A twist in the tale

The BCCI was not against the WADA agreement by itself, but was only pointing out the difficulties of its players in complying with some of the clauses. There is some merit in the BCCI’s stance as cricketers in India are regarded differently when compared with their counterparts in their respective countries.

The ICC is yet again in a quandary due to a sudden turnaround by other countries on the raging issue of the ‘whereabouts’ clause in the WADA agreement. The volte-face comes at a time when the ICC was planning to convince the member countries to fall in line with the parent body, but now it appears that the issue will not be resolved early as one thought it would be. Ironically, it was the BCCI which expressed its reservations on the ‘whereabouts’ cl ause and, as usual, the other countries felt that the Indian board, riding on its ‘money power’ was playing the spoilsport.

One has to remember that the BCCI was not against the agreement by itself, but was only pointing out the difficulties of its players in complying with some of the clauses. There is some merit in the BCCI’s stance as cricketers in India are regarded differently when compared with their counterparts in their respective countries. It is alright to say that the top soccer and tennis stars are no lesser than the Indian cricketers, but the big difference is that privacy comes at a high premium for the Indian cricketers.

For instance, the little master, Sachin Tendulkar, received a standing ovation when he was spotted at Wimbledon, and that gives one a measure of his stature. And the adulation he enjoys in India is tremendous. In order to escape public attention Tendulkar will need to have the skills of Kim Philby, the British double agent during the Cold War. Even then success is not guaranteed.

After weighing the pros and cons, the BCCI was reasonable in conveying to the ICC that it will be its responsibility to fetch the nominated Indian players for testing to any destination within 48 hours.

Even though the ‘whereabouts’ clause does provide for changes in the itinerary submitted to the ICC and WADA, it can be a cumbersome process. Some of the cricketers find it reassuring to seek the help of others for communicating important matters and there is every possibility that they might forget to update the ICC, even if only inadvertently. Since the objection happened to come from India, it was viewed with the preconceived notion that the BCCI’s affluence was the prime reason. Instead of reacting in a hasty manner, the ICC, in the first place, should have sounded out its member countries on the need to be WADA compliant and ascertain whether there were any areas that needed to be amended.

The need to be WADA compliant is understandable, but the urgency that the ICC has shown is strange. It is not that cricket will automatically figure in the succeeding Olympics upon signing the agreement, for there are other decisions that need to be taken by the IOA. One wonders why the same urgency was not shown in getting the WICB (West Indian Cricket Board) to sign the agreement during the T20 World Cup. The WICB apparently signed the papers just in the nick of time to avoid disqualification.

Talking of the WICB, the ICC is still not sure about the stance of the West Indian board with regard to the ‘whereabouts’ clause. The same is the case with the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board). It is rather strange that the ICC has not managed to get their views on an agreement that has been the bone of contention for a while. It is interesting that while the general feeling is that India calls the shots, the sudden surge of activity has come about only after CA (Cricket Australia), CSA (Cricket South Africa) and the others joined the bandwagon recently.

The BCCI can at least claim that regardless of its financial position, it was the first to point out the impracticality of adhering to a few WADA clauses and it’s time the ICC did something to resolve the issue. Cricket becoming an Olympic sport is eagerly awaited by everyone, but the entry into the Games should not be at the cost of a divide between the full members of the ICC.

Once the T20 format becomes an Olympic sport, the cessation of the 50-over format will only hasten. After all, the entire WADA episode is all about cricket entering the Olympics, and in as much as the ICC needs to finalise matters at the earliest, it also has the chance during the forthcoming Champions Trophy to chalk out a plan to revive the ODI format.

Though opinions are divided on ODIs, it is a format that needs to continue as the players will get decent opportunities. I am sure that the middle-order batsmen will endorse my view and it will be a pity if the authorities fail to utilise the opportunity to discuss this issue at length. As things stand now, the next meeting of the ICC will have a significant impact on the future of cricket.