Play­ers urge ICC to adopt two-tier cricket

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sports -

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL cricket’s fu­ture hangs in the bal­ance this week. As a se­lect group of se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tors meet in Dubai to fi­nalise a pro­posed model for rad­i­cal changes to the game’s sched­ule, the play­ers have warned of a massed ex­o­dus to Twenty20 leagues if noth­ing is done.

An ICC work­ing group of board chief ex­ec­u­tives, in­clud­ing the Cricket Aus­tralia CEO James Sutherland, the ECB’s Tom Har­ri­son, the BCCI’s Ajay Shirke, the PCB’s Sub­han Ahmed, South Africa’s Ha­roon Lor­gat and New Zealand’s David White are work­ing with ICC management to fi­nalise pro­pos­als for a new in­ter­na­tional struc­ture.

The model will fea­ture leagues for all for­mats of the in­ter­na­tional game with greater eq­uity in terms of fix­tures for all na­tions, with the aim of pool­ing tele­vi­sion rights so that richer boards can sub­sidise weaker coun­ter­parts. The path­way for ad­mis­sion to the top of the in­ter­na­tional game will also be opened up, an at­trac­tive prospect for As­so­ciates like Ire­land and Afghanistan.

How­ever, op­po­si­tion to the prospect of two-tier Test cricket, cham­pi­oned by the Sri Lanka Cricket pres­i­dent Thi­langa Su­math­ipala and lat­terly the BCCI pres­i­dent Anurag Thakur, now poses a sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger to the adop­tion of the pro­posed changes. The BCCI has shown in­creas­ing bel­liger­ence over the past week, ques­tion­ing fund­ing lev­els for next year’s Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in Eng­land and sug­gest­ing the ICC pres­i­dent Shashank Manohar is not serv­ing In­dia’s in­ter­ests.

ESPNcricinfo also un­der­stands that the BCCI have made known their op­po­si­tion to the pos­si­bil­ity of pooled tele­vi­sion rights money. The BCCI has pre­vi­ously been able to con­trol the ICC board ta­ble via the threat — ei­ther per­ceived or overt — of with­draw­ing its lu­cra­tive tours of other na­tions.

On Mon­day, the play­ers’ global body FICA stepped into this febrile en­vi­ron­ment, re­veal­ing that 72 per­cent of play­ers quizzed for the body’s an­nual sur­vey are in favour of “the in­tro­duc­tion of a di­vi­sional Test com­pe­ti­tion to add more mean­ing to each match”. The FICA ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Tony Ir­ish urged the ICC Board to care­fully con­sider the new model un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

“To date, the is­sue that has been talked about most is Test cricket,” Ir­ish said, “but we be­lieve that this re­view is about cre­at­ing clear vi­sions for all three for­mats of in­ter­na­tional cricket, and bal­anc­ing them along­side the con­tin­ued ex­pan­sion and suc­cess of the var­i­ous do­mes­tic T20 cricket leagues. We know from our player sur­veys, and our en­gage­ment with play­ers, that they are fac­ing a con­flict be­tween in­ter­na­tional cricket and do­mes­tic T20 cricket leagues.

“This is a fun­da­men­tal is­sue that we want any fu­ture struc­ture of the game to ad­dress. Our con­cern is that if noth­ing is done, in­ter­na­tional cricket may very soon lose more and more of its best play­ers to free agency and the T20 leagues.

“This re-struc­tur­ing of in­ter­na­tional cricket should be about pro­vid­ing a bet­ter sport­ing prod­uct for fans, play­ers and broad­cast­ers. ICC management has done some ex­cel­lent work on this, and we strongly en­cour­age Mem­ber Boards to look be­yond their own in­di­vid­ual coun­try in­ter­ests in tak­ing this for­ward. We un­der­stand that not ev­ery­one is in agree­ment over the di­vi­sional Test struc­ture cur­rently pro­posed, but this should not de­rail the en­tire process.”

Ir­ish’s views were echoed by a se­lec­tion of in­ter­na­tional play­ers, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia’s cap­tain Steven Smith and South Africa’s leader AB de Vil­liers. “We want our best play­ers to be on the park as much as pos­si­ble play­ing for our coun­tries,” Smith said, “and at the mo­ment that isn’t al­ways hap­pen­ing.”

Among other sur­vey re­sults, FICA found that “52 per­cent of all in­ter­na­tional re­spon­dents in the cur­rent struc­ture still in­di­cated that they would con­sider re­ject­ing a na­tional con­tract in favour of free agency in do­mes­tic T20 leagues.

“70 per­cent of all re­spon­dents think there should be “ring fenced” win­dows in the cal­en­dar for cer­tain do­mes­tic T20 events to pre­vent clashes with in­ter­na­tional cricket.

“75 per­cent of all re­spon­dents think that clos­ing the wage gap be­tween do­mes­tic T20 and in­ter­na­tional cricket would help to re­tain play­ers in in­ter­na­tional cricket.”

Dis­cus­sions in Dubai this week are a pre­cur­sor to the next round of of­fi­cial ICC meet­ings set down for Oc­to­ber, af­ter which the struc­tural fu­ture of the game will be­come clear. — ESPNCricinfo

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