Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The changing order of world cricket

When I entered into 2014 Cricket I had great hopes for future of cricket. I had hoped that we will see the game open up and embrace the modern world ways. As I entered the year of hope, the first month was not the one I wanted and is all set to shake the world cricket order in multiple ways. The shake up is at virtually at all the levels.
The restructure by Big 3 has changed the game forever

ICC Restructure
Firstly was the proposed ICC restructure norms which have now been passed in a little bit watered down form. This virtually has surrendered the control of cricket to the so called Big 3- BCCI, ECB and CA. These 3 nations now form the permanent members of the 5 member committee which controls every aspect of the game. Only glimmer of hope is that this 5 member executive council still reports to the ICC Board which consists of all full members.

The restructure also means that the Big 3 now get major funding with BCCI getting the major share. The Associates on their part are all certain to lose funding except for the top 6 which are now supposed to get half the funding the associates get. This means that in the 105 members the top 16 might take most of it and rest of the 90 odd members will have even lesser share when infact they need the most. The only silver lining here would be that in absolute terms we might not see a drop in funding for any member as ICC revenues are set to increase from present 1.5 B$ to 2.5 B$ for a next period of 2015-2023. The bad news is that instead of everybody getting the 66% increase most members will stay at similar levels or at the best a very small increase while the Big 3 who least need the money (As they have many other sources) taking most part of it.

It was hoped that from future there might have been some chance of some top associates being made part of the Future Tours Program-FTP. Under FTP it is envisaged that all the Test nations play rest of the 9 test nations over a period of 8 years so that the lower teams had a chance to play the bigger teams. This system has not worked perfectly but something is better than nothing. Adding some of the top associates might have given them the exposure to play the top teams and some additional funding that could have helped the game at grass root level. However what we got from the proposals is that FTP is scrapped and will be replaced by bilateral agreements. It now means that bigger teams have no compulsion to play the lesser teams and it will be guided only by profits they can bring from a series. This ends up Associates with very limited choices and reduce them to begging from full members

For the next cycles the ICC tournaments will only be played in the Big 3. This is a complete you turn on ICC announcement that they could look into proposals of Associate to host the tournaments like ICC World Twenty20. ICC also announced scrapping the Test Series and decided to re-continue the Champions Trophy. Originally this tournament had been started so that the game could be taken to new countries and in a knock out format it included at it's peak as high as 12 countries and has been hosted in unconventional places like Kenya, Bangladesh. Now this tournament has been cut to 8 nations with just the so called big 8 playing the same. There were voices in the circles that the World Cup could be reduced to just 8 countries as Associates don't add any value!!!
Hopefully Ireland would be playing Test Cricket before 2020

The only visible silver lining was that Test Cricket will be opened up and will be based on meritocracy. This has been the demand of many associate cricket lovers and is a welcome move. However even this step has been much below the expectations. The initial proposal was that BD and Zim will be reduced to playing the Intercontinental Cup and then the Top 2 teams would play with the bottom 2 teams of the 8 Test Teams and from these 4 teams top 2 get test status. This was limiting the test status to just 8 nations. Thankfully this backward step was reversed by the hard work done by BD but as was hoped by Associate lovers that there might be increase in Test Nations to 11 or 12 was not the case. Now under the proposals passed the winner of Intercontinental Cup in 2019 will play the 10th rank Test Nation in an home and away format and the winner will get test status for 4 years. Associates which over the year play themselves with very few quality exposures against top teams are now expected to play the 10th rank Test Team who will have played the longest format against all the top teams. This is a very unfair expectation from the Associates to get Test Status.

ICC World Cup Qualifier
Finally in the associate world there were many shakeups for the next cycle. 3 present ODI nations including the only associate world cup semi finalist Kenya besides Neth and Can have lost their ODI status. They have been replaced by impressive homegrown upcoming nations of HK and PNG besides the expat based but impressive UAE. Many expected Ken and Can to lose their ODI status but Neth was a shocker. They were 3rd in the WCL Championship but now have relegated to Div 2!! This is a major shakeup even we do not consider the shake led by big 3. Another surprise besides Neth was that Nepal whom many including me expected to get an ODI status were relegated all the way to Div 3 taking back their cricket by atleast another 4 years. It seemed after the qualification to World T20, the team went into relaxation mode satisfied by a short term achievement and missing on the long term and bigger prize.
The changing world order with PNG, HK and UAE getting ODI status while Neth, Ken and Can losing it

Future & ICC World Cricket League tournaments
Division Five
In the near future we will have the Div 5 taking place which will have Malaysia, Tanzania, Guernsey, Jersey, Nigeria and Cayman Islands which will be hosted by Malaysia. All the teams are homegrown and most of Associate lovers would like to see the potential nations of Malaysia, Tanzania and Nigeria to qualify for Div 4.

Division Four
Div 4 will consist of Oman, Italy, Singapore, Denmark and top 2 teams from 2014 Div 4 tournament. This will be critical tournament for many nations like Oman and Denmark which have been on a downward slide. The top 2 from this will qualify for Division Three
Hopes dashed for millions of fans with team relegated to Div 3. They will have a tough fight to get back in world order

Division Three
Div 3 will consist of Nepal, Uganda, USA, Bermuda and top 2 from Division Four. This will be a cracker of tournament with Nepal and Uganda would be eager to prove themselves to be better than the rest, while USA and Bermuda would be raring to take revenge of last time and top 2 from Div 4 raring to go ahead. The top 2 teams from here would go into Div 2

Division Two
This would be a stepping stone for chance to get future Test Status. The Top 2 teams from this tournament would most likely make the lineup for 8 teams Intercontinental Tournament. This tournament will have the 3 teams which lost ODI status-Ken, Can & Neth besides former ODI nation Nam and top 2 from Div 3.

2015-18 Intercontinental Cup
This would be the first Intercontinental Cup with a purpose that it always lacked. A purpose where the winner will get the Test Nations. The tournament will have the 6 ODI status nations - Ire, Afg, UAE, Scot, PNG and HK besides the top 2 teams from Div 2. Most likely like last time a parallel WCL championship will also run along which might provide a pathway to 2018 ICC World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh and not the world cup as 2019 World Cup is just 10 nation

There are many things which will become clear as the time progresses. Hopefully ICC does not get into a mode of cutting down tournament for associates which would be death blow to game in future. Also ICC needs to work on getting more members unlike the present case where they have made the criteria for Affiliate membership much more stricter. Then the ultimate big question Cricket into Olympics needs to addressed and that too with ICC working in favor of taking game into the Olympic fold. This will give a much needed step to take game into new markets and will force ICC to become much more open. But turkeys don't vote for Christmas and I am losing hope with the administrators. I hope there will be some light for me at the end of the tunnel