Playing Cricket on a Tilted Crease

The title is a wordplay of a popular Bangla proverb that literally translates to “If you can’t dance, the stage is tilted” meaning “A bad workman blames his tools.”

So the top tournament in cricket is being shrunk. This action defies logic; if the target is to popularize the sport, shouldn’t it be more inclusive and not exclusive? Ireland, one of the new entrants, played a total of about 10 or so matches over a period of years leading to this ICC World Cup; which is simply the cricket equivalent of the Hindu caste system, “You’re too low caste (new/inexperienced) for me to deal with you (play against you).” Many of the larger countries are responsible for this and not just India.

The NYT article (amongst others) mentioned that some 70-80% of the revenues of a cricket tournament featuring India come from India being in a tournament. If India are eliminated too soon, it is the advertisers and the sponsors who take the hit. Then they do not want to advertize when a tournament is ongoing, if they don’t want to advertize, stations will not place large bids for TV coverage, no large bids means the ICC does not make money. So India has to remain in the tournament to make the tournament financially viable.

This seemingly explains why ICC capitulated to the BCCI (also Cricket Australia and England & Wales Cricket Board). It doesn’t fully explain BCCI’s attitude though.

The best explanation comes from microeconomics. BCCI is displaying monopsonistic behavior. Monopsony is simply when there is only one buyer in the market for a product that has more than one producer. India is about the only buyer for ICC’s product, cricket, therefore the ICC has to listen to the BCCI when ordered to carry out any particular action. The standard example of a monopsony is one firm that buys the available labor. The monopsony, knowing it is the only buyer, will give a lower price for what is being produced. Paying a lower price for the product allows the one acquiring to achieve a higher satisfaction. Similarly, the BCCI, to achieve higher satisfaction, bends the rules of the game in its favor. [There have been instances of mass protests and unruly behavior by the fans when India loses badly.]

So BCCI is simply acting in its self-interest using its economic might for leverage.

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