The difficult relationship between India and
the governing body of world cricket, the International
Cricket Council
, is flaring up again – and this time Australia
has found itself in the middle.

India has always constituted, at least demographically, most of the
cricket world, and with its booming middle class, the earning potential of cricket,
through TV rights, advertising, sponsorships and so on is sky-rocketing. As a
result, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is
finding the authority of the ICC increasingly onerous, and is manoeuvring
itself closer to open rebellion.

Now, the BCCI has started to make its move.
First it announced that it was organising
a one-day series
outside the ICC’s schedule this year, involving Pakistan
and Australia. Almost immediately following this announcement came word that India
would no
longer participate
in the ICC Champions Trophy, a one-day tournament
designed to fund ICC development activities, because it impinged on India’s
cricket season and therefore its ability to maximise its cricket profits.

The ICC hit back yesterday with an open
letter to the BCCI “reminding it of its obligations.” Or, to put it another
way, warning India to pull its head in.

Of course, this isn’t just a warning to India.
Cricket Australia will have earned no friends at the ICC by not immediately and
publicly turning down India’s offer. Even the appearance of consideration by a cricket draw card
like Australia must be infuriating to the ICC’s CEO Malcolm Speed, an Australian
himself.

Infuriating, but also worrying. The ICC has
never had the kind of iron grip on the game that, say, FIFA has over
soccer or FINA over swimming. Its relationship with India in
particular has always been turbulent, so to see the giant of world
cricket
flexing its muscles must be unnerving to watch from the Council’s ivory
tower
in Dubai.

The Indians will believe that if they get
countries like Australia behind them, they can bully the ICC. To date, Cricket Australia
is holding its cards to its chest, but it will have to position itself soon.
Watch this space.