laid it all out on one page. Perhaps reports of Willow’s death are exaggerated, but to all appearances they have been on life support since March.

I’ve tracked this story for a couple of months now, both as a blogger and as a long-time Willow TV customer, and I finally have a breakthrough. Willow TV was a victim of the BCCI/Modi saga. The details are as follows:

Willow TV— the website that has provided legal live streaming of cricket on the Internet in the United States for 8 years– is on life support. The web site has not been updated since the World Cup. There are no working links to subscribe to their service. Customer support has been non-responsive. The silent masses wonder– what’s up with Willow TV? (see Samir Chopra’s recent woes that inspired my investigation.)

What Happened to Willow?

Willow TV was acquired by a company called Global Cricket Ventures in 2010. Earlier, there had been interest from Anil Ambani, but after that deal fell through, GCV stepped in. GCV had the rights to the Champions League T20 as well as the IPL. Add to that the World Cup rights in 2011, Willow TV seemed destined for greatness. In late 2010, an India-focused private equity firm called Elephant Capital invested $10 million in GCV for a 50% stake. The Willow TV World Cup broadcast, after some initial hiccups, was a success. They streamed the matches to browsers, IPTV devices (PS3, Roku, Wii, etc.), iPhones, Androids and iPads everywhere and even got their own channel on satellite television.

It was a great pleasure and gave US viewers a taste of a possible future where cricket was available all the time on any device of their choosing.

Enter: Lalit Modi

I don’t have all the details, but here is what I know: GCV sub-licensed the IPL on-line and mobile broadcast rights from World Sports Group (WSG). Last June, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) scrapped the agreements for global media rights with WSG. The reason? An alleged improper facilitation fee of $90 million paid by broadcast firm by Multi-Screen Media (MSM, owners of Set MAX TV Channel) to WSG. The BCCI claimed that former IPL chief Lalit Modi had struck the deal independently without prior knowledge of the board.

Coup de grâce? Lalit Modi is the father-in-law of Gaurav Burman, one of the directors of Elephant Capital.

So, suddenly, WSG->GCV->Willow TV was left without rights to the IPL and CLT20. This time the IPL online rights went to Indiatimes. And everything went further downhill.

In March 2011, Elephant Capital decided to pull their investment out of GCV and since then all their online properties have gone silent. It appears they have no more money to run the operations.

WSG went to court after being stripped of the TV rights, and it seems the court has instructed them to settle with BCCI in a civil court. The BCCI, for its part, is in no mood to do business with anyone from the Lalit Modi era.

And that’s what happened to Willow TV. They were at their peak, offering a great service across a range of devices when the rug got pulled from under them. Their only crime was that they were acquired by a company who was in bed with a company who allegedly did a shady deal with Lalit Modi.

[Of course, this doesn’t excuse the fact that they are unresponsive, opaque and apparently, giving people a hard time when they want to cancel their subscription.]

Epilogue

Yet– hope springs eternal. If you have a working subscription, the current Pakistan tour of West Indies works just fine in a browser, though they’ve dropped IPTV device, phones and tablet support. And I did get a mysterious email from them a month ago about IPL streaming that made me very happy for a couple of weeks. But mostly, it’s a near-dead web site and a service on life support. Indiatimes streams IPL in the US with a three hour delay. A three hour delay for an IPL game. I have no words.

For a few weeks in 2011, Willow TV showed us a glimpse of a possible tomorrow. Cricket available where you want it, when you want it. I miss it already. Read the rest of this entry »