A Good News And A Grim Omen For The Staff Of The ICC Meeting > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Good news and dark omens for Associates at ICC meeting

The filling of the calendar with additional mini-tournaments also suggests that any Olympic ambitions have been shelved indefinitely

The concrete news emerging from yesterday's ICC meeting in Dubai, most notably the lifting of Nepal's membership suspension together with that of Zimbabwe, was universally positive. Yet there were hints of dark clouds on the horizon to be discerned in the shifting politics behind the official press release.

Beyond the restoration of Zimbabwe and Nepal's membership, the notable news emerging from the meeting was ICC's stated ambition to increase the number of flagship global events to one per year for both the men's and women's games, looking to put on eight men's events and eight women's events over the course of an eight-year cycle, as well as four U19 events for each. Equally notable was the suggestion that allocation of hosting rights would move toward a more open bidding model, hinting that the monopoly that England, Australia and India currently hold may not be permanent.

Other decisions included abolition of the boundary count-back rule in case of a tied Super Over at ICC events, an increase in prize money money for flagship women's tournaments, and the reappointment of Indra Nooyi as independent director for another two-year term. Of rather more direct relevance for Associates was the approval of the $30.5 million revenue distribution to Associate Members for 2020, ticking up by 12% on 2019 as the new competition structure goes into full swing. Malaysia and Uganda were confirmed as hosts for the second rounds of Challenge Leagues A and B respectively, the former scheduled to be in the third week of March at Kuala Lumpur, and the latter starting in late July at Kampala.

Nepal and Zimbabwe coming in from the cold, the latter after a suspension of three months, the former provisionally reinstated after over three years in limbo, was widely expected on both counts. Naturally, the announcement has been broadly welcomed in both countries, though in Zimbabwe as sense of relief is matched by a degree of pessimistic resignation.

The lifting of the suspension comes too late for Zimbabwe to contest the T20 WC Qualifiers which begin this week in the UAE. Nigeria having been invited to take their place as the third African nation. Worse still, many see both Zimbabwe's suspension and reinstatement as undercutting any prospect of arresting the country's long-term cricketing decline, entrenching a board widely perceived as at best incompetent and at worst corrupt.

The suspension was initially precipitated by the intervention of the Zimbabwean Sports and Recreation Commission, who suspended the ZC board in June on grounds that office bearers acted as "a law unto themselves." The ICC sided decisively with ZC Chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani in dubbing this "political interference," and the SRC was duly forced to back down. The subsequent reinstatement will only strengthen the board's hand going forward, even as the country's readmission to ICC competition will doubtless come as a relief to many.

For Nepal, their conditional restoration of membership in good standing came with a few caveats, most notably continued controls on funding, but was also followed up a day later by a bittersweet addendum as Paras Khadka, Nepal's iconic captain and stand-out all-rounder for the past decade, announced he would step down from the captaincy. Nepal will likewise be missing the T20 WC Qualifier next week, having stumbled to a third-place finish at the Asia regional finals behind Singapore and Qatar. Even as the confirmation of a new board and subsequent readmission will provide a degree of administrative stability, Khadka's leadership both on and off the field will doubtless be sorely missed.

Even so, the announcement of Nepal's readmission can only be seen as good news for the cricket-mad country, and the game itself. The proposals regarding the ICC's events calendar, however, may prove less positive than they at first appear. It emerged after the meeting that the additional events currently on the table comprise a Champions Trophy-style 50-over competition with restricted participation, featuring as few as six teams, and a similarly exclusionary T20I tournament to be held once every four years, rather than the T20 WC returning to a two-year cycle.

The filling of the calendar with such additional mini-tournaments also suggests that any Olympic ambitions have been shelved indefinitely, with any reference to the potentially transformative inclusion of cricket in the Olympics conspicuously absent. Nor was there any indication that either of the existing competitions would become more inclusive, raising the prospect of an event-packed calendar for Full Members featuring two exclusive "mini tournaments", a ten-team 50-over World Cup and a nominally 16-team T20 WC which is in effect still restricted to 12 teams in the main phase. In short, the proposals as envisaged could potentially see Associates entirely excluded from the global stage.

The very notion of a return to one ICC event per year was also met with opposition from the BCCI, whose reaction to developments in Dubai will likely have caused plenty of concern in Associate boardrooms. BCCI CEO Rahul Johri is understood to have opposed the proposals put forward at the Chief Executives Committee meeting, concerned at additional ICC events crowding out bilateral cricket or eating into the space left in the calendar for franchise T20 leagues, with revenues from the former accruing to the ICC whilst the latter two are a key source of revenue for member boards. With BCCI elections taking place at the time, India held off on committing to the new calendar.

Still more concerningly, newly-elected BCCI president Sourav Ganguly immediately adopted a combative stance in his first public statement, again raising the question of the apportionment of the ICC's surplus revenue distributions between member boards. Claiming that the BCCI "we have not received any money for the last three or four years from the ICC," Ganguly repeated the argument that "we generate 75-80 percent in revenues" referring to the estimated figure that was circulated around the time of the 2014 "Big 3" reforms, that the lion's share of revenue raised by ICC events derives from the Indian market. This same argument was the justification for the five-fold increase in the BCCI's share of the ICC's revenue distribution set out in the the 2014 reforms.

That increase has since been pared back somewhat at subsequent ICC meetings, while the BCCI has been hamstrung by internal administrative wrangling. The one constant at each revision of the distribution model, however, is that the overall proportion funding allocated to Associates and to development in general has been repeatedly cut back as Full Members looked to secure their own slice of the pie. The BCCI now seems intent on restoring something close to the 500% increase they initially secured in 2014, potentially setting up a new conflict with other Full Member boards on both funding and scheduling. Conversely, the final line of the ICC's official press noted the establishment of a Governance Working Group "to consider future governance structure of the ICC," - a group conspicuously lacking any representatives from either the BCCI or the ECB.

With the ICC apparently pressing for the inclusion of two new events on the calendar, neither of which are likely to feature more than a handful of members, and the BCCI gearing up for yet another clash over revenue distribution which threatens to squeeze what remains of the Associates' share still further, it seems inevitable that regardless of who prevails in the apparently impending spat between the game's governing body and its one financially indispensable member, the Associates will again lose out.

When elephants fight, as they say, it's the grass that suffers.

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