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May 9, 2005
When asked if commercial considerations were a factor in the decision, Brendan McClements, the ICC's general manager in charge of corporate affairs, told Cricinfo: "None. That was never a factor. In fact many of the deals done to support the event were done well before the consideration of whether the games were going to be official or not. So in fact there was very little commercial pressure to grant official status - it was on cricketing grounds that the board made its decision."
Recently, the ICC's decision to grant official status to a one-day match between Australia and an Asian XI stirred up a hornets' nest around the world, with Bill Frindall, one of cricket's most respected statisticians, describing it as "bizarre" and "a monstrous flouting of the Laws of Cricket". According to Frindall, Limited-Overs International status and records cover matches between national teams, not hot-potch multi-national games with no significance beyond fund-raising.
Frindall aside, it is worth looking at the ICC's rulebook. Point 3 of their Regulations covers the "Classification of Test matches". The definition is: "Any match of not more than five days' scheduled duration played between teams selected by Full Members as representative of their member countries and accorded the status of a Test match by the ICC ... Only Full Members of ICC can participate in Test matches." Similar specifications govern one-day international and the games in the Super Series do not conform.
"The board has the authority to make exceptions," explained McClements. "The board sets the rules so they can make some adjustments if they want to. They decided that this particular match warranted Test status. It will be an ICC XI picked by a committee appointed by the ICC, playing against the best side, and of six days, so it is a variation from what's in the playing conditions."
The decision to grant these matches official status was taken by the executive board of the ICC at their last meeting. "We had a paper from the management, we heard from the cricket statisticians' association, from the cricket committee and we had spoken to various captains. So we'd taken inputs from various stakeholders in the game. The overall view was, given the nature of the game, and especially the way the team was going to be elected - as different from World XIs in the past - they felt that official status was the way to go. They felt that the nature of the game, the quality of the cricket and the type of players involved warranted official status."
But this is not the first time that games of this sort - high quality players, tough cricket on the field - have taken place. Was the ICC then considering proposals to grant those matches - World Series Cricket, or the 1971-72 Australia v Rest of the World series - official status? McClements said not. "Part of that is because many of the games, like World Series Cricket, were organised outside even what was the cricket board then," he said. "Sure, the standard of cricket was very high. Certainly some of the players who took part in the 1971-72 Australia v Rest of the World series have suggested that those games should have Test status. But that has not been considered and that's partly because those teams weren't picked by an ICC panel."
Interestingly, this decision by the ICC comes soon after it decided to launch its own official awards. That certainly took the wind out of the sails of several other companies who were promoting their own cricket awards. Was the ICC then looking to corner the cricket market and perhaps discourage other people from organising games of this kind? "I don't think it's been a thought to do that to other people," said McClements. "The thinking is that these are cricket events that the ICC should promote, as the governing body. It was our view that these are legitimate cricket experiences and that the ICC should run them, and do so as credibly as they can. It's about what the game deserves."
While Frindall might continue to argue his corner, what is important is that the influential Association of Cricket Statisticians has decided to go along with the ICC's decision.
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