Two-division Test cricket, TV rights among big changes on the table at ICC meeting in Dubai
DUBAI // Chief executives of cricket’s Full Members begin an important meeting in Dubai on Tuesday that could radically alter the structure of the game, including bringing in two-division Test cricket.
The two-day meeting at ICC headquarters will take in radical proposals that have been under discussion for almost a year now. The overarching aim of the discussions have been to imbue the international game with some much-needed context. As well as two-tier Test cricket, plans include an expanded rolling ODI and Twenty20 leagues.
One of the most radical of all proposals, however, is the idea to pool TV rights, raising the prospect of, effectively, a subsidising of weaker boards who cannot attract huge rights deals by bigger boards that can.
Several of the world’s leading players have been unequivocal in their support for such changes, which might see a top Test division of seven teams and a second one of five, including two of the top Associate sides, with the possibility of promotion and relegation.
“We have already raised our intensity and urgency just knowing that a Test league might happen,” said AB de Villiers. “There is nothing like the pressure and adrenalin that comes with knowing you need to win matches. It’s time for all international matches to have more meaning.”
On Monday, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (Fica), the global players’ body, released results of a survey it carried out of international cricketers, results with clear implications for the discussions.
Just over half of the 193 cricketers surveyed, for instance, said they would “consider rejecting a national contract in favour of free agency in domestic T20 leagues”.
Seventy per cent feel – as will be one of the points under discussion – that certain domestic T20 leagues should have “ring fenced” windows in the calendar to prevent clashes with international cricket. Nearly three-quarters said they would support a divisional Test cricket structure, and a Test final or play-off.
Prospects for progress from the meetings, however, appear gloomy at the moment. Though the plans have been under discussion since last October, several boards recently have publicly rejected the idea of two-division cricket.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh argue that lower-ranked teams such as themselves will be hit harder by any such change, both in lesser opportunities to play top sides and in a loss of revenue.
But by far the biggest obstacle for proponents of the model will be the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The game’s richest, most influential board has, in recent months, publicly expressed its disapproval of two-tier cricket.
“As the governing body of the game, the ICC’s job is to popularise the game and increase its global reach,” BCCI president Anurag Thakur told ESPNcricinfo this weekend.
“On the contrary, this system may be good for the top five countries, but apart from that, everyone else will suffer. On the one hand, we say we need to support teams like West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, while on the other, by bringing up something like this, we will cut their legs.”
It has also been speculated that the BCCI is unhappy at the idea of pooling TV money. Given that it has the largest TV deals in cricket, it stands to lose the most from any pooling of resources.
The nature of the BCCI’s objections, in particular, is why some observers feel there might not be much tangible progress at the end of the meetings on Wednesday.
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Published: September 6, 2016 04:00 AM