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The fight between the Big Three and the Small Seven ended on fairly even grounds on Day One of the ICC Board Meeting at Dubai. Abhishek Mukherjee tries to explain the outcome of the six-hour marathon.
Q: So the Board Meeting is finally over, eh?
A: No, this was just Day One. They met for over six hours and eventually had a press release.
Q: What does this release say? Can you go by the points one by one?
A: Sure! To begin with, Point One says “There will be an opportunity for all Members to play all formats of cricket on merit, with participation based on meritocracy; no immunity to any country, and no change to membership status.”
Q: Wow! That is good news, right?
A: Indeed. No team will get preferential treatment on the ground. If South Africa is the best team there is no question India, Australia, or England being preferred to it. The best team remains the best, and the worst the worst.
Q: Now that is amazing news! Who led the protest?
A: Apparently The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) was the first to protest officially. Cricket South Africa (CSA), PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have asked for a copy of the proposal and time to study.
Q: Bangladesh! Who would have thunk!
A: Hey, don’t underestimate anyone. This has nothing to do with on-field performances! Remember how a Bangladeshi hacker had broken through The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) website?
Q: Now that is amazing news! What else?
A: Let us see. Point Two says, “A Test Cricket Fund paid equally on an annual basis to all Full Members (except the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board) will be introduced to encourage and support Test match cricket.”
Q: That sounds like preferential treatment.
A: It is. But at least the other teams will make some money. It could have been worse.
Q: What else?
A: Point Three: “A larger percentage from the increasing Associate Members’ surplus will be distributed to the higher performing non-Full Members.”
Q: That is excellent news!
A: It is, indeed. It will help promote the sport outside the Test world. In a couple of decades we may even have an Argentina versus China match in a World Cup!
Q: So what is Point Four?
A: That sounds somewhat good as well: “Mutually agreed bi-lateral FTP Agreements which will be legally binding and bankable and will run for the same period as the ICC commercial rights cycle (2015-2023).”
Q: That sounds convoluted. Will you make things easy for me?
A: Of course. See, there were certain bilateral series that were pre-decided as a part of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Future Test Programme (FTP). Those will continue to carry on at least till 2023, so we’re good for about a decade now.
Q: What next? Are the Big Three out of it completely?
A: I haven’t finished. Look at Point Five: “Recognition of the need for strong leadership of the ICC, involving leading Members, which will involve BCCI taking a central leadership responsibility.”
Q: This means that the muscle-flexing will be in place. Am I correct?
A: Bang on. BCCI will continue to dominate the ICC proceedings, but with not as much power as they would have wanted to. The Small Seven could not clip its wings completely, but has definitely been able to tug at quite a few feathers.
Q: Point Six, now.
A: Sure! It talks of “a need to recognise the varying contribution of Full Members to the value of ICC events through the payment of ‘contribution costs’.”
Q: Right. So we need to read the word ‘India’ through the lines.
A: Smart, aren’t you?
Q: Nah, that was easy. What’s Seven?
A: This is a long one. Listen carefully: “The establishment of an Executive Committee (ExCo) and Financial & Commercial Affairs Committee (F&CA) to provide leadership at an operational level, with five members, including BCCI, CA and ECB representatives. Anybody from within the Board can be elected to Chair the Board and anybody from within ExCo and F&CA can be elected to Chair those Committees. With the ICC undergoing a transitional period that includes a new governance structure and media rights cycle, this leadership will be provided for two years from June 2014 by: a BCCI representative to Chair the ICC Board, a CA representative to Chair the ExCo and an ECB representative to Chair the F&CA.”
Q: So that ExCo thing that BCCI, CA (Cricket Australia), and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had asked for stays put?
A: Unfortunately, it does. They have also sealed things from June 2014 to May 2016. Also, though they could not find immunity on the ground, they have managed to attain that off it.
Q: Still, they are not giving anyone priority in the Test championship, isn’t it?
A: You still haven’t heard Point Eight: “A new company will be incorporated to tender future commercial rights for ICC events. There will be three major ICC events in each four-year cycle, including the ICC Champions Trophy which will replace the ICC World Test Championship.”
Q: WHAT? The Test Championship will be scrapped?
A: Unfortunately, yes. Can you take a guess why?
Q: But why would they do that? It was such a neat idea! The Champions Trophy doesn’t mean anything!
A: See, I cannot give my opinions on this, but I can give you two keywords: “0-8” and “Current Champions”.
Q: I’m sorely disappointed. I wish someone had backed these Bangladeshis. Is there anything else?
A: Yes, just one more point: “ICC will utilise a more efficient operating model for all ICC events, with a simplified accounting model across ICC income and expenditure to help better manage ICC administrative and event costs.”
Q: That really means nothing, right? I guess it’s just corporate language.
A: I won’t blame you for forgetting Point Seven, given its length. Let me go back and read out a section. Listen carefully: “The establishment of an Executive Committee (ExCo) and Financial & Commercial Affairs Committee (F&CA) to provide leadership at an operational level, with five members, including BCCI, CA and ECB representatives.”
Q: This means…
A: … yes, this means only one thing. F&CA will be operated mostly by BCCI, CA, and ECB; they will also, in all probability, they will be responsible for the “simple accounting model across ICC income and expenditure”.
Q: So all of this is…
A: … of course. All of this is “in the interest of cricket at large”.
Q: So Day Two is tomorrow?
A: Yes. There will also be a follow-up board meeting next month.
Q: Will you be back here tomorrow with the answers?
A: Anytime, my friend, anytime.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)
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