18th January 2014
Patrolling the Boundary – a view from the outfield
India are stealing the crown jewels of world cricket, in a big bag marked ‘swag’ wearing a stripey shirt and a black mask. This was expected to happen sooner or later. What I don’t think was expected is that rather than apprehending them, the supposed guardians and custodians of the game are making off with the loot cheerfully in their company.
Yesterday came the news of a proposed new structure for Test cricket; but talk of a two-tier set-up is only the start of it. It is only part of a bigger, bolder and nastier scheme by the financial heavyweights of international cricket to bully their way into taking over the whole playground and leaving the little folk a small area in which they can play amongst themselves.
While the Three Bears sit at the top table gorging themselves on the cream of cricket’s produce, and grow fat on the fruits of other’s labours, the rest will be relegated to catching the scraps; fighting amongst themselves to have the honour of being a foot-stool for the big beasts.
Reports have been appearing on ESPN Cricinfo by the excellent and esteemed Indian correspondent, Sharda Ugra that the powerhouses of India, Australia and England intend to divi-up world cricket, by effectively dumping the other nations and giving the bulk of the pie to themselves.
The draft proposal scheme for a new Executive Committee (over-riding all others within the ICC, with the BCCI, CA and ECB at the helm) is explained here; the new ICC revenue distribution intentions are outlined here; and the dissolution of the Future Tours Programme here. And to watch Sharda Ugra’s discussion on the implications of the proposals with Australian writer Daniel Brettig, and Gaurav Kalra, click here.
The three cricket boards, it seems, are about to carve up the ICC and hand themselves the greater part of its power and wealth. India, Australia and England will basically run cricket as a triumphant triumvirate, and have the deciding power and votes to shape the game’s present and future.
Thus, the International Cricket Council will effectively regress to being the Imperial Cricket Conference – in which England and Australia historically held the veto and dictated to its minions. The only significant modern difference will be India will have that power too – indeed, it will doubtless be the King with the two oldest nations acting as its chief ministers.
There is here a suspicion that India was going to do this anyway. A report by Daniel Brettig appeared on ESPN Cricinfo late last year outlining India’s intentions to pull the purse strings of world cricket further in its direction to satisfy its own greed. Roland Butcher brought the report to the attention of the Caribbean at the time via the Mason & Guests Show on Voice of Barbados, and warned that this had the potential to change the face of world cricket – and further impoverish cricket in the Caribbean. Well it appears this is now coming to pass.
The Indians want a far larger share of the money coming into cricket from the coffers of Indian TV companies, and are determined to get. The practical response of the ECB and Cricket Australia is of the old-fashioned ‘if you can’t beat ’em join ’em’ type. Who can blame them?
Well we the cricket lovers can. National cricket boards have a far greater and wider duty to the game than merely lining the pockets of their own domestic structure. Without proper financial support and fixtures cricket in the West Indies and other similarly struggling nations will surely wither and die. It will be a slow process, but it will happen. We have seen it occurring in the Caribbean for a generation, and this will just accelerate the process. The brilliant Australian writer Jarrod Kimber has already penned his thoughts on the unfolding events here. This will effect us all.
The greedy Three Bears of the BCCI, Cricket Australia and the ECB intend to scrap the Future Tours Programme with immediate effect, and play more lucrative bilateral series. That means play far more times amongst themselves, with a little bit against the others (if the bored Board executives fancy a holiday in the Caribbean perhaps?) – but generally keep the ball, and the game, to themselves.
John Holder has commented that a two-division structure is fair if “the same yardstick” is applied to all. Well it’s not being applied – it won’t apply to the Three Bears because they play by different rules. They are bigger, better and more self-interested and self-satisified than the rest. It’s their ball, and they are keeping it.
The two-tier Test structure will be a farce if, as expected, the three nations are exempt from relegation. Therefore South Africa, or Pakistan (most likely) will be continually bobbing between the two divisions like a drifting buoy. West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka will be looking over their shoulder at the aspiring Ireland and Afghanistan, whose height of ambition in the short-term would merely be to usurp the place of a respected Test playing nation with a proud history and uncertain future. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will probably be trampled in the rush by the minnows and never recover.
In his interview with Rahul Dravid, ESPN’s Gaurav Kalra described the two-tier Test plan as the most serious shake up in world cricket in years. These further events are not a shake up. This is a coup d’etat.