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India sacrifices Asian unity Srini gains at cost of old alliance

Srinivasan after the board meeting in Singapore on Saturday. (AFP)

Calcutta, Feb. 8: Asian unity in cricket, much celebrated till not long ago, is a thing of the past.

Three decades after the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) came into being, as a powerful bloc on the world stage and to take bilateral relations to another level, principal movers India and Pakistan are at distinctly opposite ends.

It’s unusual, as the boards of India and Pakistan have generally stayed on the same page even if the non-cricket relations between the neighbours were at an absolute low.

Sri Lanka, one of the co-founders of the Asian body, is currently with Pakistan and also didn’t support the massive changes pushed through at the International Cricket Council (ICC) this evening.

Technically, Pakistan and Sri Lanka abstained when a vote was taken at the ICC’s executive board, in Singapore.

Of course Bangladesh, the fourth and youngest Test-playing nation in the region, had no choice but to toe the line largely determined by a muscle-flexing India.

On paper, Australia and England are on a par with India, but the shots will be called by Board of Control for Cricket in India president Narayanswamy Srinivasan.

That apart, India’s share of the revenue distributed by the ICC is to jump from around 4 per cent to “over 20 per cent”.

Issues over son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan notwithstanding, the decks are clear for Srinivasan to become the ICC’s first chairman after restructuring.

Srinivasan’s ambitious with a capital A, a trait he shares with “closest ally” Giles Clarke, the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman.

Path paved, Srinivasan takes office at the end of the ICC’s annual conference, in the latter half of June, in Melbourne, where Cricket Australia is headquartered.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, one may recall, had been the ICC’s first president (1997-2000) after the last set of changes. Sharad Pawar, too, has headed the world body.

That Asian unity has been hit for a six is the No. 1 fallout of the day’s developments.

Arif Ali Khan Abbasi, the first chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board and an architect of unity, is among those not celebrating.

Speaking from Karachi, the much respected Abbasi told The Telegraph: “After what happened in Singapore, the ICC must pack up as it has lost its identity.…

“If three members are going to be above the law, then the ICC has no role left and should leave everything entirely to India, Australia and England.…

“Surely, the ICC has a bigger responsibility than looking only at the monetary side of cricket.… Everything can’t be driven by the urge for more and more dollars.…

“Greed brings about hatred and this polarisation will, sadly, finish the game.…

“I feel particularly sorry for the ICC’s associate and affiliate members, as their voice won’t count in this vastly changed scenario.…

“Worse, two decades after Asia got together to end the veto enjoyed by Australia and England, it has returned through the back door with India joining hands with those two.…

“How ironical.…

“I see no justification for any kind of veto in an age when you have the Tahrir Squares…. When you need the functioning of institutions to be democratic and the playing field to be level.

“What’s happening is beyond me.”

Known to talk straight, Abbasi added: “It’s odd that Srinivasan is set to become the ICC chairman despite all the litigation in Indian courts.… He has the sword of Damocles hanging over his head.”

Abbasi recalled that when the ACC was formed, after a meeting at the Taj Palace hotel in New Delhi, on September 19, 1983, Pakistan “suggested” that India’s N.K.P. Salve become its first president.

“Air Marshal (retd) Nur Khan made the suggestion.… That’s how close India and Pakistan were.… Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the UAE and Malaysia also attended that meeting.… Obviously, it’s rather different now,” Abbasi regretted.

Salve and Khan are no more.