Suggesting sweeping changes to the way the International Cricket Council functions, the three powerhouse cricket boards -- Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) -- announced, what looks like their attempt at taking over world cricket. The three Boards, which are among the many Full Members of the ICC, aim to turn into the only three permanent members among many other proposed changes that will put them on a pedestal and give them unprecedented control in the way the game is administered. (Read: PCB to oppose any change in governance of ICC)
This new 'joint venture' proposal, whose draft is currently with the ICC, aims at forward progression of the way the sport is run. In that sense, it seems like a move in the right direction but with wrong footing. Here are a few reasons why:
The proposed 'draft' calls for the formation of a three-member executive committee comprising of representatives from the three Boards, who will make all the decisions concerning the sport. While there is a growing need to make amends to the way the sport is being run and address a lot of issues, giving three Boards all the powers is probably not the way to go. An initiative from a financially strong Board like BCCI is the need of the hour, anarchy by no means is the perfect solution. Even as the South African team continues to make positive strides on the field, their Board could be left arm-twisted and left in the lurch by the all-powerful troika. (Read: West Indies worried over ICC's power sharing proposal)
FTP and Test match fund
Not every pointer on that 21-page dossier put out in the media has the potential to dislodge the game off its bearings. The 'Test Match Fund' for instance, is an excellent proposal to help support the sport in its purest form in countries where the turnout is poor and the returns are marginal. However, the proposal of abolishing the current Future Tours Programme (FTP) agreement between ICC and all its members and have a 'bilateral agreements' has a nullifying effect. Under the current FTP system, the ICC prepares a long schedule of tours between all its members and generally, a series between two sides is evenly spaced. However, the proposed 'bilateral' system will rid ICC of the responsibility of making such a roster and leave the Boards to enter agreements with each other. (Read: Sri Lanka mulls opposing ICC's structural changes)
The reason for this drastic change, as mentioned in the draft, is that some tours scheduled by the current FTP system are commercially unviable. This could only mean that if the bilateral system is in place, one will get to witness more tournaments between the top teams, like India, England, Australia and South Africa while teams like New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, who follow the top four could be heavily sidelined and have to be satisfied with playing amongst themselves. It could also serve a major blow to a team like Bangladesh. Even their best efforts to sustain a good run and reclaim Test status will be in vain as bilateral agreements would effectively reduce the chance of any team wanting to play in or against them.
Reservations in the two-tier system?
Test cricket's need for a savior has brought out a few options out of the bag. While the Test championships was mulled for a long period of time, the draft contained the idea of having a two-tier system with teams being promoted and relegated based on performances over a period of time rather than rankings that doesn't include factors like number of tournaments played, tournaments played at home or away etc. The two-tier system will push teams to the brink and the danger of relegation will bring the best out of them. However, the clause set by the trio, that none of them will face relegation irrespective of where they finish, defeats the purpose of the system and adds to the lack of level playing field. So, if India, England and Australia finish sixth, seventh and eighth among the eight Test-playing nations, the teams that end up third, fourth and fifth could be relegated which is grossly unfair. While the trio makes a point that the lack of these three teams playing top-level Test cricket will not be commercially viable, from the game's point of view, it does not work well.
In the current scenario, there is a huge disparity between the top three boards and the rest of the world in terms of financial pull. To strengthen the top three and allow them to flex their muscles in the open officially will only widen the cracks. Irrespective of BCCI, ECB and CA's intentions and plans, this draft, if accepted, will cause a major unrest for member boards and create a sense of fear and insecurity, which will certainly not help their cause in the sport.
Revenue sharing model and corporate mentality
All the proposals hint towards a strong urge to corporatize the sport in a major way. It is true that the sport needs money to sustain its growth and be passed on to generations together, but the 'ruthless corporate mentality' cannot be juxtaposed with the ethos of the game. Some of the most heartwarming characteristics like an 'underdog story' wherein a side like Zimbabwe, struggling to cope with its economic turmoil, emerges triumphant against Pakistan in Tests will not be given the kind of credit and importance if there is such a shift in the mentality of the ICC. The revenue sharing model that is currently in practice allots the surplus revenue equally to all its full members and in some portions to the Associate nations.
However, the proposal suggests revenues should be shared on 'meritocracy and not mere membership.' In simpler terms, the trio wants revenues to be shared based on how much each Board contributes towards earning the revenue for the ICC. In fact, they have even drawn up a percentage break-up of the entire ICC revenue which, if in place, will hand greater share of the pie to the three boards. Yet another breach of level playing field will brew with this system.
Cricket South Africa has already expressed its displeasure and concern at this proposal and hopes the ICC rejects it at its nascent stages. From the look of it, this proposal seems highly ambitious at best and majorly flawed in reality.