Abe Bailey, as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, 1908 (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Abe Bailey, as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, 1908 (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Imperial Cricket Conference (as ICC was called at that point of time) drew up its first ever Future Test Programme on July 20, 1909. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the itinerary.

A diamond merchant of the highest order conceivable to us mortals, Abe Bailey had emerged as one of the richest men in the world in the 1930s. According to his biography, he had crossed the Equator a hundred times by 1936. He was also a famous art collector. In fact, Sir Abe Bailey Bequest is the largest in South Africa. He also became MP at Barkly West in 1902 and represented Krugersdrop in the 1908 Transvaal Parliament Elections.

Accounts of Bailey’s fluctuating fortunes can fill pages, even books. Few have acquired and lost wealth of the magnitude in their entire lives that Bailey did by 21. However, that is beyond the scope of these pages.

Bailey was also a cricket enthusiast. Only 3 of his matches were given First-Class status, and they fetched him for 11 wickets at 18.27, but that was not what he was known for. When Australia toured South Africa in 1902-03, Bailey assured them £2,000 for an 18-day trip.

Bailey also envisioned the 1912 Triangular Tournament, the first of its kind among Test-playing nations. England, Australia, and South Africa — the only Test teams at that point — played a 9-Test tournament encompassing a 3-Test Ashes.

Unfortunately, 1912 turned out to be the wettest of summers. The revolutionary idea, backed by Bailey’s legendary enthusiasm, was dampened by incessant rain and South Africa’s dismal performance. He was criticised for the idea, but the fault was not his: by the 1970s both sexes were playing World Cups. He was simply a victim of circumstances.

However, Bailey did something else as well. He helped found the Imperial Cricket Conference. The name — but not the initials — would change to International Cricket Conference in 1965 and International Cricket Council in 1989.

It started with a letter Bailey wrote to MCC Secretary Francis Eden Lacey, suggesting an “Imperial Cricket Board” that would govern the rules and decide on tours. Representatives of all three countries met at Lord’s on June 15, 1909, and ICC was formed. Another meeting was held on July 20, when additional rules and the first Future Test Programme were drawn up.

Tests were defined as matches between representative teams of Australia, England, and South Africa; a cricketer could play for a country only if he was born or resided for four years in the country; and if a cricketer had played Tests for one country he was barred from playing for another unless both countries consented.

The FTP

The FTP began with two basic clauses: first, no country can tour in successive seasons; and every pair of teams would play each other on a home-and-away basis inside a four-year span.

The FTP for the 1909-1913 and 1913-17 cycles looked like this:

Cycle 1 Cycle 2 Months Hosts Tourists
1909 1913 May to August England Australia
1909-10 1913-14 November to March South Africa England
1910 1914 No tour No tour
1910-11 1914-15 January to March Australia South Africa
1911 1915 May to August England South Africa
1911-12 1915-16 November to March Australia England
1912 1916 May to August Triangular in England
1912-13 1916-17 March to April South Africa Australia

The Triangular Tournament found special mention with its own set of rules: the distribution of gate fees (each team to get half); the itinerary for the tournament should be announced before July 31, 1911; all Tests would be three-day affairs; the price of admission would be a shilling; both participating sides would have to agree on the umpires for every Test; and more.

Unfortunately, the itinerary died away. Australia never toured South Africa in 1912-13. England did tour South Africa in 1912-13 as per plan, but Bailey’s vision withered away with The Great War.