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Wisden Almanack 2024

‘The answer to too many questions in cricket is: because we mustn’t upset India’ – Almanack

India fans in Ahmedabad stadium during the 2023 World Cup final
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The 2024 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack has criticised the dominance wielded by the BCCI over the governance of international cricket, stating that “the answer to too many questions in cricket is now: because we mustn’t upset India”.

The Notes From The Editor section of the Almanack, written by Editor Lawrence Booth, criticised the unwillingness of the ICC, national boards and individuals to challenge India’s dominance over the international game, especially during the 2023 World Cup and the visa debacle over Shoaib Bashir.

“The BCCI’s shambolic scheduling meant overseas fans were scarce, exaggerating India’s home advantage,” read the Almanack on the 2023 World Cup. “Pitches were changed at the last minute, without the consent of the ICC, nominally in charge but unwilling to intervene. Even the fixtures list, once finally confirmed, was kind to India: at the last three World Cups, T20 and 50-over, their final group game has been against Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands – convenient, in case they needed a late boost to their net run-rate. The trend will continue this year in the USA, where their last group game is against Canada.

“Providing support, both tacit and explicit, were TV commentators either too fearful to speak openly, or despairingly in tune with the insidious nationalism… After India thrashed New Zealand in the semi-final on a different Mumbai wicket from the one pre-agreed with Andy Atkinson, the ICC’s independent pitch consultant, Sunil Gavaskar labelled those who had chased the story as “morons’.”

The controversy over the pitch for India’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand arose when it was reported that match would be played on pitch six at the Wankhede rather than pitch seven, which was reportedly the pre-agreed pitch. Atkinson was informed that there was an unspecified problem with pitch seven, giving rise to the speculations of India trying to micromanage pitches to favour their strengths.

In an email from Atkinson published by the Daily Mail at the time, the pitch consultant wrote: “As a result of these actions, one must speculate if this will be the first ever ICC CWC final to have a pitch which has been specifically chosen and prepared to their stipulation at the request of the team management and/or the hierarchy of the home nation board.”

The Almanack also criticised the lack of action over Bashir’s struggles to obtain a visa during England’s Test tour of India earlier this year. Bashir, who is of Pakistani descent, was unable to travel with the squad when they travelled from Abu Dhabi for the first Test of the series. He was eventually able to join up with the squad after flying back to England to visit the Indian embassy.

“When the BCCI might have used their political clout to help someone other than themselves, they were unable to arrange a visa in time to allow Shoaib Bashir, the young Somerset off-spinner, to join his new England Test team-mates on their flight into India in January from a training camp in Abu Dhabi,” read the Almanack.

“There were shades of the Robin Jackman affair, more than 40 years earlier, but with one crucial difference: when Guyana’s government revoked Jackman’s visa ahead of the Second Test at Georgetown because of his regular winters in apartheid South Africa, his England colleagues stood by him, pulling out of the game and flying on to Barbados. In Hyderabad, Ben Stokes said he considered doing something similar, only for pragmatism to trump principle. The answer to too many questions in cricket is now: because we mustn’t upset India. And don’t the BCCI know it.”

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