Simon H is the man I look to for updates on the governance of the game. Here is his take on the events of this week….as always, many thanks to Simon for his time and effort in putting this together…. He e-mailed me this last night and there’s an update at the bottom to reflect further events.
SUITS, NOT BOOTS
It’s been a stellar few days for those of us (and we number literally in our half dozens) who find cricket governance fascinating. The administrator-media complex that runs the game have produced three stories at more or less the same time, so here’s some attempt to sort out what’s been going on:
- The ICC.
As LCL has already written, there has been an ICC board meeting in Dubai. I’m very much a newcomer to trying to understand the ICC and don’t claim any great expertise here. Firstly, those who remember the world pre-1990 may remember something called Kremlinology. This was how outside observers tried to understand the goings-on in the USSR without virtually any official sources – no minutes, no press releases, no interviews, no diaries, no leaks, no non-attributable briefings, no former members pontificating in TV studios. The ICC offices in Dubai feel very much like the Kremlin, except they’re uglier and less drafty.
So, from a handful of statements that have appeared, and from the sterling work of the handful of journalists who are interested, what can we glean? This was an ICC board meeting, featuring the heads of domestic boards but not, as far as I can gather, Shashank Manohar. The formal ICC meeting is next month (I thought it was going to be in Singapore but it now seems to be in Cape Town). ICC board meetings don’t appear to generate any minutes (not that they are ever anything less than next-to-useless) and I don’t think they have any formal power. However, informally, they seem to matter a great deal in preparing issues for the ICC meeting proper.
The big story emerged, of course, on the first day in the lack of a majority for the draft two-division plan for Test cricket. The plan needs seven FMs in support and only had six. India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe were the four against. This was apparently ‘understood’ without a formal vote and was used to prevent the plan even being discussed. Therefore, a measure backed by 60% of the FMs, presumably most of the associates if anyone bothered to ask them and 72% of players according to a FICA survey (although that may be deserving of some scepticism) has been quashed. The most that seems possible is a play-off between the top two in the rankings (hands up who’d like that to Pakistan – and India). Money talks and democracy walks in cricket governance.
That headline story may mask that other measures won approval at the board meeting. ODI and T20 leagues were supported. This will necessitate ODI series being standardised at three matches of each – and every team will have to play the other top thirteen at least once in a three year cycle (hmm, I’ll believe that when it happens). The leagues will be used for qualification to ICC tournaments. It was also agreed members retain control of Test fixtures and the ICC continues to have no power here. Most importantly, there appears to be some move towards revenue-sharing with England, Australia and South Africa keen to pool their TV revenues and other boards welcome to join. This has the potential to be massively important and needs more discussion among cricket-followers. Cricinfo report that changes in the Indian TV market are the driving force behind this and a sharp decline in those revenues is expected. There has been an assumption that sharing means it would be equal – but that remains an assumption.
The background to much of this appears to be a rapidly souring relationship between Manohar and the BCCI. The head of the BCCI has been visiting Srini and playing the card straight from the Srini handbook – threatening boycotts of ICC events, starting with the 2019 CT. Resentment at funding for the CT compared to the T20 WC has been cited – Manohar disputes their figures and the chances of any of us knowing who’s right are as great as a recall for Nick Compton. The internal politics of Indian cricket are something we’d all better learn to start taking an interest in:
And although it’s hardly been mentioned, all this would seem to leave Manohar’s plan of handing back 6% of India’s 22% ICC revenue-share as dead in the water….. which I rather suspect was, ultimately, the point.
Not to be outdone in farcical cricket governance, the ECB have been building up to their very own D-Day. The interminable debate about city-franchises has led many to tune out of the issue – but the crunch meeting is soon upon us as September 14th looms. The proposal needs a two-thirds majority and Nick Hoult, who’s reporting on this has been in a league of its own, reports the ECB are close to achieving the numbers they need.
This isn’t the place to debate again the merits of city-franchises. Whatever one thinks of the idea, the methods of the ECB are the issue here. They’ve presented county chairmen with five options – but to discover these “options”, the chairmen have had to sign ten year gagging clauses. We may discover what these options are later next week once this meeting is done. The ECB’s conception of options might turn out to look rather like that expressed here (starting at 14:55):
Then there is the role of our media chums. Curiously, a number of writers who have taken a not exactly critical line of the ECB in recent years have suddenly discovered a rampant enthusiasm for city-franchises. One got an extended holiday with his mate out of it. Others have been convinced more easily. They get to know confidential ECB survey evidence that has not been published. They don’t know how that survey was conducted, and whether the results are worth the paper they’re written on, but they’ll repeat them anyway:
They’ll use their Twitter accounts and magazines they’ve somehow come to edit as platforms for not debating an issue but prosleytizsng a cause. Maybe they are genuinely convinced? Maybe after the nonsense of the last two years, they don’t deserve any benefit of the doubt……
Finally, Nick Hoult captures in a nutshell what lies behind all this:
- Eoin Morgan
While ECB chairmen are gagged for ten years, certain journalists discover that Eoin Morgan has told Strauss he isn’t going to Bangladesh:
Certain other journalists then have pieces out that proclaim that signifies the end of Morgan’s England career forever:
There will be widespread rejoicing among certain BTL communities where who can hate Morgan the most seems their main amusement.
It turns out Morgan has some good reasons, based on past experiences in Bangladesh. Lawrence Booth has produced the best account of these:
Some have already decided it’s because Morgan isn’t English enough. That’s all they needed to know, they’ve known it in their bones all along when he wouldn’t sing the national anthem or miss the IPL to watch it rain in Ireland.
Some are reading Strauss’s comments about not going giving opportunities to others as trying to pressurise Morgan and as a veiled threat. I’m not exactly Strauss’s greatest fan, but I think these were more anodyne statements of the patently obvious. The captaincy will now presumably be between Root and Buttler. We’ve seen there are some doubts about the former as captain before and there has been some talk of resting him in the Bangladesh ODIs. Some may also suspect he would raise more issues about the Test captaincy. Smart money may be on Buttler.
Will others follow Morgan and opt out? If they do, Morgan is damned for influencing them. If they don’t, Morgan is damned for thinking he’s something special. Maybe KP’s intervention might produce some desire among the ECB to show that he was wrong and they will forgive Morgan. Maybe…
SATURDAY UPDATE FROM SIMON…
I should say this was written late yesterday afternoon and quite a bit happened just afterwards. Newman’s article for one. the discovery of Dobell’s podcast for another:
Reading Sharda Ugra on Cricinfo has also opened up a new interpretation of the two-division plan – that the ECB and CA were trying to drive the less attractive parts of their schedule off the roster just before negotiating new TV rights’ deals. It’s a new argument – but if trying to judge whether they are more motivated by short-term greed or a sudden conversion to the principles of meritocracy, which one – based on their recent track record – seems more likely?