ICC ‘position paper’ in focus at 2-day meeting
The board of the International Cricket Council are set for the most important meeting of their recent history, after which much will be known about the future direction of the sport at the highest level.
The Dubai conference, to be held today and tomorrow, brings together appointees of the 10 Test-playing nations, three associate nation representatives and the ICC’s own president, vice-president and chief executive - a standard quarterly arrangement but one with the most unusual of agendas.
Up for debate will be the highly controversial ‘position paper’, a heavily-leaked document produced by the little known Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee that recommends a series of sweeping changes to international cricket.
A 21-page draft seen by Press Association Sport contains radical proposals that seek to vest great swathes of power in the three most financially robust governing bodies - namely the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia.
Those three organisations are put forward as permanent members of a new executive committee with wide-ranging, potentially limitless decision-making powers, with a fourth member to be nominated by them on a rotating basis.
But it is not just decision-making and influence that the ‘big three’ seek to commandeer.
A revamp of the ICC’s financial arm is also advised, with an identical structure to the ExCo that enshrines India, England and Australia as the sport’s true powerbrokers.
The position paper is concerned, in great detail, with fiscal matters and a number of its most sweeping recommendations - an end to the Future Tours Programme in its current form and a two-tiered Test model including promotion and relegation for the first time - are presented as financially-motivated measures.
Boards will no longer be duty-bound to fulfil “unviable” tours or fixtures, supposedly a step on the road to self-sufficiency for all major nations, and will instead be encouraged to organise bi-lateral agreements that best fit their commercial interests.
But the most telling equation in the draft is the one that sees central ICC funds redistributed from their current model in a way that would see the biggest cash generators in the game rewarded with a greater share of the spoils.
There is an element of logic to that, especially if a key contention that Indian participation in ICC events is worth 80 per cent of the associated media rights (the next highest contributor is estimated at five per cent).
But the inescapable result of such a shake-up is that the richest cricketing nations would be rewarded with a significantly larger slice of the pie.
A possible result is an inescapable rise in the gulf between the haves and have nots.
Asking the remaining seven member nations to approve the plans may seem like India, England and Australia inviting turkeys to vote for Christmas but there is a major issue bubbling away beneath the surface.
The BCCI, a political heavyweight sparring with a collection of relative flyweights, are thought to have floated the idea of disassociating themselves from the ICC if key proposals are not ratified.
Such a move would be a nuclear option, immediately toxic to the wider game but also harmful to Indian cricket in the medium and long term, but the very idea is enough to ensure plans that might otherwise have been shredded on sight are considered carefully.
Additional measures, including a Test Cricket Fund for the six territories that currently struggle to sell the format and the return of the Champions Trophy, will enter the discussion somewhere down the line too.
The current BCCI, ECB and CA suits may well make a persuasive case for themselves as likeliest custodians of the game - though by handing that triumvirate the keys to the ICC, board members would also be signing up to the future rule of individuals other than N Srinivasan, Giles Clarke and Wally Edwards.
Their verdict, whatever it may be, will shape the next phase of international cricket as an ongoing enterprise.