YOU own a business. Your customers sign contracts to spend R38.96-billion with your company in the next eight years. What should that buy them? Right answer: anything. Wrong answer: anything.

That figure, R38.96-billion, is the upper end of what the International Cricket Council (ICC) expects  to earn from the sale of media rights for cricket played from 2015 to 2023. The lower end is not too shabby: R27.83-billion.

No surprise, then, that the ICC, which exist to make as much money as possible, consolidate power in as few hands as possible and, if possible, do right by the game. This week headlined a press release that pronounced themselves “pleased with response to invitation to tender for audio-visual rights”.

Seventeen bids, the release said, had been received from broadcasters. The bun fight is over grand occasions such as the 2019 and 2023 editions of the World Cup, the 2016 and 2020 World T20 tournaments, and the Champions Trophy in 2017 and 2021, as well as lesser prizes such as the qualifying tournaments for the World Cup and the World T20.

The successful bidders will sell advertising to cover their costs and make a pile of money for themselves.

This is the way cricket has been bought and sold since the 1990s — as a commodity.

If cricket ever was the gentleman’s game — a notion as quaint as it is unlikely — it is now the game for business people.

And business people are not interested in playing games, at least not with their own money. They want to recoup their investment, and then some. To do so in the cause of maximum profit, they need the biggest audience. So what is to stop broadcasters who have spent millions buying rights to put the World Cup on the air from demanding their choice of winners and losers?

The IPL proves that making money from cricket does not need high quality play, just high-quality players and whizz-bang marketing. The sad story of Hansie Cronje proves that even the highest quality players can be bought.

There is no right or wrong answer to that. There is only this answer: nothing.

If that is too conspiratorial  a thought on a morning when cricket-minded types are looking forward to the third one-day international between Pakistan and Australia and the One-Day Cup game involving the Lions and the Warriors,    then consider who and what we are dealing with.

Narayanaswami Srinivasan looks nothing like Marlon Brando, but he is the godfather at the centre of many controversies that alarm proper cricket people. One of them is an investigation into match-fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He has stopped at nothing so far. Why would he stop now?

The IPL proves that making money from cricket does not need high quality play, just high-quality players and whizz-bang marketing. The sad story of Hansie Cronje proves that even the highest quality players can be bought.

The other side of this dark equation is the brazenness of cricket’s suits who do whatever it takes to keep propagating the myth of the gentleman’s game.

TV commentary teams tend to be chosen not by the broadcasters but by the host board. Often, the same commentators work as consultants for the board.

Are they going to tell us the truth, or are they going to tell us what their bosses want us to hear?

In July, Cricket SA tried to bully broadcasters into not airing damning evidence of ball-tampering by Vernon Philander. They failed, but the commentators had apparently been divided on whether to broadcast the pictures.

SuperSport, meanwhile, is represented on the boards of at least two of SA’s franchises. Are they there to assist or to exploit?

That TV is cricket’s lifeblood should be no bad thing. But there could be 38.96bn reasons why it is.

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