January 22, 2014

All hail cricket's bright future

There are advantages to the proposed restructuring of the ICC (and we're not talking only about savings on furniture)

"I think we can conclude it's Misbah's fault, somehow" © Pakistan Cricket Board

As any general will tell you, staging a coup is a tricky business. It's one of the five most stressful things a human being can do, along with moving house, getting a divorce, planning a dinner party for people you don't really like but who, for some reason or other, you have no choice but to try to impress, and supporting Worcestershire.

First, there's the invites to consider. You've got to invite enough people to make it a proper coup - there's nothing worse than turning up in your tank to find it's just you, your cousin, and your old friend from school who was between jobs. Then there's the logistics of the thing: who has to be where at what time, whose job is it to blow up the airfield, who's on assassination duty, who's bringing the snacks and so on.

So no one undertakes a coup lightly, even an administrative coup, like the one underway at the ICC. As we speak, BCCI tanks are parked on the finely manicured lawns of ICC HQ, a crack commando unit of ECB bureaucrats has infiltrated the building and is planting booby traps in David Richardson's spreadsheets, and James Sutherland's grandmother has embroidered a new post-coup ICC flag, featuring three lions squabbling with a kangaroo inside a giant blue circle.

All of this took a lot of planning, so it's rather disrespectful, not to say hurtful, that the efforts of these three boards should have been met with such criticism. Let's face it, cricket is in chaos. Right now, a dozen or so countries are collaborating to run it badly, so why not streamline the whole business and have just three countries run it badly? At least there'll be a saving on translators.

With the creation of the new Supreme High Cricket Command, the ICC will also save a considerable sum on upholstery costs and furniture polish, since only three chairs will be needed. Occasionally a representative of one of the minor cricket nations - such as South Africa - will be invited to attend board meetings, but they will be expected to provide their own chair, or preferably to sit quietly in the corner.

But the benefits that will accrue from this cricket coup go far beyond furniture rationalisation. With cricket's leading abbreviations firmly in control, the sport can enjoy a golden age of popularity in which the current ramshackle arrangement whereby most teams play most other teams fairly often will be swept away and replaced with the following:

1. A Premier Exclusive League, which may feature, for example, India, Australia and England. Critics have complained that there will be no relegation from this league, but they are wrong. Any of these teams could be relegated, if their countries are invaded and occupied by aliens or in the event of a unanimous vote to relegate by the Relegation Committee (made up of representatives from England, Australia, and India).

2. A Bitterly Resentful Reserve Section, including South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who will compete annually for the right to be denied access to the top division on the grounds that their crowds are too small, their players too ugly, their flags not appealing, or their accents too guttural.

3. An Utterly Obscure Charity League, featuring West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Guernsey U-19s, the cast of the musical Rent - currently performing at the Hippodrome, Hastings - and anyone else who can get a team together. This will help widen the base of international cricket, even though no one will ever watch any of the games and we probably won't write down the results.

With these changes in place, our sport can march boldly into a lucrative and successful future (unless you don't live in England, Australia or India, in which case I recommend you switch to a different, more popular and financially viable sport, such as crown-green bowling, politician-baiting or cockroach-racing).

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here