Dirty Weekend – Guest Post

Simon H has been casting his eye over the latest goings on within the ICC and has kindly penned this article for us. As usual, with guest writers, don’t be as tough on him as you would on us!!!!

Take it away….

Dirty Weekend

By Simon H

It seems as if the weekend is a time when many, not least English cricket journalists, follow the game less closely. This is of course understandable – there are other attractions, other sports, family, friends, sleep. And then on Monday, you have a change of captain! But the trouble these days is that you can tune out for 48 hours and when you re-tune in you find the game you once loved has gone. The developments at the ICC board meeting last weekend haven’t quite gone that far perhaps but they’ve set in train a process that is going to have a serious impact on the game for a long time to come and will be more significant than England changing captain.

The Man With A Plan?

The issues under discussion fell into two broad categories. The first was finance. Here the impetus for a quick decision was greater. Whether this was because discussions were more advanced or because the BCCI was in temporary disarray after the downfall of Thakur is a matter of taste. The crucial point was to roll-back the 23% share of ICC revenue India had obtained in the 2014 Big-Three Power-Grab. The precise detail of what has been agreed remains opaque. Together with the already agreed removal of permanent status on some key committees, this has been presented as amounting to the death of the 2014 changes.

However there are some reasons to pause about this. The new financial arrangement was based on a set of flowery principles – but info on the precise details of what was agreed and how it was reached is clear as mud. It looks based on a formula of who was able to at that moment grabbing what they could. It doesn’t create any permanent structure to distribute ICC revenue so further ructions are almost certain. The ICC desperately needs a formula to agree revenue distribution based on agreed principles (and by principles I don’t mean vacuous drivel but quantifiable factors like wealth, population size, player base and the like). Agreeing these principles may prove impossible but there’s no sign of any effort even to try. I suspect the big divide is how much should be based on “need” and how much on “contribution”. I also suspect that any re-thinking ICC revenue from first principles would lead to England and Australia getting a lot less so that’s why it wasn’t going to happen.

What sort of test would it be?

The other major issue was the structure of scheduling and in particular the desire to create more context for bilateral games. The extent to which “context” is a Trojan Horse for “fewer Tests, more T20” is another matter. Anyway, there was agreement to create a Test Championship with two divisions split 9-3 with the top two teams in D1 playing off every two years. Every team would play each other in one series within those two years with one match being regarded as a possible series. Teams would play their home fixtures as away fixtures in the next two years of the cycle. The three teams in Division Two (presumably Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland) would play each other in matches designated ‘Tests’ but with no points at stake. There is no promotion, nor relegation. Fortunately the press release didn’t embarrass itself by using the word “meritocracy” this time. The performance of D2 teams is to be “assessed”, whatever that means. D1 teams can play extra matches outside of their required fixtures. Many details (like the location and format of the play-off – what to do in the event of a draw has been one of the perpetual stumbling blocks) will go to a working party and put to the next meeting in April.

The ODI and T20I schedules have also been revamped – but the details remain obscure. ODIs will become a 13-team league and results there lead to WC qualification. How exactly that’s going to work I haven’t got a Scooby. T20I WC qualification will be on a “regional” basis but there is no information how. Two other changes were f/c status for Afghanistan domestic cricket and the use of DRS in T20I with one review per side.

The reforms were voted on as a package and achieved a 7-2 majority with one abstention. India and SL voted against with Zimbabwe abstaining; the three associate members present had no voting rights (they will be gaining them as part of these changes – although that will leave 92 associates with still no voting power). The measures will be voted on again in April and India need four FMs to block them. SL have said their objections were more procedural than to the substance of the proposals. A furious battle for the votes of SL, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe now looks certain (does the ECB’s insistence on touring Bangladesh look a little more understandable now?). The possibility of an extremely angry backlash from the BCCI can’t be discounted.

So, what do we think? What would be an appropriate funding model for ICC revenue? What should teams be getting? And can a Test Championship along these lines work? How would the play-off be organised? Selvey wants a three-match series of home, away and neutral venues – would that be a good idea? Should there be promotion and relegation and how many teams should play Tests?  How do we feel to be represented by Giles Clarke?

You Taking My Name In Vain?

My thanks to Simon (pictures and captions are on me, not him) and hope to hear more from him soon.