Cricket: ICC proposes sweeping changes for the game

Cricket: A new Imperium – Sweeping changes for the game

Stabroek News – 27 January 2014 – Tomorrow, the Board of the International Cricket Council (ICC) will begin deliberations on a proposal by its Finance & Commercial Affairs (FCA) committee for sweeping and astonishing changes in the way the game is run and how tours are scheduled. At the core of the proposal is that India, Australia and England would take charge of the game and that they would be immune to relegation in the two-tiered system that is also being promulgated.

It is in essence the cricketing version of the permanent five of the United Nations Security Council, as regressive and in need of urgent reform as that model is. And just as the permanent five were installed as the victors at the end of the Second World War, it is proposed that these three be ordained on the basis of the money they bring to the game and the level of the public interest in their teams.  

Can it be that mere economic clout in the albeit ever-increasing consumerist ideology can reduce the glory of West Indian cricket, which officially began in 1928 in what was then ironically the Imperial Cricket Council, to arbitrary relegation while others have a free pass in perpetuity?  Can it be that the peerless achievements and talents of Headley, Hall, the three W’s, Sobers, Lloyd, Kanhai, Richards, its feared and legendary pacemen, Lara, Chanderpaul and countless others could so readily lead to future aspirants to these honours duking it out in a minor league? Can it be that the team which was without equal for a golden period of cricket’s history and could win a game no matter how desperate the situation will have its tour schedule dictated to it?  Clearly a new imperium beckons and this time the charge is being led recklessly by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and attended by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia (CA). It is a tryst with something but quite far from anything honourable.

While the minutiae of the proposal are still to be seen and parsed, its major elements are worthy of instantaneous and complete rejection. It seeks to create two classes of cricket when the very ebb and flow of this glorious game has shown that under inspired leadership the underrated and underdogs can rise inexorably to topple the mighty from their lofty pedestals. All three of the countries which seek to now control the game have seen their fortunes wax and wane in great amplitude, England not so long ago being abjectly whitewashed by Australia.

Cocooning the three from relegation would also clearly reduce their competitiveness as there would be no impetus to perform to their best. The inanities of the proposal lead one to think that it is an opening gambit to force a compromise at the ICC which would at least see the three countries in pre-eminent positions in running the game and controlling its revenues.

In as much as West Indians should be incensed at this proposal, it is for its emissaries to the ICC, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), to immediately pronounce on the major planks of the proposal and to begin strategizing with the larger public on how to confront the initiative at this week’s meeting. Unfortunately, the quality of the leadership of the WICB these days is such that despite an “emergency” meeting, up to Saturday the people of the region were without a clear idea as to what it was thinking. There was no forthright public rejection of the proposal, only behind-the-scenes chatter that it would oppose it at the Dubai meeting. That is not good enough and paled in comparison to the immediate and unequivocal repudiation of the proposal by Cricket South Africa last week which has also charged that it is procedurally unconstitutional. The West Indies team is a pride-inspiring brand of the Caribbean and Heads of Government of Caricom have from time to time stepped up to the crease to play consolidating innings. Surely it was worth the WICB immediately convening with some of the heads and former heads who have a deep and lasting interest in the game ahead of the meeting tomorrow for back channel support and for diplomatic reinforcement.

Now back to the proposal. It may be as Mr Colin Borde, former T&T senior team manager, told the media last week that the present proposal just simply formalizes what is already in place today i.e. India, Australia and England do as they please with tours, duration and the combination of matches to be played. However, it should not have come to this and clearly the WICB, CSA and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) failed to discern earlier how rapidly the trio was intent on sealing the deal.

The numbers involved have clearly intoxicated the BCCI leading it to threaten not to engage in ICC events unless the other member countries approve the proposal. It is believed, according to a Times of India report that the BCCI accounts for approximately 80% of the global revenues of cricket.

The BCCI has not been shy about acknowledging the financial juggernaut that it has become. Its Secretary Sanjay Patel was quoted by the Times of India as saying “It (the proposal) is a recognition of India’s involvement in cricket and revenue generation by India. We are asking for legitimate right and it will not shrink cricketing activity in any way”.

The Times of India report said that ahead of the next commercial rights cycle from 2015 to 2023, BCCI was attempting to up its share of the pie from the present 4.2%. That is eminently reasonable and can no doubt be negotiated at the ICC but doesn’t justify the appropriating of the game. At the moment, 75% of the ICC’s earnings are distributed among the 10 full members with the remainder going to associate members.

The real sting of the proposal from the FCA is in relation to tours and the likely scuttling of the long- hoped for Test championship.  The Forward Tour Programme (FTP) which had some logic to it in terms of home and away tours would be abandoned in favour of bilaterally negotiated tours. Is it imaginable that Zimbabwe might be able to hold its own in arranging the terms of a tour with Australia? The doing away with the FTP would likely see fewer engagements between the top teams and minnows and more of the engagements that are coldly calculated to be profitable.  The proposal is reported to say that “No member should be forced to play another member except as bilaterally agreed; no member should be forced to host uneconomic tours; and the content and timing of all tours should be agreed bilaterally”.  While apparently the ECB and CA are committing to a certain number of Tests and One Day Internationals with the other eight members, the BCCI is making no such pledge. Most of the member countries depend on the Indian tours for revenue and could lose out as a result of the BCCI declining to tour.

In a further nod to their own interests, the proposal reportedly will have the T20 World Cup staged every four years instead of biennially so that India, Australia and England can expand their own domestic competitions.

Money is clearly speaking loudest in this proposal but to the detriment of this game so long founded on honour, fairness and the good fight. The Executive Chairman of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, Paul Marsh described the quandary well when he stated “The role of ICC events should be to assist in levelling the financial playing field by distributing the proceeds from these events fairly, rather than further widening the gap between the rich and poor. Whilst these are …entirely foreseeable commercial outcomes, for the cricket fan the greater concern is the increasing gulf in quality between the `Big Three’ and the rest. The essence of sport is competition and those in control of the ICC should be doing all they can to promote and provide a level playing field. This proposal will achieve the complete opposite”.

The proposal has also been flayed by former ICC President Mr Ehsan Mani who has said it ‘’completely undermined the integrity and standing of the ICC’’. He further charged: ‘’BCCI, ECB and CA say in the paper that they will provide greater leadership and stability to the ICC and its members. In return they ask members to hand over powers of the ICC board to them. They do not demonstrate how they will do this in any meaningful way. They do, however, plan to make significant financial gains for themselves and completely control the workings of the ICC to the exclusion of the other members.’’

Mr Mani has since authored a letter to the ICC denouncing the proposal which has also been signed by former CA administrators, Messrs Malcolm Speed and Malcolm Gray and former West Indies captain Mr Clive Lloyd among a host of others.

A special majority on the board will be needed for the proposal to move ahead and there is no doubt arm twisting is at work. In the year just after the 50th anniversary of the widely acclaimed Beyond the Boundary one wonders what CLR James’ perspicacious insight of these developments might have been. For now that most overused cliché would have to work. This proposal is just not cricket.

 Four ICC members oppose ‘hostile take-over

The Boards of Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are against moves to revamp the administrative and financial structures of the ICC which officials say would put more money and control in the hands of the so called big three.   READ MORE >>

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  • ezazul munsi, bd  On 01/28/2014 at 6:50 am

    i’d like to make a commentry with a divastating mind against the bcci that the next seven are not thier dolls to play as they wish. I think the continious rules and regulations must be in vogue. bcci@all rights reserved. And the rests are out of rights. thanks to all the high officials who are directly opposition of the stupid, rabish proposal.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/28/2014 at 9:47 pm

    I would suggest that prior to commenting on the article about the restructuring of International Cricket competition, you all check out the link to this 2010 article on the cricket-playing world. It is quite unlike the ‘political world’ with regard to sovereign states, as we know it.

    Ireland, for example, is a unified island comprising of Northern Ireland and the Republic; enter China and we will be playing with some rapid restructuring in the coming years. – check this out:

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