T20 WC debacle doesn’t diminish Indian cricket team’s value as ‘tourists’

London:  The Indian cricket team may have been cut to size in the recent T20 World Cup, but their value for overseas cricket authorities the world over remains undiminished.

In fact, Cricket South Africa (CSA) is much relieved after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed that the Indian team’s tour of South Africa will proceed, albeit delayed by a week.

Thamie Mthembu, a spokesman for CSA, did not suppress his Board’s elation at BCCI giving a go-ahead to India’s tour of South Africa beginnining later this month.

He said CSA’s focus now “is to deliver a successful tour and one of mutually shared value between the two teams and the two countries”.

He suggested that CSA had come through a “very daunting task” in convincing the BCCI about the safety of travelling to South Africa, where the latest highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19 is reportedly rampant. The trip is vital for CSA’s book-keeping.

A visit by the Indians has become every’s cricketing nation’s biggest revenue earner. It keeps finances ticking, where otherwise they would be under stress.

Given the loss it would otherwise have incurred, the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) rescheduled September’s abandoned fifth and final Test between India and England to July next year; with half-a-dozen International T20 and one-day international (ODI) matches added as bonus.

The Test will be staged from July 1-5. However, the venue will not be Old Trafford, Manchester, as was allocated, but Edgbaston, Birmingham.

James Price, spokesman for Lancashire County Cricket Club (LCCC), governors of Old Trafford, confirmed that LCCC’s chief executive Daniel Gidney had, in fact, lamented after the Test was called off that the game was worth “multi-millions” of pounds to LCCC, which will now be compensated by the ECB. In addition, Old Trafford will host an India-England ODI, also in July.

Old Trafford possesses a spanking, upmarket hotel behind one of its galleries. This was fully booked for the period of the September Test or for 4-5 days. Mass voidance of room reservations for the greater part of the match, without re-bookings, was a major jolt for the venue, not to mention the wipe-out in potential earmings from food, drinks and other services.

The biggest revenue for ECB from holding matches with India emanates from licensing television rights. This runs into tens of millions from a series from Indian broadcasters like Star Sports and SONY. The next best income is from advertising on-field, on the sight screen and around the perimeter of a ground.

ECB’s press officer Ben Walker listed 10 Indian companies which featured in this manner over last season.

The accounting for 2021 is yet to be completed. Walker, though, disclosed: “In 2018 (the last time India toured for bilateral series before this summer), our revenue was up 46.8 million pounds (172.3 million pounds in total), compared to the previous year (when Australia were the visitors).”

In other words, for the ECB, a series with India has overtaken an Ashes battle in terms of profits.

Ironically, the attraction for ECB of hosting India is unrelated to the latter’s performance. India were comprehensively defeated in the Test series in 2011, 2014 and 2018. Yet, the series in 2021 was a sell-out. This was due to at least 40 per cent of seats being taken up by Indians or Indian-origin spectators, in addition to Test cricket still being a great joy for English fans.

An Ashes series between England and Australia is the oldest international contest in cricket; and before big money from India entered the scene, it was ECB’s biggest money spinner. India and Australia are now the only two teams enjoying the honour of playing five-Test series at the home of cricket – England.

The Test schedule in England is allocated to venues by an “independent host venue panel” over a five-year cycle — the present one being from 2020 to 2024. Venues benefit from gate receipts (which for an India fixture means a full house) and the turnover from food, beverages, books, merchandise and souvenir sales. The revenue from on-field and fence advertising is retained by the ECB.

The permanent advertising at the premises of grounds provides earnings for the host club. The return from renting hospitality boxes goes mainly to the venue.

Old Trafford is obliged to refund money to all who bought tickets for the scrapped India-England Test. But patrons will be permitted to switch their purchase to the 2022 England-South Africa Test, which the LCCC will now organise, on a priority basis.


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