And so you can understand the outrage, the rant and the subsequent painting of Indian cricket as the big bad bully who flexes his muscles and tramples on everyone that doesn’t conform. Most Indians can sympathise with that feeling because we have often been buffeted by economic policies of giants who, to protect their interests, cause much discomfort to downstream economies. India’s rupee has been mauled recently and its impact on the Indian economy is a decent parallel to what South African cricket is experiencing.
India could either sit back and moan at what a rapidly depreciating rupee could mean to fuel imports and therefore to so many sectors of the economy or India could try its best to make itself less dollar dependant. Indeed, India could look at whether the economic woes are only on account of external phenomena or whether in fact, managing its own economy better could have insulated it from much of the damage.
So too can other countries look at the effect of India on their own cricket. They could either sit back and complain, write smartly written articles looking down at India and generally use the blackest shade to paint India with. This is exactly what a lot of us in India have been doing with dollar prices. We are complaining, we are upset about the USA and their sabre-rattling on Syria and we are writing vitriolic articles about the US “war economy”. Alternately the affected cricket playing countries can ask if they can create a parallel economy to sustain themselves without being dependant on India; which is what the more pragmatic political commentators in India are saying about doing non-dollar denominated commercial agreements for example. I am not an economist so this is probably a very simplistic argument but it is a parallel worth considering.
South Africa, for example, can ask themselves why they got into a situation where their cricket economy was so dependent on an external power that is always more likely to do what suits itself first. It is just likely that one of the conclusions will be that it was the easy, lazy option to take. If an Indian tour guaranteed a lot of money, it also meant that you didn’t need to create other parallel revenue sources to insure against untoward happenings. And it would seem to me, even if I am looking at it from afar, that other cricket playing countries too therefore need to create such a parallel economy. Again there is a similar situation affecting India. If the US decided they would halve all software and business process outsourcing to India (however unlikely that would be but this is meant to be an illustration), we would be similarly hit. It wouldn’t help if Indian companies complained about the big bad bully who was taking away jobs, they would just have to develop other capabilities and find other revenue sources.
Managing the environment is one of the skills that leaders in all organisations have to ensure. It is one of the reasons they are made leaders. And in times that grow increasingly volatile, that skill will become even more critical. As all of us in India need to guard against dependence on economic policies of other countries, so too will cricket playing countries have to develop a second line of defence in case what India perceives to be right for itself affects them too badly.
Writing scathing anti-India articles might lead to a temporary feel-good effect. But as we in India know very well, it is not much help ranting against the world if you don’t develop your own economy. If you accept easy money you can’t complain if it goes away.
There is a proverb inducted into English from its Swahili original: when elephants jostle, what gets hurt is the grass. It is a particularly appropriate moment to quote from that part of the world since that is what is likely to happen this year to the average South African cricketer. Estimates of the loss likely to Cricket South Africa in case India’s tour is aborted have been placed in the region of 150-200 million rand (about 120 crore rupees) based on what some South African journalists have been saying. And when the loss starts trickling down, the average first class cricketer who makes his living from the game will be the one most hurt.