'The new ICC structure is more inclusive'
The main criticism against these proposals has been that it looks like a takeover of cricket by three boards, an imposition of your will on the rest of the world. How would you respond to that?
I would say then people have not understood the proposal. I do not think that the proposal envisages a takeover of cricket by three boards. The proposal deals with a lot of the issues that the game faces today. And it has suggested improvements by way of changes to the way the game is structured today.
If I had to sum it up I will say the proposal gives financial stability to nations who play cricket. It addresses the concerns of Associates and Affiliates, provides a way forward, provides a future for the Associates. It provides greater funding for the top Associates, which was not there before to this extent, and there are also improvements in the governance structures.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is on record saying that this goes against the principles of equity and against the interests of cricket.
One has to be more specific. I'm quite happy to address each one of the proposals and discuss with you if you have specific queries on each one of the proposals.
One of the central concerns about this proposal has been that it puts the interest of three boards above the interest of cricket in two regards. One is allocation of money, and the second is the consolidation of decision-making authority or process. Let's talk about money first.
It's clear that India brings in most of the money in world cricket, and even in these proposals it's not taking as much as it gets. But the distribution formula is not based only on the contributions made. It took into account the history of the game, the participation of the boards in various tournaments, the achievements of these boards.
For example, England and Australia have been playing cricket the longest, so that was taken into account. So we tried to address a lot of attributes and that is how we came up with this. A kind of scorecard was made, giving points for all this and this distribution module came out of this.
How did the 80% figure come about? Is it a simple calculation based on sponsorship from Indian corporates for ICC events?
It is not simple. It's a combination of sponsorship, broadcast rights fees and all that. One can't have a precise figure but I would say between 70% and 80%. This was even the assessment of ICC.
But the distribution of wealth in cricket has traditionally been based on equality, and that's the principle that even the BCCI follows in India. You don't give more money to Mumbai and less to Manipur.
There's a difference. You can't compare the BCCI to ICC. You can't say that all money is coming out of Bombay. And all the other boards recognise this, and they also recognise a certain amount of leadership has to come out of India, which is what we are trying to provide.
I think one must look at it from the point of view that the revenues generated go to help all cricket. It's only a small percentage of that that is retained by the BCCI and the rest is a contribution to world cricket. That's how one must look at it. I think one of the other boards said this: it's like a participation fee. But this brings wealth to cricket. I don't think other members have objections, or that anybody said that India should not get more.
So the suggestion is that India staying strong is good for the health of cricket globally?
A strong India with a vibrant commercial structure is good for world cricket.
The proposal has to be seen as a whole. It evolved from the discussions about the next rights cycle and the procedures and timelines etc. And then we started looking at all other aspects of ICC and we said that a lot of things need to be done which could be part and parcel of this.
For example, we recognised the fact that the FTP had flaws. So this proposal now looks at a more reliable and dependable FTP, because there will be bilateral agreements between members. It looked at a financial model in which the Associates and Affiliates will get far more than they got before.
That has not been made very clear. How are they going to get more, because there is $300 million which has been taken away?
I'll explain it to you. In the last rights cycle, a total of $314 million was allocated to the Associates. But actually the Associates, in terms of money, got directly from the ICC $125 million. And then the balance, the difference between the two, went by way of subscriptions collected from them, then there were ICC administration costs, event costs, tournament costs, and costs of running tournaments and some umpires' programmes or some other high-performance programmes etc. So basically it is 125 plus cost.
Now in this proposal they are likely to get 200 plus costs, so the amount has gone up substantially. The top-performing Associates will get almost 100 million, which is what was given to all of them.
What has not been understood is the fact that the Associates and Affiliates are going to get more money and they are also going to get the opportunity to play at a higher level. That's been one of their major concerns. They say, we are playing only amongst each other, we never get to play you. Now that opportunity is given. So conceptually we have broken that glass ceiling, which is a very, very big change. You can't look at things overnight, you take a ten-year cycle, 20 years. A top Associate can become a top Test nation - that possibility is there.
How will that work?
You will see when it is finally tabled. Some small, minor changes have been made to the earlier draft. Let's wait for it to get approved.
We'll come back to the bilateral agreements. There is a concern that if there is no universal FTP, and agreements are made between individual boards, it will leave the weaker boards at the mercy of the stronger ones. You can simply choose to play who you want.
The present FTP is not a guaranteed FTP.
But there's at least a thing in principle and concept.
For your information, the present FTP is not signed. That is indicative, but it is not a legal document. It is not and it was never binding. Whereas, the FTP bilateral agreement will be stronger. India has sat down during the Dubai meeting and discussed with a number of countries the proposed FTP for going forward, which we are going to coincide with the right cycle.
So in principle you are committing to play all the countries?
We are working out details. We have worked out with a number of countries. One or two are left and that also is being finalised.
A few boards have said that it has become a bargaining tool - an "either you are with us or against us" kind of situation.
No, you are saying that. I am not saying it.
That's something some of the boards have told us. That they have been told, "We'll only sign bilateral FTPs with people if you agree to this proposal or you are exposing yourself to isolation."
I don't know who has said that but certainly not India.
So if two boards voted against this proposal, will they also be given tours?
Our team of three or four officials from India sat in Dubai and have held discussions of all the possible FTPs with various countries there. Now, we have only so much time in a year to play. I also want to have a good domestic season and we want to have inbound tours. We want to have at least two inbound tours during our home season, because that is very important to BCCI. Our fans must see our cricket. So therefore, with all this in mind, we are working on a schedule. It is a question of whoever comes first, whoever comes and we are able to accommodate, fine. If we are filled up, then we have a difficulty but we are trying our best to see as many as we can accommodate.
Can I take two specific names - Pakistan and South Africa?
We are open for them. About South Africa, somewhere some wrong information is floating around. We are due to sit with them and discuss the FTP. Somebody is coming here over the next two days and discussions are going to happen.
India have been fairly generous travellers but now you are going to carve out a home season. So will that mean India's touring commitments will shrink?
Possible, but I have to balance both. I must play sufficient cricket in India, and I don't think anyone will deny that. We have excellent venues and all venues should see cricket. Our matches are allotted by rotation, so every state wants matches. We have got 21 ODI centres. We have so many international venues and I think cricket should be seen in the length and breadth of India.
It's been suggested by the ECB and CA that this proposal came about "to keep BCCI in a tent", and they have said it on record that there was a danger that India wouldn't have signed the MPA [Members Participating Agreement].
There were a lot of issues we had on the MPA, genuine issues. I would not have signed the last MPA, but whoever signed it, I don't know how it got signed. There are a lot of disadvantages.
Any specific ones that you would want to point out?
I don't want to get in to details, but we have had substantial issues on the MPA. Secondly, it is no secret that we have had many issues at ICC, not with ICC, at the ICC.
I'm just saying there were a lot of issues at ICC. Now, I think BCCI is quite happy to be involved with the leadership of cricket. We will embrace this ICC in the new structure, which will be good for cricket as a whole. All of us are on the same page, so to that extent I think these new proposals, if you take them one by one, you will see how they are inclusive. Basically it is more inclusive now.
Going back to the earlier question: the view is that we did it to keep India in the tent and we didn't want India outside, throwing stones. How would you respond to that?
I have already said that now we can have an ICC that India can be fully involved with.
But was the threat real that you would have not signed the MPA in its current form? Was signing the MPA conditional to these proposals going through?
We had made it clear that we could not sign the MPA in the form in which it was. It needed many changes. And the other members in the committee realised that India's concerns were legitimate, and therefore it led to a discussion, a lot of discussions, out of which all those proposals came.
One of the other concerns has been that when such far-reaching reforms were being discussed, there was not a wide consultative process, and it was essentially a small group of people who put it together, and then it was sought to be imposed on the rest of the members.
I think this is not fair. What did we do? The F&CA [Financial and Commercial Affairs committee] has a working group to prepare and suggest. So we discussed amongst ourselves and then invited other members and presented them with a draft proposal. This was for discussion, it was not for approval.
From the 9th of January, when we met in Dubai, I made the presentation and what we said was: this is a draft, this is what we are suggesting. If there are improvements or suggestions, or some other model, please feel free. On the 9th when we presented, it was written in big, bold letters: "Draft for discussion". Somebody has to prepare a draft for discussion. So three out of ten sit together and prepare a draft, others can go through it, suggest changes, and in fact, a lot of changes have taken place. There has been a lot of consultation and a lot of points that were mentioned earlier have been dropped also, and some changes have been made.
The ExCo [executive committee], which has India, Australia and ECB as permanent members - the composition of it has stayed that way.
That alone has stayed. We had said that the chairmanship will rotate between the three - that has been dropped. Anybody can become a chairman. We have only said that the first chairman will be so-and-so, and after that it will be elected by the committees.
These three members will always stay. What's the rationale behind that?
Because they are providing a leadership role also. On the ICC board and the IBC [ICC Business Company], all members will be directors. Even in the ExCo and the F&CA, there will be two other members from the remaining seven, so four will already be there out of the seven. Seven people will be in one or the other committee, then the decision is democratic isn't it? There is a casting vote for a chairman.
What people have not understood and appreciated is that all proposals will go to the board through the ExCo; and to the IBC Board, the F&CA will make recommendations. The final decision is taken by the ICC board or the IBC board, where all ten members are present. And in the ICC you need seven votes to pass a resolution. So I am not able to understand the criticism here, because ultimately you need seven votes and finally the ICC board and the IBC board function in the same fashion.
There is a simple reason why it has looked bad. It has looked like three people got into a room and came out saying that we will get more power and we will get more money.
Someone has to do the work to start thinking, someone has to come up with a draft. And it was a draft that was open for discussion.
To many the great irony in this proposal is that the BCCI is now proposing a system that it had always opposed. This feels like a return to the Imperial Cricket Council.
There is no veto here. Except the fact that the three boards will be members of the F&CA and the ExCo, it doesn't say anywhere that there will be a veto. There are two other members at all times. Anyone can become the chairman after the first chairman.
Now that India is through this proposal committing to playing a bigger role in world cricket, what is your vision for cricket globally?
We must understand, cricket is a great game. In the beginning and for a very long time, we only knew Test cricket. I think the first thing is that the primacy of Test cricket must be established. We must also look at possible reasons why spectators in some or many geographies are no more coming to the grounds to watch Test cricket. I think it's a concern. Administratively, today the ICC has spread cricket to a number of countries, there are a lot of Associates and Affiliates. Some who knew cricket earlier are now developing it, some who never played cricket are entering cricket. From that point of view, the propagation of cricket, taking it around, that is already in place, that is going on.
So you are committed to the idea of expanding cricket?
No, I'm not saying expanding, I'm saying it's already in place. I believe resources should be used more efficiently, and those areas and geographies where there is a lot of interest in cricket, we should give greater attention, obviously. It is very important, now that we have three forms of cricket, that all these forms flourish and grow. I think that is a very big challenge. And you will agree that all the three forms are not equally popular in all countries. That is also a challenge. And, importantly, I think the ICC has to deliver truly world-class events.
The Test championship has been removed.
The Test championship did not have the kind of support one would have liked. There were difficulties in the format. We are used to Test series - two Tests, three, four or five. So a one-off Test match... whether it would sustain the interest - these were the questions that were going around the table. And finally I think the feeling was that the last Champions Trophy in England was such a great success, we should persist with it.
So how will the primacy of Test cricket be maintained in the long run?
This is what we are doing. We are encouraging even Full Members [by giving them] additional resources so that they don't give up Test cricket, because for many members, they incur losses running Test series. So this might help fund that, so that it helps them to sustain Test cricket.
Sambit Bal is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here