WORLD CUP: SYMBOLIC OF COLOUR, MONEY, & SPEED

SHAMSUL GHANI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Feb 21 - 27, 20
11

Gone are the days when cricket used to be the game of gentlemen draped in white flannel and playing for national pride. When Hanif Mohammad defied the fury of West Indian pace battery for a record sixteen hours plus at Brisbane in 1957 - scoring 337 runs in the process - he hardly had an idea of the storm of colour, money and speed the game of cricket was going to be overwhelmed by.

Here is a quote about the legendry Little Master: "In a Test match against Australia Hanif scored a century in the first innings. In the second innings he was wrongly given stumped out by Barry Jarman off the bowling of Tom Vievers for 93, just 7 runs shy of his second century in the Test. Hanif respected the umpire's decision. Later in a press conference Jarman admitted that Hanif was not out." There was no hue and cry about the incident and all was taken in the spirit of the game.

Then enters Kerry Packer, the Australian media tycoon, and introduces the idea of World Series Cricket in 1977. He brought with him oodles of money, a wide range of colors and a penchant for speed. To comprehend the Packer motive, the following quotes about his personality might be of some help: "Packer was known for his abrasive personality, his wealth, his lavish gambling habits, his expansive business empire, and his clashes with the Australian Taxation Office and the Costigan Royal Commission. Packer was famously quoted from a 1976 meeting with the Australian Cricket Board, with whom he met to negotiate the rights to televise cricket. According to witness he said: there is a little bit of the whore in all of us, .gentlemen what is your price?"

On his failure to get the television rights, Packer retaliated by hiring leading world cricketers to play matches in South Africa, a venue where official cricket was banned as a result of government's apartheid policy. Finding nothing better to do, the cricketing nations slapped official bans on players joining the Packer band. The price offered by Packer was fabulous. Cricketers from leading cricketing nations lined up at Packer's recruiting office. Australia and West Indies lost almost their entire teams to the Packer Circus - the title given to the Packer Cricket by its bitter critics. Others to follow were Pakistan and England. Australia lost 13 of its 17 member squad selected to play the Ashes series that was just around the corner. Australia lost the Ashes by 3-0. Some of the Pakistani leading players signing Packer were Imran Khan, Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas and Mushtaq Muhammad.

Pakistan, like Australia and West Indies, raised a new team to play official cricket but subsequently pardoned its Packer players. Australia's Dennis Lillee and Ian Chappell, England's Tony Grieg and Pakistan's Asif Iqbal played key roles in Packer administration.

The rebel Packer revolutionized the game of cricket by introducing the elements of commercialism, professionalism, and creativity. The idea of day and night cricket was introduced. White flannel was transmuted into white leather, meaning the dress could take any of the colors from the spectrum other than white and the ball's traditional red color was to be changed to white to make night play possible. When an Andy Roberts bouncer broke David Hook's jaw, the need for protective gear was felt and the idea of helmet was introduced.

The shorter version of cricket was at work at English cricket counties since 1962. The idea of this type of cricket was essentially based on a need to make cricket more exciting. The traditional 5-6 day test cricket did not evoke much interest except for the England-Australia Ashes series and very occasional Indo-Pak Test matches. Subsequently, the duration of shorter version game was reduced to a single day. With the introduction of limited-overs concept, the game of cricket discovered speed the vital link that was missing since long. This change tremendously added to the number of cricket fans. The first international one-day match was played in 1971. The first inaugural World Cup event was organized by England in 1975 when the major cricketing nations competed for the coveted cup in England with West Indies emerging as the winner. It was pre-Packer period and therefore, white flannel still ruled the roost. The Packer revolution soon had its firm and lasting footprint on World Cup cricket colored dresses, white ball, night games and above all big match fees and lucrative endorsement contracts for the players. The apex cricket body ICC, sensing the potential of one-day cricket, quickly adjusted to the idea of a quadrennial World Cup event. With the full-fledged involvement of the world corporate sector, the game of cricket, particularly the one-day cricket, has become a huge revenue generating business. The pie has grown tremendously and so have the shares of players and cricket boards in it.

Although not as intense as the World Cup football, the cricket cup event, taking place after every four years, manages to trigger economic and social activities of great consequence. The nations nominated to host the event become the hub of economic activities. Millions are spent on infrastructure and construction / renovation of stadia where the matches are scheduled to take place. Tourist business gets a boost and hotel occupancy rates shoot up. The involvement of corporate sector, the selling of rights to televise matches, the hassle of endorsement business, all combine together to impart great economic and social charm to the event. Once the exclusive domain of England and Australia, cricket has now become a major sport in other regions particularly the sub-continent side of Asia. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have become burgeoning markets for the industry of cricket. These nations together carry a lot of clout with ICC. The award of current cup hosting rights to the subcontinent nations was decided by a 10 to 3 vote. Initially, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were voted to jointly carry out 49 world cup matches. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been omitted from the list of organizers following an attack in Lahore on the visiting Sri Lankan team. The 14 matches that were to be organized in Pakistan have been redistributed among India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh in the order 9, 5 and 2. Pakistan Cricket Board has lost more than $10 million in match fee alone. Other losses to the Board and the overall economy are far greater. The price Pakistan is being made to pay for terrorism has dimensions beyond the common estimates.

On the other sides of the fence, all three nations stand to hugely benefit from the event. India in particular, with a huge cricket market and now 29 matches to host, will see a boom in certain segments of its economy. This will be in addition to the benefits of the recently hosted Commonwealth games. Moreover, IPL waits in the wing to jump in to keep the momentum going after the World Cup concludes. To sum up, the size of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladesh pies are set to become larger - courtesy the terrorism wave that threatens Pakistan's security and economy.