Big Three offer redraft to ICC as lobbying intensifies
Cricket's formally-united Big Three - the BCCI, Cricket Australia and the ECB - will present the seven other Full Member nations with a set of re-drafted "resolutions" around their radical "position paper" at an ICC executive meeting in Dubai on Tuesday.
The resolutions - five in number - were being talked through the first official meeting of the Finance & Commercial Affairs (F&CA) committee after its "working group" - made up of the heads of the BCCI, Cricket Australia and the ECB - came up with the proposal in a 21-page document that called for a complete overhaul of the ICC's administration and its revenue distribution.
The first of the proposals to be watered down is expected to be the one pertaining to a two-tier format for Test cricket and the relegation of the bottom two ranked into the ICC Intercontinental Cup. The other proposal which could be reworked pertains to a newly formed Executive Committee (ExCo) and it's possible expansion from four to five, with a second nominee coming in from the "small seven," as opposed to only one according to the draft position paper.
As the ICC's Board met for its scheduled quarterly meeting in Dubai, the Big Three were known to be in discussions with six of the Seven in order to ensure their support should the proposal go to vote on Tuesday.
One board chief said the BCCI, ECB and Cricket Australia had been "surrounding people, taking them in, we'll give you this, we'll give you that." Another said that BCCI led the majority of such discussions, their offers being enhanced with every meeting, "Individually they call every board and offer them something each time."
The only vocal objector to the proposal, Cricket South Africa, has been left out of these discussions and the benefits being offered to the rest of the boards. The main negotiations took place on governance issues with FTP agreements - particularly those pertaining to tours by India - being used as "bait". The resolutions, first expected to be presented in a list of 50-plus points, were later gathered together under five categories.
While in the past governance issues had dominated revenue matters, on Monday evening, one of the Big Three officials said there could be "further discussions rather than negotiations around revenue models" with an attempt to explain how they would work in real terms and the guarantees being offered.
The main boards involved in the talks are the three Asian boards - the PCB, SLC and BCB - who have been left mulling over their options due to various reasons. There has been public protest in Bangladesh, including a crowd gathering of close to 3000 in Dhaka on Saturday, over the possibility of their cricket board ceding Bangladesh's Test match status and calendar in the face of the proposals.
A senior Bangladeshi cricket official said, "It is a big thing, (to us) this status. In 13 years Bangladesh have managed to win four Test matches. India and New Zealand did not win their first Test till 30 years. So how come these people are now telling Bangladesh that you will need to fight out in the I-Cup to retain your Test status." Should the relegation issue be diluted from the resolutions, the Big Three may find the leverage they need with the BCB.
With the PCB, the main issue concerned their FTP arrangements particularly with the BCCI, in the light of a fluctuating political climate. SLC finds itself in a state of financial crisis, an application pending for an $8m loan from the ICC and the prospective carrot of a 2017 tour from the Indian team. Plus, officials are under pressure from former players and administrators who believe the rights they won at an ICC table, "the hard way" should not be surrendered for "short-term gain."
Former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga said accepting the proposal would take smaller countries back to the skewed international calendars of the 1980s. "From 1987 to 1990 in four years Sri Lanka played just seven Tests. After that, ICC's Future Tour Programme ensured that there were equal opportunities for all countries. The proposed system will take smaller nations like Sri Lanka to the situation in 1980s."
Zimbabwe Cricket, despite its financial debt to the tune of $18m and its player strike due to non-payment of dues, is expected to vote in favour of the proposals largely because of their good relations with the BCCI. In the last 10 years, India has played two Tests, nine ODIs and two T20s in Zimbabwe, compared to Australia's three, England's four and South Africa's three ODIs.
Among the other Full Member nations, New Zealand Cricket had come out in support of the proposal while the West Indies Cricket Board only stated that they had taken a position "in the best interests of West Indies cricket" following two board meetings in the past ten days.
With inputs from Andrew Fernando, Firdose Moonda, Nagraj Gollapudi and Mohammad Isam
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo