x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Indian cricket: Pass the remote control

One should not be surprised that three overs from India's first one-day international with England last week were lost over a fight between the Indian government and broadcast company.

It was supposed to mark the start of a new age, with Indian cricket fans across the world able to watch the national side play online thanks to live streaming.

Supporters abroad could follow the action on the website run by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), while home-based fans could view it with a five-minute delay.

There was only one hitch. Come Friday, when India and England faced off in Hyderabad in the first game of a five-match one-day series, there was no picture to stream. Prasar Bharti, the government's broadcasting arm, denied Neo Sports uplinking facilities.

By the time the dispute was fixed, three overs had passed and there was embarrassment and anger all around. The government blamed Neo Sports for its failure to lodge documents and a bank guarantee of US$800,000 (Dh2.9 million) in time for the start of the game.

The broadcaster claimed there was confusion over the payment schedule and that the guarantee had been paid in full nearly two hours before the start of play. It gave conspiracy theorists a field day.

Despite Sharad Pawar, the former BCCI chief and now president of the International Cricket Council, being a cabinet minister, the board and the government enjoy frosty relations. A new sports bill that sought to curb the cricket board's autonomy failed to get cabinet approval a couple of months ago.

With politicians increasingly targeting posts in cricket administration, such tugs of war will become increasingly common. The collateral damage could see screens going blank from time to time.

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