'We missed a golden opportunity' - Lorgat
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, has admitted that his board could have taken "a more strategic decision" in implementing the Test championship and a ten-team World Cup. He said the Test Championship is on track for 2017, while the ICC, as a whole, would benefit from fewer weak member boards and independent directorship. He also revealed that there was a threatened elite breakaway of India, Australia, South Africa and England over the Future Tours Programme.
"We got the balance incorrect [on the Test championship and ten-team World Cup]. There was a strategic choice that had to be made, it was an investment to be made and the leadership chose not to do it," Lorgat told the Abu Dhabi-based The National . "It will happen eventually. I hope it doesn't happen when it's too late. It's a new cycle. There's absolutely no reason why it would not be in the schedule of events. We missed a golden opportunity in 2013 because Test cricket was starting to go on an upward trend."
While Lorgat conceded that the commercialisation of the cricket played some role in the decisions, he said it was not solely based on broadcast rights and profits. "The broadcaster [ESPN STAR Sports*] is but one party to the discussion," he said. "It's a board decision."
He said the ICC have not under-prioritised Test cricket, but that, on occasion, specific member boards are guilty of doing that. "There was a two-Test series in South Africa recently. People were desperate for a third Test. That is an example where it [the boards] has not leaned towards Tests," he said referring to last month's series between South Africa and Australia that was drawn 1-1.
During that series, players such as Graeme Smith had voiced their disappointment at missing the chance of participating in a Test championship and Lorgat sympathised with them. "We have some seriously good players at the moment, shining in Tests. The chances of them being around in 2017 is zero. That is a particular disappointment."
To avoid such setbacks in future, Lorgat said he hoped the ICC's leadership would form a strong enough collective to make decisions in the "best interests of the game". Currently, the BCCI is a dominant presence, but Lorgat's worry is that other member boards have not shown a strong enough hand. "What concerns me is the weakness of other boards. They need to find ways and means of generating revenue, of sustaining the game. They cannot operate on a dependency mentality."
India' reluctance and ultimately refusal to use DRS is an example of what Lorgat called weak leadership by other members. "It's up to others to stand firm, to have the courage of their convictions, to show leadership, to oppose that process. That's more a reflection of weak leadership on other boards."
If the dissenting voice cannot come from within, Lorgat suggested that it may have to be from outside. He described his ideal vision of an ICC board as one that would have some form of independent directorship so that "there's at least a balance of debate or a voice spoken without self-interest".
He indicated that an external hand, coupled with stronger member boards would help prevent problems such as the one that occurred during the drafting of the most recent FTP. Lorgat said he led the movement to reach a solution after the threatened elite breakaway. "There was a risk of that [a breakaway]. The initial drafts were leaning in favour of that. It was not agreed to. It was a role I led from the front.
"Fortunately, we've got a better balance in the FTP. That is a reflection on the leadership of each of the boards. So whether you are Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka, you've got to have the right people leading your cricket, because you require stronger leadership in view of the challenges such countries face."
*ESPN STAR Sports is a 50:50 joint venture between Walt Disney (ESPN, Inc.), the parent company of ESPNcricinfo, and News Corporation Limited (STAR)