Martin Williamson
Executive editor, ESPNcricinfo, and managing editor, ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

ICC's decision to ratify FTP

Can the bosses be trusted?

The ICC have decided to ratify their Future Tours Progamme but are the players being treated as an afterthought, asks Martin Williamson

Martin Williamson

March 24, 2006

Text size: A | A



Malcolm Speed's recent comments leave one puzzled © Getty Images
Enlarge

An acrimonious row has broken out in the last 48 hours between the ICC and the Federation of International Cricketers' Association, the players' trade union. The catalyst was the ICC executive's decision to ratify their Future Tours Progamme - the schedule which dictates each country has to play one another once home and away in any cycle - when they met in Dubai earlier this week.

On the face of it, the ICC eased the burden on its members, extending the cycle from five to six years. With ten Full Member countries, that equates to 18 series in the period plus ICC-run events such as the Champions Trophy and the World Cup. That is the minimum, but an increasing number of series - England-Australia, India-Pakistan and others - will be more frequent and it doesn't make allowance for the plethora of multi-national one-day tournaments that spring up like weeds, only often with less notice. There had been talk of a change so that Bangladesh and Zimbabwe only had to be played once in that period, but that turned out to be hot air.

One look at the international cricket itinerary underlines the crazy workload imposed on the players. Sri Lanka recently returned from two months in Australia and after 24 hours in Colombo, jetted off to play in Bangladesh. They were lucky to have any stopover as their board had originally agreed an itinerary without a break. Australia are due to play an ODI in Bangladesh three days after they finish their final Test in South Africa.

It is hardly surprising that more and more players are sidelined with niggling injuries. And that makes no allowance for the personal pressures of lives spent almost constantly away from home. One former Test player told me today that the average career of a top player is now around ten years. A generation ago it was probably double that.

Tim May, FICA's chief executive, accused the people making these decisions of not understanding the pressure as none of them were players - he is right, and he talks as a former Test player himself - and of overlooking the strain of the incessant schedule on the cricketers themselves. And that clearly struck a nerve.

Malcolm Speed and Ehsan Mani both reacted within hours by launching a broadside aimed at FICA, and making thinly veiled - actually, not veiled at all - threats that the ICC was about to withdraw its recognition of FICA. But it was Speed's comment that "a spirit of co-operation between players and administrators would be better served by each individual board dealing with its own players/player representatives" that really stuck in the craw.

Just who is he kidding? The very people that many players cannot rely on to safeguard their interests are - with a few notable exceptions - their own boards. These bodies' aim seems to be to cram as many lucrative series in as they possibly can, and hang the consequences.

Had an organisation such as FICA existed in the 1970s, then World Series Cricket would probably have never come about. Australia's players had been at war with the Australian Cricket Board ever since Bill Lawry, their captain in South Africa in 1969-70, spoke out against the inequality of the conditions they were asked to tolerate and the remuneration. He paid with his job the following season, but the dispute rumbled on through the 1970s. In 1972, Rod Marsh admitted that it cost him money to tour England as he had to take unpaid leave from his job.

Times have moved on, but bosses are still bosses. The ones who stress that they can be trusted and that the workers do not need representation are usually the very ones who cannot.

Two examples. In the recent West Indies dispute, when players were dropped after refusing to scrap their own valid contracts with the board's former sponsor, FICA played a vital part in brokering a solution to a bitter row. The West Indies board and the local players' association were at loggerheads, and it took an external third party to help sort things out.

In Zimbabwe, a number of players have still not been paid money owed from more than seven months ago, and the board has effectively sidelined their players' association. But pressure has been brought - quietly - to try to bring about a solution, with a degree of success.

In these instances, the local board was the very body who could not be relied on to act impartially. And, as Zimbabwe proves, the ICC is powerless to act in such instances. Without FICA, there will be no checks on the less generously-minded boards.

So why has the ICC hierarchy, who usually remain calm and detached from such issues, suddenly come out all guns blazing? The answer would seem to be that the executive - the same board heads who Speed and Mani insist can be relied on to safeguard the players - have decided to get tough. Break the union and remove a major obstacle - or as some would argue, a lone voice of reason - and pave the way to implement a burgeoning and punishing schedule.

If the players were treated fairly then this would not matter. But increasingly, they are becoming an afterthought. May hit the nail on the head when he said that "very important decisions are being made by ICC committees which have no international cricket playing experience and appear to have no appreciation of the demands and pressures of the game today from a players perspective." Not one of the executives can speak as an international cricketer and so can claim to be arguing from a position of knowledge.

Speed concluded by railing against FICA's "unnecessarily belligerent approach" in dealings with the ICC. He should remember that, sometimes, when people feel they are banging their heads against a brick wall, they get slightly arsy.

Sometimes cricket's administrators are accused of being out of touch and of living in the dark ages. That criticism is often unfair, but the ICC executive's latest approach to dealing with the workers is more reminiscent of a 19th century factory owner than a custodian of the game.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Martin Williamson

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Martin WilliamsonClose
Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

    Top dog of the underdogs

My Favourite Cricketer: Jack Russell brought a neatness to the keeper's art that was matched by his meticulous scruffiness in other regards. By Scott Oliver

    Rewarding times for Hashim Amla

Numbers Game: The rate at which he has accumulated ODI hundreds and MoM awards is among the fastest in history

'Ponting was an instinctive, aggressive player'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Ricky Ponting's technique

    MacLeod spells hope for Scotland

Allrounder Calum MacLeod's return from a faulty action is key to Scotland's World Cup hopes. By Tim Wigmore

How boring is boring cricket?

Probably not as much as boring periods in the likes of rugby, football and tennis, Russell Jackson thinks

News | Features Last 7 days

Manic one-day chases, and daddy partnerships

Also, most brothers in a Test XI, and the fastest to 20 ODI centuries

Has international cricket begun to break up?

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider, and the disenchantment is forcing a devaluation of Test cricket among weaker teams

Well worth the wait

Zulfiqar Babar missed five seasons between his first two first-class matches, and was 34 when he finally made his Test debut, but he is quickly making up for all the lost time with his artful left-arm spin

Younis Khan and the art of scoring hundreds

Out of 70 batsmen who've scored 15 or more Test hundreds only five are from Pakistan, but Younis Khan's appetite for hundreds matches that of some of the top contemporary batsmen

Australia outdone in every way

Surviving into the final session of the last day cannot disguise the fact that Australia's continued inability to play spin contributed to an all-round thrashing

News | Features Last 7 days

    Has international cricket begun to break up? (83)

    The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider, and the disenchantment is forcing a devaluation of Test cricket among weaker teams

    Lyon low after high of 2013 (51)

    The offspinner was Australia's highest wicket-taker in 2013, but his form has dipped sharply this year

    Australia outdone in every way (51)

    Surviving into the final session of the last day cannot disguise the fact that Australia's continued inability to play spin contributed to an all-round thrashing

    Well worth the wait (36)

    Zulfiqar Babar missed five seasons between his first two first-class matches, and was 34 when he finally made his Test debut, but he is quickly making up for all the lost time with his artful left-arm spin

    No Ajmal, no problem for Pakistan (33)

    When a team loses its best bowler, it is expected that the team's performance will suffer. As usual, Pakistan defied the expectations