‘Trust building’ should replace ‘confrontational approach’ in ICC, says Limaye

Vikram Limaye opens up about his first impressions of the International Cricket Council, the revenue sharing model discussed at its meeting, and his opinions on the way forward for world cricket, in a chat with Sportstar.


Vikram Limaye..."It’s important to move forward in a collaborative way, rather than getting bogged down by history."   -  Paul Noronha

Vikram Limaye, a distinguished banker (MD & CEI IDFC Ltd) nominated to the BCCI Committee of Administrators (CoA) by the Supreme Court, was caught in the vortex of a raging issue that revolved around a revenue sharing model for the years 2016-2023 as proposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC). He attended his first ICC board meeting in Dubai on February 4 and > voted against the new proposal that worked around the theme of “equity and conscience” as against the 2014 formula that was regarded “unethical and unfair” by the representatives of even Cricket Australia (CA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Both boards rejected the 2014 resolution that they were part of.

READ: >Deep-rooted resistance to reforms remains in BCCI

At the end of a 25-minute interview with Sportstar, Limaye said: “I don’t think I am on this panel (BCCI-CoA) because of my cricket knowledge. I think the ICC meeting went okay. It all depends on how you also come across, and the reaction of the other side depends on how they perceive your orientation. From that perspective, there needs to be trust-building (among the BCCI, other full members and the ICC) in order to get a feeling that you are willing to understand their point of view of being collaborative rather than adopt this attitude of threatening and arm-twisting and all that.”


Q. How was your experience at the quarterly ICC meeting in Dubai? You must have gone there with some perception of the people you were going to meet?

A. I actually did not have much time (to prepare), but I actually did a lot of work within the three days I had available before going to Dubai; three days after I was appointed to the Committee of Administrators (CoA). I did not have the understanding from historical context of how things have evolved between the BCCI and the ICC and the other member countries, and what the various contentious issues were. I met all the members, including the ICC chairman Shashank Manohar and other country directors. Now I am inducted on the board of ICC. It’s not a one-off thing, there is a board meeting coming up in April. Whenever there is an ICC board meeting, I need to represent the BCCI on the ICC board.

My perception is as follows. I think there is a lot of trust-building that needs to happen between the BCCI, other members and the ICC. There is a lot of mistrust between the BCCI and the other members based on historical experiences and based on how they feel they have been treated in the past. I outlined my views to the ICC board members that it is important to adopt a collaborative approach, rather than a confrontational approach, which is not in the interest of anybody. Neither does it help Indian cricket long term nor world cricket for long term.

It’s important to move forward in a collaborative way, rather than getting bogged down by history. Fortunately, I don’t carry baggage of the past, I have no alignments, I am not here on a permanent basis, I am here to try and do what I have been asked to do. In that context, if I am to build some bridges and sort out some issues, I would do that.

The board members appreciated my ideas a lot, because that’s what they had not seen in the past. There is always the sceptical view that, ‘you guys are here for whatever period you are here, and then somebody else would be there and what’s the assurance that things don’t go back to the old ways?’

I took away the fact that sentiments need to change between the BCCI, member countries and the ICC, etc. to one of trust and collaboration rather than [the sentiments] I sensed existed. Hence, it is important for us to keep that in mind in terms of progress in the discussions; whichever board gets elected, it has to try and follow a more collaborative approach in the spirit of trying to develop world cricket.

So you have to sign up for an overarching principle that as a strong nation in the cricketing world, it is also your responsibility to make sure that the weaker nations have adequate resources to develop their cricket. It’s in our (BCCI’s) interest to have stronger cricketing nations from a viewership perspective, revenue perspective and from any perspective. I don’t think we could get the kind of revenues, if we just kept playing against weaker countries…nobody would be interested in that. So it is important for us (BCCI) to play that role because of our stature in terms of not only as a good cricketing team, about also because of the sizeable influence we have on revenue from an India perspective.

I think the revenue sharing model has to be balanced on a broader framework and beyond maximising revenue for the BCCI. There is a larger context in which discussions should be conducted and everybody feels fairly treated. That was the takeaway from the conversations I had when I was there.

Limaye's cricket connection

Vikram Limaye was raised around the cricket nursery of Shivaji Park. His father played cricket with Vijay Manjrekar and Ramakant Desai and he has seen the famous rivalry between Shivaji Park Gymkhana and Dadar Union, and Desai bowl on the pitch. He did his MBA at Wharton and worked with Wall Street for eight-and-a-half years.

"I have grown up with a lot of cricketers around me. Ajit Wadekar was the coach of my school, Bombay Scottish. But I played more tennis than cricket, although I was in the school cricket team for one year. I am talking about the 1970s. I was a bowler, an off-spinner. I have an understanding of cricket. I used to enjoy watching Clive Lloyd’s West Indians in India. Then the game evolved to one-day internationals and Twenty20. I have watched one-day games and went to the stadium and watched the 2011 World Cup that India won. I saw these matches from an entertainment aspect," Limaye said.

Q. Did you share ideas on a one-on-one basis with other members?

A. I met them separately, but not as much as I would have liked. I did get some private time with each one of the other members, especially Cricket Australia, Pakistan Cricket Board’s Shaharyar Khan and also with the ICC chairman Shashank Manohar.

Q. Was much of the time spent on the issue of revenue sharing for the period 2016-2023?

A. There was a pre-2016 model where distribution was equal to all full-member countries (an aggregate of USD 62 million plus for the previous seven years). Then (in 2014) the equal-distribution model changed to a different model, wherein the BCCI got a substantially disproportionate share; now this has changed to a new version with almost all of them getting a balanced share; and therefore the BCCI’s share has gone down and the other countries’ share has gone up. But the BCCI is still getting substantially higher than any other country. You have to think about what you are benchmarked against; somebody would say, ‘what was the rationale for the previous (2014 resolution) framework? Was there any scientific basis to it and why the BCCI should have got so much?'

Q. Some members have gone on record saying the 2014 model was flawed and most were forced to accept that and sign in with all executive powers vested with the BCCI, CA and the ECB?

A. Yes, it was a share of the revenues, not share of the revenues minus expenses. The good news, which I appreciate, is that there is no confusion in anybody’s mind, in fact they were vocal and appreciative of the fact that the BCCI is an important member and India does bring in a disproportionate share of revenue. There is no disagreement on that. But the issue is, what kind of share should the BCCI get versus the other members? Ultimately it’s all about negotiations, you have one vote. Being combative, confrontational is not going to be helpful.

Q. It’s also said that all countries signed the 2014 model because they were forced to?

A. I heard that all kinds of things were done to get a disproportionate share for India. But I don’t want to get into that history. When the BCCI conducted a meeting last year (SGM, February 19, 2016), they acknowledged that the BCCI should be willing for a lower share and gave the authority to the president and secretary to negotiate it. There was also a view in that meeting that the BCCI should take a balanced view on the sharing of the ICC revenue, but the number was never frozen. That meeting was attended by all the BCCI members. One member dissented and all others agreed to it.

There was an agreement that there has to be a more equitable distribution. I think this aspect has to be taken into context, which all countries are aware, now that Manohar is the ICC chairman.

Q. So you have an understanding of how the ICC works on finance matters…the revenue-sharing formula especially?

A. I have an understanding of how it was done before and what’s being done now…it’s just that I could not approve that document because I had all of three days. It would have been irresponsible on my part to have approved it. I have to study, apply my mind and find out what’s fair and what's not. They have agreed in principle to this proposal and revenue share. And again we know, if that is put to vote again, we have already seen what will happen.

That’s to be kept in mind, in order to ascertain the feasibility of getting anything substantially more that what has been passed in the meeting in Dubai. We (CoA) will also consider this so that there is input from us for the April meeting, input in the sense a conversation with ICC if we have a different view. Whether they choose to accept our view or not is a separate matter.

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