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ICC makes the cricket world smaller

The ICC, it can be said, has transformed from a public limited company to a private limited company

ICC makes the cricket world smaller

The Associates see the news that the 2019 World Cup should be restricted to 10 teams as daylight robbery. That was the idea from Australia for next year’s cup that they are hosting but was shot down by the pressure from the rest of the members. Now with the power to decide for everyone, England look well poised to carry out this shearing of competing teams, from the current 14 to 10.

One has to admit that quality over quantity offers a more intense tournament, as the Champions Trophy 2013 and this year’s World Twenty20 has proven. But then the ICC should never have started attracting the Associates to the world cup all those years back, since 1996 to be exact. In that tournament it took some three weeks and somewhere around 30 matches to eliminate the four Associates! Following that, the top eight competed in 7 games for around a week to decide the winner.

From that year onwards the boredom has lessened slightly with the introduction of the Super Sixes/Eights but as in the 2007 tournament in West Indies the early elimination of India and Pakistan and the ascension of Bangladesh and Ireland in their place made for some forgettable contests in what was eventually one of the most tiring, sparsely attended edition of all cricket world cups.

The Champions Trophy, back from the dead, has already been shortened to top eight teams and sparkled throughout in what was then thought to be the last edition of the trophy. The World Twenty20 has also been adjusted to make life difficult for the two bottom rankers.

In fact this was one of the issues that first created the cracks within the ICC. When the 2015 World Cup format was first announced by Cricket Australia and NZ Cricket Board the Associates were shocked to see they had been kept out of it. Ironically India sided with the associates and the other full members in dismissing this notion. It didn’t go down too well but the BCCI Chairman at the time was not N Srinivasan but Sharad Pawar. It can be speculated that this was one of the revisions that Srinivasan made to the two cricket boards in return for siding with India in taking over control of the ICC.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is being seen as the next most powerful cricketing nation and if one is to take Najam Sethi’s claim seriously, part of the ‘Big Four’. It is a fallacy of course as there is no such thing as a formal Big Three in the first place. It is just the name given for abbreviation’s sake and for some dramatic interpretation of the takeover. You might as well call it the Axis powers or the Terrible Triumvirate. Would PCB want to be part of those titles? Najam Sethi, being the learned man that he is, would never associate Pakistan with such a group given historic connotations.

So Big Four or All Ten, the fact remains BCCI, ECB and CA will call the shots and they have already placed themselves in key decision making committees, where certain clauses allow them to keep certain information to themselves. The message will be to anyone of the seven who questions anything: Put Up or Shut Up.

After all India never followed up on the demands of the other ICC members that they open the books to prove that 80% of revenue comes from India; and as to how they can count the MNCs who sponsor the world cup as Indian when only their Indian division is paying the dollars coming out from India. So why would they now lay the facts on the table, especially when the documents can be manipulated. Remember that the ICC, it can be said, has transformed from a public limited company to a private limited company. Accounts, Minutes of Board meetings and Audit reports are no longer open to anyone who wants to see them.

After the latest conference it seems that Srinivasan is still harbouring a personal grudge against Haroon Lorgat, CEO of the South African board. The South Africans were the first board to publicly stand up against Srinivasan when he announced the deal last winter, though they withered away at the last minute by spring time by voting in favour to give the three boards full rights to ICC.

I say this when I see that each of the six countries under the Big Three have been granted a position in one committee or another and that only South Africa has been denied any role. It will change of course as rotation will bring them in eventually. But I feel it is a hint to the South Africans that they have to let go Haroon who has been the most hated man for the Indians for first suggesting that independent directors should run the ICC and not the member countries. Will the South Africans dump the former ICC CEO or will they grin and bear it for as long as it takes will be as much awaited as the Big Three’s next move.

Pakistan can be happy that they are part of the ICC Executive Committee but so is West Indies. We must not lose sight of the fact that it is purely a rotational formality as in the UN Security Council where countries are rotated while the Big Five hold on to the veto power rendering any proposition by the majority useless in the blink of an eye. Likewise with the President’s position in ICC is impotent as Chairman has all powers. It is also to be noted that majority vote will count in the Executive Committee. So if BCCI, ECB and CA want something unreasonable or selfish to go through, it will go through by 3-2 at most. I just hope the compensation clause was not compromised for the sake of these cosmetic offerings.

On the Indian front Najam Sethi has brought us some good news, even though it has to be taken with a pinch of reality. India has signed on to play Pakistan after all. Hopefully the 300 million dollars PCB has touted it will earn from the four ‘home’ series with them will all come in over the eight year period beginning end of 2015.

But fear remains that the Indians have inserted the clause which makes the series dependent on their respective governments. In other words they haven’t moved at all from the position they have held since 2008. Then too it was up to the Indian government to allow the team to play Pakistan anywhere, let alone in Pakistan.

In other words, if Narendra Modi and the Indian generals want it to happen it will happen. Otherwise the deal isn’t worth peanuts and PCB cannot file any claim for compensation. That there would be a compensation clause was one of the understandings that Pakistan had going into the decision. I remember Ramiz Raja, who was totally in favour of Pakistan signing up the day the coup was announced, saying PCB can now get it in writing that this would happen.

But then I’m sure Ramiz in his heart of hearts would have known that BCCI couldn’t do that and that Srinivasan was playing along just to get Pakistan’s vote. Perhaps PCB may have managed a compensation clause if South Africa had not deserted it at the last minute in that vital vote taking meeting where the Big Three did not have the eight votes needed to take over the ICC going into the conference hall.

Or maybe the BCCI has just dangled the carrot to get more out of PCB till then, knowing it can take one freak incident, maybe even fabricated or manipulated, for the Indian government to have an excuse not to play Pakistan anywhere. Nevertheless let’s be positive and hope we get to play India at home. The first of the six planned series is in end 2015, a long time away. Peace may reign in our beloved country by then.

Sohaib Alvi

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