Hiatus month

October is a funny time for those based in England – the season is done, the winter tours are still seemingly distant, the football and rugby seasons are properly underway, and for the assorted scribblers that make up this place, it’s a busy time at work.  This is probably why the ICC pick this time of year to slip out proposed changes to the game, just to ensure maximum annoyance at BOC Towers.

Of course, we’ve been here before, the stillborn Test Championship being a case in point, and when our Glorious Overlords come up with their latest wheeze to create “context” for the game of cricket, there’s a temptation to sigh and reach for the brandy.  Or revolver.

The concept is simple enough, for Test cricket to work towards becoming a competition with a winner at the end of it, the proposal being for the top nine teams to play each other home and away over a two year period culminating in final to determine the winner.  So far so good.  Given the abandonment of the Future Tours Programme as being anything more than a suggestion, some kind of plan for how Test cricket should function should be welcomed.  But the proposal has very little meat on the bones, and the plan for it to start in 2019 puts rather a tight timetable on it being adopted.   There’s little information announced about what the next step would be thus far at least, and we’re already closing fast on 2018.

There’s also the element of announcement fatigue when it comes to ICC edicts.  We’ve been here so many times before.  But let’s be generous and assume it’s going to come off.  A proper competition could actually be rather fun, with all series having something riding on them, whether for the teams hoping to reach a final, or those further down who hope to still be involved next time around.  That in itself does create a problem, for the 10th placed team might find it somewhat difficult to arrange series to get themselves involved for the following competition.  There’s little indicating a pathway for Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland, which doesn’t in itself mean there won’t be one, just that it’s either not been thought about, or not been considered.  Sceptics about the ICC can make up their own minds.

Equally, when the round of matches comes to a conclusion, it will presumably be straight into the next one once the final has been played.  The leading sides would be fairly reluctant to organise a series against a team who might not be involved for the following summer, and the potential for the lower ranking sides to be left dangling has to be real.  In any case, having only to play 6 of the 8 sides could offer the possibility of gaming the system on the one hand, or simply ignoring the lesser lights on the other.  Quite how it could be made compulsory to ensure all nine teams actually get those 6 series in two years hasn’t been explained; Bangladesh only just managed to reach the required number over the last two years, while the fraught bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan is an obvious problem.

Nine is perhaps a specifically chosen number, for it would exclude Zimbabwe, a country who would find it problematic to arrange series against some countries, notably England.  The lack of requirement for everyone to play everyone else might be considered deliberate in that light.

The length of series too is merely confined to be a minimum of two and a maximum of five, suggesting a complete refusal to become involved in changing the tendency to play as little as possible against the smaller nations.  It’s probably not too surprising in itself, for the ICC is not a governing body in the normal sense, more an outlet for the collective musings of the bigger countries.   The points system too is unknown, and that could provide some grounds for decent argument, given how the Test championship table can give rise to some interesting aberrations from time to time.

Still being generous (which gets harder by the day), it could provide grounds for a Test series to matter more to spectators and participants alike.  Yet it’s tough to see this as any kind of radical change, more trying to fit a competition around what more or less exists at present.  In some respects, that might well be as much as is possible to do at this stage; the various vested interests have always managed to kill attempts to bring forward genuine change – unless money is involved of course, for then it’s a different matter.

Of perhaps more interest in terms of a significant change is the proposed ODI league due to start a year after its Test equivalent.  One day series have always been utterly disposable (without looking it up, can you remember the series results even from this summer?), to the point that the acronym JAMODI  – work it out yourself – gained some currency.  The proposal appears to be that the eight series to be played over that time will be over three matches, and unlike with the Test programme, that’s not put forward as a minimum, but an absolute.  If that is the case, then shorter ODI series would appear to be the way forward, which is intriguing in itself were it to happen.

The last major change being mooted is to trial four day Test matches, probably beginning with the Boxing Day Test between South Africa and Zimbabwe later this year.  There’s a rationale there, for a fixture such as that the likelihood of it going five days is questionable, and for Test cricket to have a future, then it does need to pay its way.  The problem with this is what it always has been – it’s messing with a format that works as a cricket one.  The ECB have been in favour for a while, because Tests in England are often finishing in four days.  But there is, and always has been, a fundamental difference between noting that trend (and it needs to be shouted long and loud that elsewhere this is not an issue) and removing the potential for the kind of fifth day we saw only this summer against the West Indies.  Accepting the need for Test cricket to pay its way is hardly an argument in the country that retains the greatest interest in the format.

Experiment by all means, but note that the players appear to be rather opposed.

It’s easy to be cynical about the ICC, but then they do keep giving those cynics reason to be so.  The announcements have been made, and all will wait to see if anything comes of them.  It could be good, but then few would be surprised if it all unravelled to leave nothing but the four day Tests behind.  Cynicism is so often a product of repeatedly being let down.

In other news, BT Sport have announced their commentary line up for the forthcoming Ashes series.  With the usual Sky commentators clearly unavailable, many of the names will come as little surprise, such as Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott.  Having Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist to represent the home team does at least offer the potential for some kind of insight, while Matt Smith will be the main presenter.  Graeme Swann has also been listed as being present, though there is some debate as to whether he will only be there until Perth before coming home if England are losing.

Advertisements

Test Cricket Resurgent?

Two days, two matches, two results that made the cricketing world sit up and take note.  The extraordinary victory by the West Indies undoubtedly put a smile on the faces of those who love and care for the game, and while the Australians as usual thoroughly enjoyed England’s demise, their schadenfreude lasted barely 12 hours before they fell to defeat against a Bangladesh team who have progressed rapidly and are now stiff opposition to anyone, at least at home.

It all demonstrates a game in rude health, where the minnows can turn over the giants, and those who have been struggling can still show what they can do when given the opportunity.

If only that were true.

Little has changed from a week ago concerning the health of the game generally, the prevalence of T20 leagues shows no sign of abating, and in the midst of the two Tests Mitchell McGlenaghan requested he be released from his New Zealand central contract in order to ply his trade as a freelancer in the T20 game.  In his case, he’s not an essential part of the Black Caps international line ups, and it has been some time since he played, indeed he rated his chances of playing international cricket again as “pretty slim”, but it’s still an instance of a centrally contracted player seeking to strike out on his own. The self-imposed absence of AB De Villiers from the South African Test team put a huge hole in their batting (and the Kolpak desertions just as much) during the most recent series in England, and of course the numbers of West Indians unavailable for their international team is well known.  So much of that is self-inflicted by a dysfunctional board, and in that regard at least there are more recent signs of an improvement in the governance, and the bringing on board of people like Jimmy Adams and Jeff Dujon who might just care more for the game than for the politicking that has afflicted it for so long.  It’s an ironic thing in the wake of the victory that Chris Gayle has indicated he wants to play Tests again.  Whether that would be welcome is less the point than that it would be beneficial for the West Indies to be able to select from their full pool of players.

What hasn’t changed is the dispersal of funding centrally, the question of a meaningful Test programme and ensuring that all teams get to play.  Bangladesh’s win over Australia follows one over England on their last tour, suggesting that at long last they are becoming competitive.  But Tests remain relatively rare for them, they’ve only had one three Test series in the last decade (against Zimbabwe), and there were efforts to downgrade the latest Australian tour to a one day only series without Tests.  Their next series is in South Africa, and that too is just the two Tests.  It’s not uncommon for them to go the best part of a year with no Tests at all.  Perhaps the improvement in their cricket will lead this to change, but it seems a little unlikely.

It’s possible that the two results will not only fail to change the current Test match situation, but even make it worse.  If the response to them is to believe that all is well in the garden, then that ironically doesn’t help at all, for the battle to save Test cricket isn’t even close to being won; it is being lost.  There are many villains in the piece – the easy money that T20 in particular generates taking precedence over everything else.  The ICC is not a governing body in the normal sporting sense, subject to the whims of its members and their vested interests in a way that isn’t healthy.  The general principle that such a body should be in place to look after the interests of the game simply doesn’t apply, and while there are few examples of those who act altruistically for the sake of sport, the ICC remains extraordinarily opaque in its decision making and doesn’t engender trust in any way.

What the two matches did do was offer a timely reminder that in cricket, there is simply nothing remotely as exciting as a match that last five days (yes, five) and builds to a climax.  The number of one sided matches is a real problem, but when the sport gets it right and the matches are close it reaches a level of tension that is extraordinarily rare.  The unfolding of a fine Test match is without compare, and given the context of a proper series, that is close and hard fought, it creates a narrative that sucks in even those who wouldn’t normally pay attention.  The final day of the 2005 Ashes series is always going to be the case in point to that, but of course in that case the play was on free to air television…

Let’s be positive about it.  The wins for the West Indies and Bangladesh reasserted what Test cricket is all about.  If for no other reason than as a reminder that it’s worth something, they were exceptionally welcome.  If it caused those who had been advocating four day Tests to quieten down, that is even more welcome.  There is nothing in that proposal that improves the game in any way; there would be fewer overs, matches would be wrecked by weather to a greater degree than is currently the case, and the prospect of getting teams to actually bowl the overs they are supposed to by increasing the daily workload is quite simply laughable.  The proposal is there for the benefit of boards and money men, not cricket.

One final point.  When it comes to the media, there’s a rule that generally applies.  If a headline ends in a question mark, the answer is no.

England vs. West Indies, 2nd Test Preview (and a bit of rant)

After Dmitri’s short but brutally accurate report of the last Test, I’m not too sure about what more can be said that hasn’t been already. Let’s make this clear, this is a colossal mismatch between one team who are the have’s and another team who are without doubt the have not’s. It’s like signing up to watch Anthony Joshua fight Big Mick from the local pub, people aren’t necessary going for the entertainment more for the morbid spectacle that they know that this will become. It is of course, very easy to blame the West Indies for the mess they are in. The WICB is so corrupt and incompetent it makes the ECB look like the model of sobriety, as not even the ECB has managed to alienate every single decent player in their domestic scene;  as we know the ECB just alienate those that whistle when they get out and aren’t from the right type of family. It is of course, easy to blame the WICB for the calamitous position that the West Indies finds itself in and of course a decent proportion of the blame must be attributed to them; however I think it would be fair to say that outside factors have also played a major part in the West Indie’s sad demise.

If you haven’t read Tim Wigmore’s excellent piece in the Independent then I would strongly suggest that you do – http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cricket/england-cant-ignore-the-role-english-authorities-played-in-killing-test-crickets-competitiveness-a7905706.html. Now the West Indies might be a special case here; after all, they haven’t won a Test away in England since circa 2000 and have won precious few elsewhere away from home (the last major away game they won was against SA in 2007 – thanks D’arthez). However if we delve a little further into the poison pit that is International cricket, then it’s not just the West Indies who are desperately clinging to a sinking raft. If I were to ask you which team have either got better or stayed particularly competitive since 2014, what would your answer be? India, Australia, England – anyone else?? Oh and why do I ask this question, well as we know 2014 was the year that the Big 3 decided to carve up cricket’s finances between themselves to ensure their survival at the expense of every other cricket nation, so I think you might know where I’m going with this. If we place England, India & Australia in Tier 1 (as at least they haven’t got appreciatively worse, though it would be fair to argue that none of these three has made massive strides), then if we look at Tier 2 (those who aren’t yet in perpetual demise) and Tier 3 (those that have fallen off the lifeboat into the choppy ocean), then I think that this gives us a more rounded view of where International Cricket actually is:

Tier 2

  • South Africa – Still competitive, but under threat as their fast bowling unit is getting old and they have lost too many players to Bransgrove’s Kolpakshire amongst other predatory counties
  • New Zealand – Still punching above their weight, but losing McCullum as captain was a massive blow. Still able to surprise the big 3 from time to time, despite big quality gaps in their batting order.
  • Pakistan – Can still put together brilliant performances on their day, but I fear for their batting having lost Younus & Misbah.
  • Bangladesh – Best side they’ve had since they became full members, but no-one wants to play them, which is a real shame.

Tier 3

  • West Indies – See above. Their best batsman is 43 and playing for Lancashire. This team would struggle in Division 2 of the County Championship
  • Sri Lanka – Currently being smashed around by India, they also recently lost to Zimbabwe. The days of watching Sangakkara & Mahela bat as well as Murali bowl, must seem like a lifetime ago now.
  • Zimbabwe – Hardly ever play, still as corrupt as ever.

As you can see this is far from a pretty site, yet the ICC still continues to re-arrange the deckchairs whilst the Titanic is sinking. Who cares about 4 day Test matches or pink balls when in a few years time the only ones playing it will be England, Australia and India as Test Cricket will have died everywhere else. Apologies that this is a little gloomy, but this is the reality and it’s clear that the ICC can’t even manage this decline effectively! Still there’s always the 50 or so T20 leagues that you can watch if you really want to see the same hit and not too many giggles cricket.

Ok slight rant aside, as for the next Test itself, England will naturally go into this as massive favourites. In a slightly strange and I do feel a very harsh move, they have dropped TRJ for Chris Woakes. Now I’m absolutely not advocating that Woakes doesn’t deserve a spot in the line up as he has been extremely consistent over the past year and is highly talented with the bat and the ball; however with a packed winter ahead and facing a weak opposition, surely it would have made more sense to give one of Broad, Anderson or Stokes a blow. Now of course, these players might throw a little tantrum about being dropped when there are easy runs/wickets on offer, but surely we learn nothing by having these bowlers face a paper thin batting line up; however such is the England way, they let the fear of a backlash from certain untouchable individuals within the team cloud their judgement on what is the right decision with the squad for the Ashes in mind.As for the West Indies, they must surely hope that the Headingley pitch is some kind of minefield to bring the two teams closer together, because if it plays like it did at Edgbaston, then I can’t see anything other than another 3 day Test.

Oh and one last thing, as Colombo might say, I had an extremely interesting exchange with a certain individual who was clearly a fan of the ex-England captain, on Twitter last Thursday. Now I’m not going to give this individual any further publicity, as I’ve regularly seen some fairly sane individuals turn into rage’oholics who froth at the mouth the moment anything remotely critical of Cook is written by anyone. I’ll leave these here for your enjoyment:

‘I’m astonished that some whose blogging career is devoted to skewing Cook’s stats is calling a plain stat skewed’ (For the record, it was highly skewed stat based on a certain batsman over circa 10 games, 3 years ago)

‘Go back to trying to prove Alastair Cook’s useless whilst he sleeps on a big pile of runs’

    ‘Imaging devoting an entire blog to hating Alastair Cook.’

    ‘I’m planning a big BOC subtweet when Cook reaches his double ton’ (he didn’t, I guess he didn’t find any to back up his position)

      So now we’ve progressed from being a bunch of KP fanboys to being accused of spewing hateful bile about Alastair Cook, I wonder what will be thrown against us next. It’s BOC’s fault that Test Cricket is dying? It’s our fault that global warming is ruining our world? It’s our fault that Brexit happened? The possibilities are just endless. Perhaps if the media did their job and took an objective view of Cook i.e. putting his achievements into some sort of perspective and instead stopped writing meaningless hagiographies, then we wouldn’t have to be the lone voice of sanity in a world where this is rarely so.

      So as I read it, those of us that have the temerity to question Cook’s place amongst the International elite are now classed as Cook haters, with nothing else to do but spew angry bile about him! Does this also apply when I question or criticize other England cricketers? I have written critical stuff about Root, Moeen, Broad, Anderson & Woakes amongst others in the past, but I don’t generally get people screaming at me on Twitter when I do. Of course, there are those that point out that we write about Cook more than others and yes it’s true, because people are interested in reading about him (much like a certain individual a few years ago), after all if I spent most of my time writing about Chris Woakes, it’d be a pretty dull blog (I don’t care if I upset Chris Woakes as he has already blocked me on Twitter for some unknown reason). The sad thing is that the schism that Dmitri wrote about in early 2016 is still very much prevalent in 2017, but of course we are the ones with an ‘agenda’. For the record, I posted this on Alastair Cook a while back and nothing has happened to change my personal opinion since then – https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2016/01/29/guest-post-dont-blame-it-on-the-sunshine-blame-it-on-the-ecb/. I’m not sure it screams incandescent hatred, but I’ll leave you to decide on this….

      Anyway, I’m bored about writing and going over the same things about Alastair Cook, so I’m simply going to refer ‘people’ back to the above article when the next brain dead moron suggests that our whole editorial policy is based around our hatred of Cook.

      And with that nonsense out of the way, feel free to comment on the game below:

      Fixing Cricket – Slow Over Rates

      We all love cricket here at Being Outside Cricket. Writers and readers, we’re united by our love for the sport. But just because we love something, it doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t change some things if we could. Modern cricket is filled with anachronisms, compromises, and petty self-interest which often leaves fans feeling annoyed and shortchanged. The most frustrating thing is that many of these issues can easily be addressed, it just requires The Powers That Be to spend a tiny amount of time and money on fixing them.

      Recently I’ve noticed quite a few overs lost in Tests, or innings overrunning in ODIs. In the two matches so far of the Basil D’Oliveira series between England and South Africa there have been 11 missing overs. This is despite the extra half hour teams have, lowering the required over rate from 15 to roughly 13.8 per hour. Even so, there was no punishment for either team because the game ended within five days and there are generous allowances for the time taken with reviews, wickets, and even boundaries. In the Champions Trophy there were three cases of punishment for slow over rates, even with the ICC’s lax enforcement of the rules.

      Does It Matter?

      It could be said that slow over rates rarely have an impact on the result. England’s last two Test matches ended with over a day left, even with the lost overs. The Champions Trophy games with slow over rates all had results. Fundamentally, little would have changed if these games finished on time. It’s not about the integrity of the game, it’s about the fans.

      Cricket supporters get shafted on an unfortunately regular basis, particularly if they go to see Test matches. They buy overpriced tickets for what usually aren’t great seats, where they can buy overpriced food, washing it down with overpriced beer. On top of all that, due to cricket’s almost unique inability to play in the rain, they often see a lot less than a full game or day’s play without any kind of refund. A quick look at the ECB’s refund policy shows that spectators only get a full refund if 15 overs or less are bowled in a day, and half is refunded is between 15 and 30 overs are played in a day. There aren’t many places where, if you buy something and only get half of what you paid for, you don’t get a full refund. If you pay for a day’s play and only see 45 overs, you get nothing. By almost any measure, that’s poor value.

      So it is with slow over rates. If someone pays to see 90 innings and they only see 85, they’re being cheated out of what they are owed. If they’re still queueing for their incredibly expensive food and drink while the second innings starts because the ODI mid-innings interval was cut to 30 minutes, they’re missing out on what they paid for. This has a real long-term impact, spectators who feel ill-treated will go to cricket games less often or stop completely.

      Arguably the more important issue is the enjoyment of the game. It is the perception of people who aren’t cricket fans that it is a slow and boring sport where almost nothing happens. When a fielding team are bowling at 12-13 overs per hour, I feel quite a bit of sympathy with that viewpoint.

      My Solution

      Clearly the current system isn’t working. The umpires have a massive amount of latitude when it comes to excusing slow over rates, and clearly do everything in their power to avoid banning captains. Particularly, if you were being cynical, captains from the ‘Big 3’ nations who largely control world cricket. Even so, 4 captains have received bans in the past year (Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Masrafe Mortaza and Upal Tharanga), and it still hasn’t in any way acted as a deterrent.

      What I believe cricket needs is a clear, strict, unambiguous rule with a punishment which is significant enough to discourage fielding teams from slowing down but also not disproportionate. My suggestion is this: Sessions always finish at their scheduled time (with some leniency for truly unavoidable delays), and the batting team receive 6 penalty runs for every ball lost.

      Take for example England’s game against New Zealand in the recent Champions Trophy. England were batting in the first inning and scored a good total of 310 in their 50 overs, but it overran by 28 minutes (or to put it another way, by 7 overs). After some ‘careful consideration’ by the match umpires, this was reduced to only being 8 minutes (2 overs) slow and the New Zealand players received fines but no suspension. I’m not aware of any significant delays in the game which took 20 minutes out of the game, but clearly the officials decided otherwise. If the ICC followed my suggestion, then England would have amassed a total of over 500 runs and the New Zealand players wouldn’t have been fined or at risk of suspension. As for people watching in the stands or at home, they would have had a full hour to enjoy their lunch rather than just 32 minutes.

      Which isn’t to say that this would be without problems. I’ve posted my suggestion here in the comments a few times and have had some flaws highlighted. D’Arthez pointed out that ball boys (and possibly the crowd) might delay throwing the ball back to the fielders when the away team is bowling. Certainly there’s also a considerable incentive for batsmen to waste as much time as possible, acting like Stuart Broad trying to bat for a draw. Pulling out of their batting stance, tying their laces, redoing their pads and gloves, feigning cramps, moving the sightscreens, all the old pro’s tricks. Of course this could be prevented by firm umpiring, but if we had that then there wouldn’t be any reason to change from the current rules. But despite this, and other wrinkles that would need ironing out, I think it’s an improvement on the current system.

      So that’s my idea. If you have any comments on this, your own solutions, or just general comments on over rates please leave them below.

      Another ICC Meeting – Guest Post by Simon H

      We asked our resident commenter in chief, and ICC scrutineer, to update us on the latest machinations at the ICC. And he agreed. Take it away Simon.

      Another Bloody ICC Meeting

      Another ICC meeting? Yawn…. Hang on, folks! Shit just got real – as they say in the Long Room. Some important decisions have just been made, not that you’d know it from the UK media. Cricinfo and Tim Wigmore have been excellent, but the rest? The BBC managed to cover both major decisions, the DT and the DM covered the elevation of Ireland and Afghanistan but not much else, the Guardian…. well, Selvey may have gone but his spirit of ignoring governance lives on.

      Some of us have been commenting away BTL as the decisions have unfolded – but for anyone who’s missed it all, here are the main points pulled together:

      1.Revenue-sharing. I’m old-fashioned enough to start with the money. The new revenue-model is:

      http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/image/1105340.html?object=297120;dir=next

      In percentage terms: India 22.8%; England 7.8%; Australia, Pakistan, SL, SA, Bangladesh, NZ and WI 7.2% each; Zimbabwe 5.3%; the 90-odd Associates 13.5%.

      Why are teams getting these amounts? There’s no formula based on need, contribution or anything else. Countries have grabbed what they can. Why does small, rich NZ get the same as large, poor Bangladesh? Don’t ask me. Why does medium-sized, rich England get more than large, poor Pakistan? Er….

      Is it a good and fair resolution? Well, it’s better than the 2014 deal that was the best that anyone could hope for (TM Selvey). A punch in the face for everyone outside the Big Three would be a better deal than 2014. Is it better than the pre-2014 arrangement? Possibly – I can see different sides to that debate. Is it as good as what they agreed just a few months ago? Well, another 112 USD have been thrown at India that was conjured up out of somewhere (the Associate budget, mainly).

      Is it the basis for a long-term solution? Countries have grabbed what they can based on their power at this moment. When the power balance shifts, expect us to be here again with this.

      1. Test status for Ireland and Afghanistan. This has received most MSM coverage so I’ll say least about it here. Read Tim Wigmore on Ireland and Afghanistan’s promotion, if you haven’t already:

      https://twitter.com/timwig/status/878307065378201603

      Two points about it though – i) the Test challenge proposed for 2018 has been scrapped so Ireland’s first Test is now likely to be not against England at Lord’s but whatever they arrange (which means probably they’ll play Afghanistan… and again and again) ii) although Ireland and Afghanistan can now play Tests, for funding purposes they are still regarded as Associates so they will receive less than half the funding of Zimbabwe and the funding increase they will receive eats into the Associate funding for everyone else. The big losers from this meeting are the other Associates. A good definition of the ICC could be “a body set up to screw cricket in the Netherlands” because that’s all they ever seem to do.

      1. Test and ODI Championships. After much talk, one has finally been agreed…. to start after 2019:

      http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/1105371.html

      The Test Championship involves each nation playing series (minimum of two Tests) against six teams over two years with points awarded and the top two playing a Final (with Lord’s, Eden Gardens and the SCG mentioned as possible venues …. because nobody else has an iconic venue). It seems an absolute nonsense to me that we can have a league where some teams don’t play each other.

      The proposed schedule for 2019-23 gives some idea where things are heading. To take just England, England will not be playing Bangladesh at home at all in this period and won’t play NZ until 2023. India look like they’ll be keeping five-Test series in England. Another back-to-back Ashes looks dead. SA look as if they will be further downgraded with their next winter against England shared with India and their next summer in England six years off and shared with NZ.

      Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan have no regular fixtures and no means of promotion. Why would, say, WI arrange matches against Afghanistan when they won’t make much money and victories for Afghanistan would just underline the stupidity of WI having all these agreed fixtures and Afghanistan having a few crumbs.

      1. The ICC Constitution. Perhaps the most under-analysed part of the changes is the new constitution and what it means for future ICC decision-making:

      http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/1105387.html

      As I understand it, that means it will need two-thirds of 17 to carry significant future changes. This would appear to make it harder for a small group of nations to form a dominant bloc on the ICC.

      Another change is the creation of a deputy chairman who will preside when Manohar is absent – and the good news is this post hasn’t gone to you-know-who but to Khawaja from Singapore.

      Sundries (as our Australian friends might say).

      Various other changes have been agreed (have a drink every time a UK MSM journo shows no awareness of these):

      • a) A World XI will tour Pakistan for three T20s later in the year as part of re-introducing international cricket to the country.
      • b) Teams will not have DRS topped up after 80 overs (because no-one will be able to bat that long anymore?) but will not lose a review for ‘Umpire’s Call’.
      • c) The bat-size restrictions and red cards for misconduct proposed by the MCC were adopted.
      • d) A batsman won’t be run out if their bat bounces up after having been grounded.
      • e) USACA were booted out. USACA gave their usual response that everyone else is wrong. This is worth keeping an eye on as there are some in the ICC desperate to get the T20 WC in the USA before the end of the next decade.
      • f) Radical measures were introduced to improve over rates. Oh sorry, no they weren’t!
      • g) What else wasn’t discussed? Well, there’s nothing about the Olympics, nor about the future of the CT, nor about the future structure of tournaments (in the name of God, won’t someone do something about this disaster of a World Cup that’s getting closer and closer….).

      Nightmare In Dubai – Guest Post by SimonH

      We would all have seen the sudden news from the ICC today about the sudden resignation for “personal reasons” of Shashank Manohar. As if he was reading my mind, our regular scrutineer of all things ICC has put pen to paper, or keyboard to screen, to give his quick take on what has happened today. So, take it away Simon H….

      Clarke Book

      “The Presidential limousine is turning into Elm Street…. President Manohar is waving…. There seems to be some sort of disturbance in the motorcade…. “

      A bright new leader, not without his flaws certainly but committed to taking on entrenched interests and elites with vast power and money, is removed from office before completing his term? His proposed reforms look certain to die along with him? His shady deputy leader is positioned to take over? It may not quite be Dealey Plaza, and nobody yet has been identified firing the fatal shot from the grassy knoll, but it looks very much like March 15th 2017 has seen an undeclared coup (bloodless, fortunately) in global cricket governance.

      The first thing to say is that this seems to have come out of nowhere. There had been no hints, no nods-and-winks, that this was imminent. The global cricket press corps, those Woodward and Bernsteins of investigative “proper” journalism, seem to have been completely blindsided. But then it isn’t so difficult to be blindsided if you’re looking in the opposite direction…..

      Shashank Manohar, eight months into his two year term as ICC chairman, has emailed CEO Dave Richardson that he is standing down for undisclosed “personal reasons”. Indian media sources are reporting that it was a pre-emptive move in anticipation of losing the crucial vote on ICC reforms next month. Those proposals involved a new revenue-sharing deal that would cut India’s 22% of ICC revenue, the creation of a Test championship that would slash the number of games teams played, the creation of two divisions of 9 and 3 teams with no promotion/relegation, qualification for all teams for ICC tournaments and various other measures. The BCCI needed four FMs to block the moves and have reportedly secured the support of SL, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Those boards are apparently against more money for themselves. Some indication of the economics are here: http://www.hindustantimes.com/cricket/bcci-could-lose-180-190-million-in-new-icc-revenue-model-still-biggest-earner/story-YhtzoiMgonO7OJnriqJ7ZL.html

      It appears that Zimbabwe have voted themselves out of $5m and the figures for SL and Bangladesh would be several times more that. This, obviously, is not

      something you see every day. They are, more understandably, against permanent demotion to D2 (in Zimbabwe’s case) and playing a lot less Test cricket (in SL’s case).

      The ICC will appoint an interim chairman until new elections can be held for a permanent replacement. Candidates need to be past or present ICC directors and to be nominated by at least two FM directors. The process seems most likely to carry on into the summer although it could technically be resolved next month. Unsurprisingly, the speculation from UK media sources is that Giles Clarke, known to be ambitious for the job but unable even to secure two nominations last time, is positioning himself for the job. The normally media-shy Clarke gave a rare interview recently: http://www.standard.co.uk/business/giles-clarke-the-cricket-nut-who-swapped-retail-for-oil-on-his-latest-innings-at-amerisur-a3463606.html

      Clarke’s ambitions had been thwarted previously by non-Big Three FMs still furious over the 2014 Power Grab. Clarke has recently become a great supporter of returning international cricket to Pakistan: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/06/pakistan-host-international-cricket-t20-series-world-xi-icc

      Relentless churls might point out that Pakistan is not safe so Clarke set up his very own Warren Commission to come up with the result that had already been determined: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/1086672.html

      Therefore, we find ourselves today with what was yesterday’s distant possibility having become today’s imminent probability. The LBJ of cricket governance – with all the original’s probity, charm and intestinal fortitude for taking on those with money and power – is closing in on that crown he so coverts. If there’s one thing we should learn about the running of cricket, it’s never to say “it can’t get much worse”.

      Eoin, T20, ECB, ICC, Tired….

      As Chris is off around the other side of the world, and my job has gone absolutely hyper, the time to consider and even react to games, news, events is so totally limited. Coming home has been like wandering into a gently soothing cool shower, draining away the aches and pains, but leaving you still tired and needing rest. Such feelings don’t correlate with writing passionate blog materials. Twitter is easier, but also lazier.

      Carrying out the duties of a blog like this means a lot of spare time is taken in reading and listening to what is going on. Today is a good example. I bought the Cricket Paper this morning. The only time I’ve even thought about reading it was when Tregaskis asked me if he could see a copy of the front page. I get home and the first time I actually catch up with the Surrey and Middlesex scores is on the bus to my house. I’ve listened to George’s podcast while having one eye on the unbelievable opportunity I have in 9 days time to fulfill one of my dreams.

      I sit and read the stuff on Eoin Morgan. My job entails me going around the world, infrequently, and seeing some extraordinary places – I’ve been to Almaty in Kazakhstan, a brilliant experience, and down a coal mine in Illinois. I’ve been to Istanbul a number of times, and even the amazing city of Moscow. I’ve been nervous about many of them. But I went, because I believe I can look after myself, have a huge sense of danger, and feel as though my wits are about me. I don’t guarantee safety, but then again life is too short to worry about everything. I’m sure something will happen some day, but it is as likely to be in Paris as it is in Istanbul, for example.

      But I have turned down visits that don’t suit my personal circumstances, or where being a chunky could get me into trouble (i.e. being able to run decent distances). Or, importantly, where they make me nervous. You see, I may have to make the choice of going to Bangladesh soon, and I’m not that keen, but would probably, on balance go. But I am not a high profile international cricket team. I have every sympathy for Eoin Morgan, who has damn good reasons for not going. His own. You don’t walk a mile in his shoes, so don’t you dare judge him for making that decision. It is all perfectly well people saying “he’s the leader, he should show some courage”. Bollocks. There’s too much of this judgmental crap these days, and I’ve had enough of it. I’m sure many of you have too.

      Those who like that sort of thing are pointing out Eoin Morgan’s “lack of form”. The irony of that smacks me in the face. Two years ago lack of form was nothing when the other England captain was playing test cricket, and his lack of form at ODI level took more than a few months bad trot to get him out of the team. Morgan will know how much he lost if he is not selected for India. If he isn’t selected in the squad, then I know that this is personal. Morgan is a very good white ball captain. Jos Buttler will not surprise us that much in three games to persuade us that Morgan still isn’t the best white ball captain.

      Then there is the T20 stuff. Look, sorry people, but I really haven’t been following it as much as I know you might like me to. Part of me is past caring. The ECB know what they want. They want an 8 team tournament, in prime summer, with international superstars, and it live and exclusive on Sky TV. Yes, you read the last bit. If it ain’t them, it will be BT Sport. That the counties want little to do with it, is not a surprise, but they’ll be told “no nice payouts to keep you going if there isn’t what we want” and we’ll melt down into civil war over cucumber sandwiches. Unlike Australia, on which we are basing our T20 envy, the game has lost its grip on the social fabric of the country because it banned itself from free TV. Australia still reveres it cricket and there is still an audience for it. It also, as I read from someone today, the perfect set up with large urban centres limited in number. What would we do?  Graves seems to have all the negotiating skills of a Sandstone cliff, and Tom Harrison couldn’t persuade me to put the heat on in winter, so what chance do we have? I don’t think the other side of the debate has been all that crash hot either. Why do we need to save the counties? If they didn’t “need” saving we wouldn’t have to help them out. The game is not viable even in the current “massively successful” T20 Blast era. You know my view – players are getting paid above their market value, and unless there’s some damn realism in this sphere, we are going to be in real trouble ad infinitum. There is not a single current non-international cricketer who should be on more than £2k a week in county cricket. There used to be a few at Surrey. I’ll bet they weren’t the only ones.

      And as for the ICC. May god have mercy on the souls of the cricket boards of this world. We truly are in the hands of men with little imagination, other than how to try to make money. I’m done with it. What is there left for us to say? What more could Death of a Gentleman do to say, sort this mess out? I’m not sure two divisions would have saved test cricket, nor do I believe it is in as dire a state as some say it is. It most certainly is in certain countries, but that isn’t new. We have the wonderful success story of Pakistan, the world #1 that never plays at home. England are up and down. Australia too. India look to be getting some consistency. Sri Lanka can pull magic out of a hat. South Africa may still have it. The ICC don’t give a shit. Not really. The BCCI run the game and we all know it. It may have sounded like they were moving towards consensus, but that was always transient in my eyes.

      So tiredness and weariness, despair and demoralised, we move on to the end of a season where the premier long-form competition is coming down to a thrilling conclusion with the top two meeting in the last fixture and our host broadcaster, with five or six sports channels to fill in midweek, cannot be arsed to cover it. And that’s the broadcaster who #39 put their head chap at #6 in his power list. He should be #1 because if the exclusive broadcaster can’t be bothered to do this and that company is very likely to keep all cricket in the future, then this sport has the wrong priorities. But we knew that.

      UPDATE – Paul Newman has written a truly appalling piece on Morgan’s decision. I’m not linking it. If you want to read it, then go ahead. But there is no room in his ivory tower for a shade of grey. The sort of article that plays the man, and not the issue. An issue so serious that the ECB Head of Security went out there for a week and still the ECB said there would be nothing held against anyone who did not travel. I ribbed an Aussie about their non-tour last year, I know. But there’s been some naughtiness since (I’ve learned a hell of a lot about Bangladesh since then) and it’s a judgment call. No more no less. But there isn’t empathy in Newman. Certainly not in his writing. I don’t know if I could be more angry with him.

      Cash, Money, Lucre, Power, Influence…

      I think Jarrod Kimber’s Twitter feed spoke volumes last night….

      You can read the rest. Jarrod lets the BCCI and Anurag Thakur have it with both barrels.

      Here at Being Outside Cricket, well especially me, I bow to Simon H when it comes to matters of ICC and world administration. It’s tough to keep up with the machinations of our press and ECB goings on without keeping an eye on what is happening in the international game. But what we all know is that India control the game – and Indian fans save your admonishment because this is realpolitik not some cosy fancy “good for the game” nonsense that I’m fed by people who want more of my cash to be able to watch the sport we all love. For that’s what this is all about. As Gideon Haigh says, what are fans other than something to be monetised? Sport has always been about money and entrenching power. The “product” on the field is a definite second.

      But hey, you say, if the product is rubbish then no-one will watch? Well, yes, to a degree. I happen to think that “modern football” of the last 20 or so years, while technically much better, is far less exciting. It’s why I don’t go to my team any more – I was bored watching defensive, fearful football, with losing more feared than winning enjoyed – and yet the Premier League is doing better (supposedly) than ever in the money stakes. India have the IPL – I really couldn’t tell you who won it, was it Bangalore? – and it rakes in a fortune. The Indian national team is a money printing machine, and while they have the cash they do not have one vote on the table. They have THE vote.

      We can sit here and moan all we like. This is the real world. We have ONE jewel in the crown – our team plays a massively lucrative series against Australia – but non-India years in the accounts are not good. We’ll see how down they are when we get the next season’s accounts, but revenue was well down in 2015 from 2014, and that was from India to Australia, and they are bound to be a lot worse compared to 2015. Money men, and it’s usually men, who run cricket, don’t tend to do altruism, and in many cases don’t take a long-term view.

      One thing with the Giles Clarke interview in The Cricketer is that where there is lots of plaudits on himself for securing a lucrative TV contract without which the professional game in this country could not have survived – his words – he has seen a growth in international player’s wages in the UK which has not been matched by a growth in the game itself. You only have to look at clubs in my area merging or folding (our team did because we had no younger players, and the constant strife the counties put themselves in while paying players money they can’t afford. It’s come to the point where the game in England depends on whether a TV company is going to pony up the money to pay for it. At some point the sports rights market is going to be saturated and people won’t pay any more. Take the fact the US Open tennis has been dropped by Sky, for the cost, I read, of ONE Premier League fixture. Cricket better not be still standing when the music stops and the chairs are all taken.

      It’s OK for us diehards to say “that Pakistan series was great and we should have more of them” because Sky don’t want that stiff. They’d have Australia and India alternating if they had their way. They’d have an IPL in England if they had their way. And that’s the issue for us, and increasingly on a global scale. TV calls the tune, and more importantly, Indian TV money (not influence, as the way they are advised to broadcast shows the power the BCCI holds) does, and that’s a lot of money.

      There were a lot of rumblings when Shashank Manohar swept on the scene, stopped Giles becoming the head of the ICC, made some very nice international noises which were in contrast to Srinavasan, that all wasn’t all it seemed. A number of the constituent parts of the BCCI weren’t so keen on hearing about THEIR revenue being nicely shared around the world for the “good of the game”. I could just imagine out constituent Premier League clubs doing just the same – a bit like how the top boys react when the Champions League is being reformed, The top boys want the riches for themselves. The assured cash flow. To hell with fairness and competition.

      Now, it appears, at the ICC council that the Indian board aren’t going to be as fulsome in their altruism as we first thought. Part of me says why the hell should we. If we were in their shoes, we wouldn’t be. If any part of this impinged on counties, we’d have no chance of changing the rules. So don’t be slagging India off for doing what we would do.

      Two division test cricket would only have worked if we truly believe England, India or Australia would have been allowed to be relegated. If you believe that, then you should check the bottom of the garden for fairies. Cricket is bankrolled by India, so what they say will pretty much go. The IPL has pretty much destroyed, if it needed much help, test cricket in the West Indies as it always clashes with their season. The best West Indian players get to “choose” whether to earn a reasonably small sums in an uncompetitive team on dreary wickets in the Caribbean, or pocket a small fortune in playing in a competitive if ultimately relatively meaningless “league” in India. That’s tough. Don’t spend too long thinking about it.

      The game is run for naked self-interest. We got angry, rightfully so, and we should never not get angry, at this. Of course we do. We’re bloody diehards. But we aren’t who boards care about. We’re the ones taken for granted that we’ll still be there when it all falls apart. We’ll still cough up our Sky Subs, our match tickets, even our memberships just to watch the game.

      I hope Simon will write a piece on the meeting – if not, I’m sure he’ll comment – but the ICC haven’t surprised me in the slightest, and I’ll bet deep down they’ve not surprised Jarrod, Sam, Gideon, and all those others out there who railed against the machine. What they have done is make things a little less comfortable, but when there’s money to be made, and cash and power to be invested in themselves, personally, now, I’m afraid mere diehards can go do one…..

      Just listened to the Ugra clip on Cricinfo headlined “BCCI standing with the “small guys”. Really? REALLY? Because they are voting against a two-tier system when they themselves virtually operate one themselves (no tests against Bangladesh at home until the FIRST one in Spring next year). I’m sorry, you’ll have to come up with a better rationale than that.

      The Phantom Menace

      I thought I’d copy out an article I’ve just read. Keeper99 linked me to another article from the Hyderabad (Central Zone I believe) news press and had me off looking to see other views. I came across this article which is a darn sight more sobering than some of the cries of relief we are hearing. It’s from the Indian Express (emboldened parts are my emphasis):

      A rock, a hard place

      BCCI chief has an unenviable job at a difficult time. He must step up to it.

      – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/bcci-shashank-manohar-a-rock-a-hard-place/#sthash.fnOv0895.dpuf

      It will be understandable if the Indian cricket board president, Shashank Manohar, feels that, right now, he is being loved and viewed with suspicion, both at the same time. The Anglo-Saxon part of the cricketing world is lauding him for the clean-up job he has promised at the International Cricket Council. But the Indians in power in cricket administration might not be quite cosying up to him. Needless to say, he has an unenviable task on his hands. He has spoken about defanging the bully that is Indian cricket that, along with England and Australia, had devised a plan last year to retain the lion’s share of the revenue. If he manages to bring in a more equitable sharing system, then the BCCI, which, as part of the Big Three, was expected to rake in around $568 million annually, will have to settle for a double-digit figure.

      (Comment – this last part may be over-dramatic, but do not underestimate it. Domestic sports bodies the world over have little interest in the wide world outside. We have the Premier League as Exhibit A.)

      Even if the new revenue is somehow deemed palatable by the old guard back home, they might stir up a rebellion of sorts if Manohar starts to clean up Indian cricket as per the recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee. The suggestions of the Supreme Court-appointed committee are aimed at a comprehensive clean-up. Several important figures would have to quit cricket administration as they would not only be debarred by the age clause of 70 years but would be automatically disqualified by the limits imposed on tenure — cumulatively nine years and no successive terms allowed. Politicians and administrators don’t usually give up power easily.

      If the Big Three is dismantled, and democracy replaces hegemony, the BCCI stands to lose money, which in turn would affect the generous cash flow to various local associations across the country. A recommendation as simple and rational as auditing and accounting for the money given to associations is likely to hit speed-breakers. In other words, the recommendations envisage a complete shake-up of the system — be it changing the way the associations and the BCCI are currently registered to the way the money is shared between them — and such overhauling is likely to alienate the BCCI chief from his colleagues in cricket administration. The job at hand isn’t going to be easy, considering the big names and powerful people involved. With the SC breathing down his neck, it will be interesting to see how Manohar responds.

      A New Hope, maybe, but there is a lot to worry about still. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. Rich businessmen didn’t become rich by giving away money. Powerful people don’t generally give up power easily. This is not a knock on India, but if they have the attitude of our own Giles Clarke, they’ll put the views of their board above those of the world game. That’s where we are. Especially when you are talking about immense amounts of money.

      Please read TLG’s excellent “A New Hope” as a full view on this situation. I believe the above paints a more alarming picture.

      UPDATE – Would also recommend this piece from the same organ on the tussles in India at the moment as the Supreme Court get involved in the governance at BCCI. http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/supreme-court-gets-stern-with-bcci-asks-it-to-implement-lodha-panel-recommendations/

      A New Hope

      One of the elements of the notorious description used by the ECB (and PCA) which provided the name of this site was the implied attitude towards those who at amateur level played the game, or who watched, bought tickets or paid television subcriptions.  It was a perfect demonstration of their opinion of the plebians who merely provided all the revenue to allow those either within cricket administration, professional players or indeed journalists or broadcasters to earn a living.  It remains one of the most despicable statements ever used by a sporting body towards those upon whom a game relies, and that statement is still carried on the ECB website, and no apology or even acknowledgement of it has ever been made.

      But on its own, in isolation, it could perhaps be seen as the botched missive of an idiocracy which most people could brush off and laugh at.  Except the trouble was that this attitude was pervasive, and not just within the ECB, it went through every level of the international game.  Indeed, the attitude of the ECB was carried forward into the highest echelons of the international game.  The film Death of a Gentleman outlined the perspective that supporters were merely there to be monetised in detail, and the ECB were not just complicit, they led the way alongside India and Australia in attempting to grab as much filthy lucre as possible.

      The power grab by the Big Three (one suspects that rather than hear the dripping contempt of that phrase, some within will view it as a badge of honour) was largely about increasing power and increasing the revenues to those boards, entirely at the expense of everyone else.  The remaining Test nations would be worse off, the Associate nations might as well give up, and for a nation like Ireland, the possibility of Test cricket had receded into the distance and has little appeal to it even if they were to achieve it.

      Dmitri yesterday wrote a piece about the anniversary of the removal of Kevin Pietersen as an international player.  Even back then, people were told to “move on” and naturally enough, those who always seem to back the ECB no matter what were quick to repeat it.  But as so often, they miss the point.  Pietersen is one tiny part of a wider jigsaw, and in the grand scheme of things, one of the least important.  But what that episode did demonstrate above all was the utter contempt for those who are Outside Cricket not just by word, but by deed.  That attitude, irrespective of whether one is a fan of Pietersen the player or not is precisely the reason the ECB, and Giles Clarke in particular, had no compunctions whatsoever in behaving the way they did, and the reason it was so important is that it highlighted the naked greed and lack of any interest in the consequences so demonstrative of that arrogance.  It was not just that they abrogated their duty of care for the game, they showed they didn’t care about the game at all, merely their own narrow self-interests.  The expression of lofty superiority by authority was echoed in similar ways across the globe, and while Pietersen had his own problems and was to at least some extent the architect of his own downfall, the lack of interest in the game itself reached the point where players were not turning out for their national teams, preferring instead to play the T20 leagues, and the captain of South Africa – South Africa no less – was openly debating giving up Test cricket. Different circumstances, entirely different situations, yet it was possible to draw a direct line between all of them on the basis of the lack of interest the governing bodies had for the integrity of the game.

      The Big Three carve up had the consequence of drawing the vast majority of the game’s revenues to themselves, impoverishing the remainder of the Test playing nations and killing any prospect of the game expanding beyond its rather narrow boundaries.  Cricket became the first sport in history to deliberately reduce its footprint on the planet.  It went further, with Clarke’s flat rejection of the idea of T20 cricket being an Olympic Sport, mostly on the grounds that it wouldn’t make his board any money, whatever he said, while slashing the development funds to non-Test playing nations and turning even the Test playing nations outside India, Australia and England into nothing other than vassals.  The three countries took complete control of the ICC, ensuring that all ICC events were to be held solely in their own territories over the following ten years (though no one expected that to change at the conclusion of the agreed period) and challenging all the others to simply lump it or face being excluded from the kinds of tours that would allow them to survive as cricketing entities.

      Some journalists objected, and objected vociferously.  In Australia Gideon Haigh was scathing as only he can be, in England Scyld Berry broke ranks from his colleagues to condemn it outright, while Wisden in the form of Lawrence Booth sounded the alarm for cricket as a game.  Since then Nick Hoult at the Telegraph has frequently written about the machinations both within the ECB and beyond.  Cricinfo too raised the matter, with Jarrod Kimber impressively furious and of course along with Sam Collins making Death of a Gentleman, while Tim Wigmore has repeatedly castigated the powers that be for their duplicity and selfishness concerning the wider world game.

      From others.  Silence.  From the Guardian, nothing – really nothing.  At the time of writing, there is still nothing on the ICC meeting today.  From Mike Selvey, their chief cricket correspondent, absolutely nothing at any point on the whole topic.  This is no surprise, for Selvey is known to be close to Giles Clarke to the extent that a paper that has prided itself on investigating injustice has appeared to be an echo chamber – indeed a direct hotline – for the views of the ECB.  Selvey’s first response on TMS to the potential for major change in favour of the richest boards was to profess ignorance of the whole matter and regard it as unimportant and when Death of a Gentleman came out he refused to watch it.  As far as anyone knows he still hasn’t.  It is shameful that newspaper has ignored the matter, it is despicable that they have made no effort whatever to cover it, preferring instead to imply approval of Giles Clarke’s claim that no-one is interested in administration, apparently even when it fundamentally changes the nature of the game.  Colleagues such as David Conn may have views on that. For cricket lovers who have adored the Guardian’s previously excellent coverage, it is a dereliction of duty that they will find very hard to ever forgive.  That it requires blogs like this one to point this out, and to try, in our own small way, to back up the work of those excellent journalists in asking questions and making criticisms is unacceptable.

      Unless there is some kind of statement to the contrary, the assumption must be this is deliberate policy, for it is rather hard to believe a journalist of the quality of Ali Martin is purposely ignoring the whole subject.

      Today the ICC held a meeting which largely reversed the changes made a year ago, the status quo ante prevailing.  This can be viewed as progress of a sort, though Tim Wigmore wrote an excellent piece on Cricinfo pointing out the limitations of what has happened.  It is well worth reading:

      http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/969029.html

      Wigmore is completely correct, and points to Lord Woolf’s scathing assessment of the ICC at the time, to which we now more or less return.  And yet even this does provide some grounds for hope, and perhaps practicality dictates that in one board meeting the only possible immediate means of rolling back the changes was to re-instate the previous constitution.  The ICC under the jackboot of India, Australia and England would have in short order killed at the very least Test cricket as we knew it.  The West Indies, already in crisis through their own administrative ineptitude have reached the point where they are uncompetitive against almost anyone, their best players preferring instead to play the shortest form of the game as hired hands – and who can blame them?  The battering received in Australia was greeted with sadness in some quarters, and with outrage amongst those who have delved rather more deeply into the wider problems.  It was only going to get worse, the alarm bells were well and truly ringing when AB De Villiers made his statement about giving up Tests.  The clear revenue increase to the majority that applies now at least buys a little time.

      The ICC statement from today is worth reading in full:

      http://www.icc-cricket.com/news/2016/media-releases/92105/outcomes-from-icc-board-and-committee-meetings

      It is a curious thing when an ICC statement provides some degree of cheer for the cricket fan.  The removal of N. Srinivasan back in November when the BCCI withdrew support and the subsequent installation of Shashank Manohar as ICC Chairman provided the first glimpse of the possibility that the theft of the world game by an avaricious few might just come under scrutiny by those with the power to change it.  The other Test playing nations, suddenly aware of their position as turkeys who had voted – or been forced to vote – for Christmas, had raised objections to their diminished status, but the constitution gave them virtually no prospect of changing anything.  It required the BCCI in particular to take the lead.  Manohar was swift to demonstrate things could change, saying upon his appointment:

      “I don’t agree with the revenue-sharing formula, because it’s nice to say that India (BCCI) will get 22 per cent of the total revenue of the ICC, but you cannot make the poor poorer and the rich richer, only because you have the clout.  Secondly there is another angle to it which nobody has thought of. India generates money because the other countries come and play in India. If you do not have a fierce competition, the broadcasters are not going to pay you and the sponsors are not going to sponsor your events.”

      He went on:

      “I don’t agree with the three major countries bullying the ICC.  That’s my personal view, because as I have always said, an institution is bigger than individuals. You cannot guarantee which individual will occupy the top position in either of these countries. And, the ICC constitution, as it stands today, says that in all the major committees of the ICC, these three countries will be automatically there. So all the financial and commercial aspects and the executive committee will be controlled by the representatives of these three countries which according to me is wrong.

      “You should have the best man, whether he comes from Zimbabwe, or West Indies, or even from an associate or affiliate to work on a committee, who will promote the interests of the ICC.”

      Simple statements of truth, but it garnered attention because it was entirely at odds with everything that had gone before.  Premature it may be, but there is at least a hope that the new man at the top actually gives a shit about the game.  From today’s press release, one line stood out in particular:

      “No Member of the ICC is bigger than the other”

      Others have been quick to point out that as currently constituted, this is not true, for India in particular have the power that no one else does, and as the major driver of revenue in the game, that is certainly not inherently wrong by any means.  And yet the statement has been made, and while they are merely words, they are good words.  And this is where ideas begin.  At long last there is at the very least a statement of first principles that he and the ICC can be held to.  This is some small progress.

      Another item was that the chairman of the ICC could not hold office with any of the boards.  This has direct consequences for Giles Clarke, as President of the ECB.  He has long aspired to be ICC Chairman, but to do so he will have to give up his role at the ECB.  And yet the indications are that despite previously appearing very likely to get it, the change in structure has crippled his prospects.  Australia and South Africa have already made it clear they won’t support him, Sri Lanka are reported to be reluctant.  Given Clarke’s unpopularity in much of the ECB, it would be an irony if the English were the only ones in favour, and it is tempting to wonder if they are even more in favour if it means ridding themselves of him at the same time.  Either way, there will be few in mourning for the dissolving dreams of a man associated with the carve up of the world game like few others.

      Other elements from the press release include conducting a review of the T20 leagues and their impact on the world game.  T20 is a reality, and could – and should – be something extremely good for the game, as it raises the profile, popularity, and yes, the revenues of the sport.  That we are in a position where it constitutes a threat to Test cricket and international cricket more generally is not inevitable, and never was.  To review this is again progress, with the tantalising prospect of providing a context for Test cricket in particular, as the form of the game most under threat.

      Is it an answer?  No.  Is it even the outline of the answer?  No.  But does it provide the smallest semblance of hope that international cricket, and Test cricket in particular, has a future?  Just the smallest.  It is a start.  If it goes no further, then the downward spiral, which has been paused today, will resume.  But nothing is inevitable, and with the right people at the helm, things can improve.  Today is a good day, the despair is slightly lessened, and maybe, just maybe, Mr Smith has gone to Washington.