He was instrumental in exposing BCCI to the whole new world of commercialisation of the game’s broadcast but former Cricket South Africa president Dr Ali Bacher doesn’t like only three boards “marginalising” others in order to enjoy complete hegemony. It is no secret that India, Australia and England cricket boards decide the cricket calendar and Bacher, who brought the Proteas cricket to mainstream, post-apartheid, isn’t amused at all. “When I was the chairman of ICC’s development committee, my objective was to spread the game. It’s not happening today. Cricket today is dominated by India, Australia, England. South Africa has been marginalised, Pakistan has been marginalised, West Indies has been marginalised. That’s not good,” Bacher, now 81, told PTI during an exclusive interview while watching the India and South Africa opening Test.
“You need to grow the game. The problem is that finance of world cricket is dominated by India and 70 per cent of world cricket money comes through India from whatever direction. I would like to see development of smaller nations, that was my profound passion,” he said.
Development of cricket in US is not viable
The ICC is aiming to promote cricket in the United States and the first few steps include, awarding co-hosting rights for next year’s T20 World Cup and also inclusion of cricket in the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 as a part of one of the games inducted by Local Organising Committee.
An astute administrator, the former South African Test captain (pre-apartheid era), however, isnt too hopeful.
“I don’t think it will grow massively as you expect it to grow in USA. I was keen on spreading cricket as chairman of ICC Development Committee, to get into USA. Oh, its difficult,” he recollected. “You need billions and billions of dollars to get a small niche of that (USA) market. To be honest, I called it a day after two occasions. It wasn’t going to happen. The way it should happen is, growth of cricket should be in Asia. There is enormous potential. Not in the USA as its far too expensive,” he reasoned.
Asked why it is not commercially viable, he further explained: “The amount of money they spent on baseball, basketball and rugby is massive. To get a small portion of that market costs billion dollars and it would take time. Lot easier to get cricket in Asia.
“South Korea, Japan are huge markets potentially. If those countries take to baseball, why won’t they take to cricket?” he questioned.
“They have close touch with UK and English empire. But don’t even try going to US, you will come short, I can tell you that,” he had a sort warning for ICC bigwigs.
Talk about South African cricket, Bacher admits that the national team lacks world class players.
“We are not so strong as we used to be, we had unbelievable players earlier, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock, we now have Kagiso (Rabada) who is world class and we have gone through a period where quality of our top cricketers isn’t what it used to be.
“We have very good schools cricket and we will come back and remain a strong a side.” In 1991, when South Africa, after the end of apartheid period, travelled to India for its first three-match ODI series, the BCCI for the first time received 1.25 million rands (around 120,000 USD at that time) as broadcast rights money to air the games back in the ‘Rainbow Nation’.
“When I asked (Jagmohan) Dalmiya, how much people would come to watch, he said around 100,000 at Eden Gardens. At that time, cricket broadcast in India was controlled by Doordarshan. I offered a quarter million rands and he (Dalmiya) he couldn’t believe it.” So is he surprised at India’s commercial growth and he answers in negative.
“Not really, because there are 1.4 billion people in South Africa and they are mad about cricket, commercial value of cricket is huge and if I was in a small way party to it, I was very happy,” he concluded.
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