How A Rejection In 1987 Made BCCI The Richest Cricket Board In the World

1987 is marked as the year of Indians becoming the champions of world cricket, and dethroning England from its number 1 position. 

And the reason behind this? 

“Two tickets”. 

Let us dive into the history of the BCCI and find out how two tickets made India the superpower of the cricketing world.

In 1983, India was playing in the World Cup finals for the first time. When everyone predicted India to have a humiliating exit in the group stage, under the captaincy of Kapil Dev, India ended up facing the mighty West Indies in the World Cup finals. India’s Union Minister of Education, Mr. Siddharth Shankar Ray, was in England at the time of the World Cup finals. He wanted to watch the finals in the stadium and so he called the president of BCCI, Mr. NKP Salve, who then called the English Cricket Board for 2 extra tickets. His request was denied, stating that the Indian Cricket Board was allotted only 2 tickets and no more tickets were available for the “Indians”. This humiliation ignited a spark in Mr. Salve’s mind. He just wanted England to be thrown out of its powerful throne in the world of cricket.

He decided that the next World Cup should be scheduled in the Indian subcontinent. He fixed a meeting with the Pakistan Cricket Board chief who agreed to this proposal. He then came back to India and met Hon. Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi who just asked one question – “How will you make this possible?”. 

Mr.Salve then explained his entire plan to the Prime Minister and she was fairly impressed. She then called Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani to her office and asked him, “Would you sponsor the World Cup?” 

To this, he replied, “If you bring the World Cup to India, I’ll give you a blank cheque”. 

Now, with Dhirubhai Ambani and the Prime minister’s support, Mr. Salve went on to propose the bill in the ICC which had two veto powers at that time, England and Australia. With absolutely no surprises, England rejected the bill. However, Australia on the other hand was convinced when India offered a rotation policy, which meant that the World Cup scheduled in 1992 could be hosted in Australia. 

The plan was set. England raised objections after objections, but with the support of Australia, India made a strong side. The ICC voting for the bill was just a few days away. All test playing nations had 2 vote counts and all the associate nations had 1 vote count. Mr. Salve went to the associate nations and asked them to vote in India’s favour and in return he offered them four times the money England was offering. The plan worked, and India won the voting battle by 16:12.

The World Cup was all set to come to India. But, just a few days later, Indira Gandhi was assassinated and along with it, Mr. Salve lost both the Prime minister and Dhirubhai Ambani’s support as the newly appointed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi didn’t share the same bond with Dhirubhai Ambani. Now that the World Cup had been shifted to India, there were no sponsors. Mr. Salve didn’t have a particular direction at this point of time, but it was clear in his mind that “the World Cup shouldn’t go back to England”. With this aim, Mr. Salve went on to approach foreign sponsorship and they all together offered ₹40 lakhs while the required amount was ₹4 crore, which had to be paid by December 1984 as a guarantee. Mr. Salve then approached the Prime minister and asked him to pay £1.8 million as a loan from the Foreign Reserve of India. Rajiv Gandhi agreed to it as India would be humiliated in front of the whole world if the amount wasn’t paid. 

Now, the World Cup was finalised to be jointly hosted by India and Pakistan, where India had to bear 2/3rds of the total amount of the expenses required to host the World Cup.

In 1985, VP Singh, who was responsible for all Income Tax raids on the Ambanis, was transferred from the Finance Ministry. Dhirubhai Ambani was again interested in sponsoring the World Cup and later on became the title sponsor. Ambani first paid the Government of India ₹4 crore and then took the title sponsorship. Doordarshan had the telecasting rights of the World Cup. But, since they were suffering from some financial problems, it was decided that instead of paying the royalty, they would share the ad revenue with the BCCI.

The stage was set. BCCI, the board which wasn’t even considered to arrange domestic leagues in its own country, had successfully managed to bring a World Cup event in the country. This got overnight recognition, as England, which was considered as the epitome of World Cricket, was just dethroned from the pedestal. 

The same BCCI went on to become the richest cricket board in the world. 

In fact, BCCI even provides funding to the ICC to demand a 3-month window from the International Cricket calendar for hosting the Indian Premier League, which gets approved in a single day. 

All of the BCCI’s dominance began from this single incident of the “two tickets”.

By Siddhant Dhoot, SYBAF


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