Cricket’s coming coup
A cricket coup d'état is looming and there is almost nothing that can be done about it. A new proposal, which will be presented to the ICC, suggests that the ECB, CA and BCCI get most of the power and the money, and will generally be wrapped in cotton wool. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
A coup d'état is usually reserved for serious things like governments, but now cricket faces its own possible coup if a new proposal put forward to the ICC is passed to vote and comes through. A draft of the proposition has been leaked and, as it should, has caused a lot of controversy.
Under the new proposal, three countries, namely England, Australia and India, stand to benefit from the restructuring of the ICC's governance. In short, decision-making will largely be left to the ECB, CA and the BCCI. The proposal will be put forward to the ICC Executive Board when they hold their quarterly meeting in Dubai from 28-29 January.
The ICC Executive Committee is made up of 13 members and comprises representatives from 10 full members and three associated representatives. For the proposal to be passed, the majority of the executives (seven in total) need to agree. The proposal already has three votes, from those proposing the coup, and it is believed that New Zealand and at least one associate have shown support.
When the draft proposal is glossed over without giving it much thought, it all sounds good and well, with stresses on how cricket needs more context and Test cricket needs to be preserved as being the pinnacle of the game. However, all the sugar coating soon comes undone as soon as a closer look is taken at the proposal.
It advocates that a new committee, made up out of the ECB, CA, BCCI and one additional member voted upon, should hold sway when it comes to "constitutional, personnel, integrity, ethics, development and nominations matters, as well as all matters regarding [financial] distributions from the ICC".
The paper argues that it’s by no means a coup, though. It simply makes it official that the three countries who are seen as “the primary revenue contributing members" of the ICC are "structurally [committed] to the leadership and continued success of the ICC as a member-led, member-driven organisation".
It also suggests a promotion and relegation system for Tests, but it exempts the ECB, CA and the BCCI from relegation for the sole reason of "protecting ICC income due to the importance of those markets and teams to prospective ICC media rights buyers". In essence, such a system is not only grossly unfair, obtuse and tyrannical, it almost borders on match-fixing. It is a foolish and short-sighted argument and is akin to saying because Club X in the Premier League generates vast sums of income, it should be exempt from being relegated. It’s brutish, arrogant and quite frankly amateur thinking.
The draft also pushes for the two-tier Test ranking system made up out of two eight team divisions. The top eight Test nations, as well as the Intercontinental Cup participants, in order to "add relevance of Test cricket and ensure Test cricket remains open to any ICC Member".
The draft suggests that the teams ranked ninth and tenth play in the Intercontinental Cup, should the proposal be passed. The winner of the IC competitions will then challenge the eight ranked Test teams, unless, of course, that country is England, Australia or India. The challenge will happen across two Tests, both home and away. If the eighth-ranked country is defeated, the IC team will make it up the rankings. A good idea in principle, but with potentially debilitating economical repercussions.
Furthermore, the proposal also suggests that the Future Tours Programme (FTP) is done away with and replaced with bilateral agreements, meaning nobody is forced to play anybody they don’t want to play. And, should they so wish, the big three can spend the rest of their existence playing each other home and away.
With regards to revenue distribution, there are some valid issues relating to revenue being distributed by way of who brings in the most. This has been discussed before and while rugby has followed a similar model, it’s not exactly ideal. A far better way would be to equally distribute funds with bonus payments, depending on where in the Test rankings a team finishes. As a whole, the proposal is enough to make any rational cricket fan’s eyes bleed. While it insists that it is out for the good of cricket, the actions proposed in the draft say the complete opposite.
South Africa might have been wondering where it has sinned. It could very well be that the world’s number one ranked team, and perhaps the best team the country has ever produced, is left out in the cold even more and is forced to play their cricket against lower ranked teams. With the country already being given the short end of the stick when it comes to scheduling, having played the fewest number of Tests out of all the top eight in the last five years, things could only get worse from here.
In some places, the draft reads like a parody. While cricket certainly is in need of a revolution, this is certainly not it. It is not entirely impossible to imagine a separate, independent league being formed. That competition, however, will be very small. If New Zealand and West Indies have already showed their support, that leaves just South Africa, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Pakistan to contest a separate competition. That would do the sport no good.
Cricket certainly needs a revolution, but this kind of self-interest thinking from amateur administrators will do the sport no good. There’s not much that can be done about it, though, except for fans of the sport to let the administrators know what they think. It might not change anything, but it almost certainly will ensure they know that they’re doing wrong. DM
Photo:Workers hang an advertising board for the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Twenty20 World Cup cricket series in Hambantota. (REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte)