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Ajay S Shankar
October 7, 2009
In its strongest indictment yet of the manner in which cricket is being run by the ICC, the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) - the players' lobby group - has rejected the draft of the post-2012 Future Tours Programme (FTP) that was approved in principle on Tuesday by the governing body's executive board, the game's apex decision-making body. It has, instead, sent the ICC a series of counter-proposals including the setting up of annual Test and ODI championships and allotting official windows to Twenty20 tournaments like the IPL and Champions League Twenty20.
FICA CEO Tim May said the ICC's proposed international schedule is merely an extension of the existing format that does not address changes in the game and diminishes its value. "The ICC's draft is just a continuation of the ad-hoc bilateral series that we have seen going on for 100 years," May told Cricinfo. "The ICC draft does not address an increasingly changing cricket landscape, which demands considerations of changing priorities of players and broadcasters and the increasing need for context, not volume."
FICA's decision to reject the post-2012 FTP draft was unanimous, May said, and the alternate proposals were finalized at the federation's annual meeting in Johannesburg on October 1-2. "FICA have supplied the feedback to the ICC and await their consideration of the matter," May said.
While the ICC admits that FICA is a key stakeholder in the game and has given the federation a seat on its cricket committee, it is not bound by law to accept any of its proposals. In fact, May admits that he would not be surprised if the ICC board rejects these proposals, but he also warns that in such a scenario "the natural forces will take effect."
"More and more players will follow Andrew Flintoff by retiring prematurely from one or all forms of international cricket," May said. "The grind of the present international calendar just can't exist with the attraction of shorter-duration, less physical, better-remunerated T20 leagues. International cricket will no longer be the best versus the best. Crowds will diminish, commercial rights will reduce, and international cricket will be very much an inferior product."
If this happens, May said, the ICC will have to accept the blame. "They will have no one to blame but themselves. It won't be the first business to be destroyed by failing to recognise a changing landscape."
The ICC will find it difficult to reject in toto FICA's proposals because the federation comprises representatives of powerful players' associations from Australia, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies, who are also members of the ICC Board. These players' associations have a strong voice within their national governing structures on issues involving players' rights, scheduling and security.
Besides, some of FICA's ideas are shared by many officials within the ICC. For instance, Haroon Lorgat, the ICC CEO, has openly pushed for a world championship model to give meaning and context to every Test match. But the continuation of a bilateral series-based FTP is largely being driven by the powerful Indian board, whose players are not members of FICA (the Indian players' association is effectively defunct, anyway).
India and England have already rejected a Test championship model, which would have seen them dropping their substantial TV revenues in a common pool. Indian officials, for instance, say that they hope to earn more (around US$14-15 million) from each ODI against Australia in the seven-match series starting later this month than what they would get from the ICC pool for the entire 2011 World Cup.
Yet, there are moves within the ICC to adopt a simpler Test championship model to be held once in four years involving the top-four teams and based on bilateral series within the FTP but with a separate final and relegation match. But this concept has not been discussed at the highest level because the FTP is yet to be fully finalized; apparently, discussions are currently revolving around the schedule (venues, government sanctions and the like) of bilateral series between India and Pakistan, and England and Zimbabwe.
FICA, meanwhile, has a clear proposal on holding a Test championship, which includes the concept of collective bundling of rights and graded revenues (boards like the BCCI may get more because of the revenue they pull in). "The preference is for a Test championship over a short time-frame with preference for a one-year, two-division format involving a round-robin plus semi-finals plus final series," May said. "The divisions will be determined on a rotational basis, such that Test-playing countries would play each other at least once in every four-year cycle."
A strict adherence to the championship format with no other games, FICA believes, will also address the issue of the increasing volume of cricket being played. "The ICC should bundle the collective rights of the above series and distribution of revenues to members would be on a weighted basis," May said.
Against the backdrop of the debate over the future of ODIs, FICA has proposed a one-day championship as well. "One-day cricket desperately needs context - FICA believes an annual ODI Championship is vital," May said. "Also, a one-day series should precede not follow the corresponding Test series - it will then act as a better build-up or promotion for the Test series."
FICA has also asked the ICC to allott windows for IPL and Champions League T20. "It will be increasingly necessary to ensure that no scheduling conflicts occur with such leagues," May said. "Otherwise we expect a large number of players will retire prematurely from international cricket." The ICC's post-2012 schedule draft includes a window for the much-shorter Champions League Twenty20, which is being organised by India, Australia and South Africa, but not for the nearly two-month-long IPL, which involves about 80 foreign players.
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