Big Three attempt to reassure Associates
Wally Edwards and Giles Clarke turned on the charm at the MCG on Tuesday as they attempted to reassure Associate and Affiliate nations that the "Big Three" will lead cricket with more benevolence than belligerence.
Edwards and Clarke spoke on behalf of the boards of Australia and England at an informal meeting ahead of the official Associates & Affiliates gathering in the Jim Stynes Room. Alongside India's BCCI, they have hatched plans for the game's strongest nations to lead the rest.
The third member of their triumvirate, the barred BCCI president and yet ICC chairman-elect N Srinivasan, was not at the MCG, relying instead on his colleagues to articulate the new landscape they have created together, stressing meritocracy and closer bilateral links between nations.
Edwards told members that the path was now open for cricket's second- and third-tier nations to earn their way up the ladder through success on the field and sound governance off it. Tim Anderson, the ICC's head of global development, said the management of the governing body in Dubai had grown more at ease with plans for the next eight years after working at turning broad resolutions into more detailed blueprints.
"ICC management didn't have a large role in the proposals when they were first put up four or five months ago, but as we've moved through this phase we have been able to get more involved and talk to our full members about what's important, and as far as I can gather a lot of that's been taken on board," Anderson said.
"I've had conversations with CA, ECB and the BCCI over the past couple of months along with our own development committee, and all of those discussions have been really positive about what the future might look like. I feel pretty good about the future even though there are some changes to come. The fact that our full members seem to be engaging more and more with other countries is a very good thing."
Among the major concerns raised by Associate and Affiliate members are changed financial modelling, which will offer nations a reduced percentage of ICC revenues when lined up against the previous plan, even if the next set of television rights is set to fetch an appreciably larger price and thus an increased injection of cash for all.
According to an insider, the ICC is showing a "lack of care for Associate cricket," underlined by their narrower focus on the tier below Test members. The High Performance Program will, for the next few months, concentrate on the four teams participating in next year's World Cup - Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan and the UAE - leaving the rest wondering how they will keep cash flow going and whether their teams will get sufficient game time.
They have managed to attain some certainty in terms of the new financial model. Associate and Affiliate members will receive a total amount of US$225 million but it will be divided according to a new model. Half of that money (US$112.5 million) will go to top performing Associates but it is yet to be decided who those teams will be while. The other half will be shared among the rest. There is also the possibility of another tier of Associate countries who will be classed as high-performing countries, who may not benefit from the high performance program but will receive additional financial support.
"Change is difficult at any stage, and we go through a process of change every eight years given our new rights and events cycle, different structures and funding models come through," Anderson said. "I think what's been good for this group today is Wally Edwards and Giles Clarke came in and spoke to them this morning and talked to them about the background of some of the changes.
"Some of them who were involved in our committees have a broader understanding of what's been happening, but this has really helped get their head around what's going on and maybe more why it's happening. I think they understand that the rights for world cricket are going to be sold very well, the international game's in a good place and we expect our media rights will go for significantly more than they have in the past, which will mean more money will flow down.
"I would imagine that coming into this meeting there would have been uncertainty, but now there's a bit more comfort with what's going on."
Also a source of disquiet is the plan to reduce the number of competing teams at the World Cup from 14 to 10 from 2019, though two qualification places will still be open. "One of the things they are perhaps understandably worried about is the World Cup and why are we going from 14 teams to 10 teams," Anderson said. "As a member that's a fair enough question, and in isolation I can understand where they're coming from - you don't want to lose something because you don't want to lose something.
"As a package though if you look at the opportunities coming in T20, opening up Test cricket and a big shift is the fact that up until now Full Members have by right received an automatic spot in the World Cup. At 2019 that won't happen anymore. If they play well at the next World Cup they can put forward a case to say it should probably be more than 10, and if I were them I'd do the same thing."
Thirdly the game's smaller nations have wondered aloud about a wider philosophical shift from expansion to consolidation, with Edwards, Clarke and Srinivasan eager to improve the performances of numerous existing Full Members. However Anderson suggested that targeted expansion into cricket's major untapped markets - namely China and the USA - was now more likely than before.
"There might be more of a focus on that moving forward as opposed to having a wide strategy to try to grow everybody, to really target some of those key countries and say 'We really want to have a go there because we think they'll make a big impact moving forward'," he said. "Even though there's been a lot of talk about China and the USA, there hasn't necessarily been a huge amount of investment or events haven't been put in those places.
"I'm not sure the action has backed up some of the words, but moving forward I think that's one of the things that'll probably happen."
The three Associate and Affiliate positions on the ICC board will be taken up by Imran Khawaja of Singapore, Neil Speight from Bermuda and Francois Erasmus of Namibia. There was no room for Keith Oliver from Scotland which is believed to have caused consternation among the European Associate and Affiliate members who were lobbying for Oliver to get a position on the board. Oliver was instrumental in winning the right for Associate nations to have a pathway to play in international and many Associate members believed he would continue to champion their cause.
The day was rounded off by the first installment of the two-day Chief Executives Committee meeting, at which recommendations from the cricket committee's discussions in Bangalore were to be discussed. The Associate and Affiliate nations also discussed their situation with regard to the Big Three administrative and revamp of the ICC and arrived at the conclusion that "rebellious" postures would not help their cause at a time when "logical" thought was required.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig