ICC chairman Shashank Manohar has said the revival of bilateral cricket is in the hands of the members boards, because bilateral cricket does not fall under the jurisdiction of cricket's international governing body. The idea of two tiers in Tests was put forward by Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa, Manohar said, and it was up to the members to decide what to do about it.
"I can tell as a fact, this issue [two tiers] was raised by Cricket South Africa and Cricket Australia, and came up at the Chief Executives Committee (CEC) meeting in Edinburgh," Manohar told the Indian Express. "Being the chairman of the ICC, I don't attend the CEC meetings, but I was specifically called for this agenda item. I said at the meeting that the ICC is not empowered to look into this because these bilateral rights are rights belonging to home boards and it's for them to decide what to do. The ICC has nothing to say in this. This matter can't be deliberated on the ICC platform."
Haroon Lorgat, CEO of Cricket South Africa and former ICC CEO, had similarly told ESPNcricinfo that it was the responsibility of the member boards and not the ICC to ensure bilateral cricket is in good health. Technically, the ICC is only in charge of organising ICC events like the World Cup, World T20, Champions Trophy and Intercontinental Cup.
While revamps of bilateral cricket were being debated, Manohar said it remained equally important to pinpoint the basis of Test cricket's attendance problems. He said he felt it largely came down to the many options today's fans have inside and outside of the game. "I said at the [CEC] meeting that the decline in crowd attendance for Test matches is not because there's no content. What should be done is a survey. You should find out why the popularity of Test cricket has diminished.
"For that you will have to interview people who watch T20 games or ODI games. Because there the stadiums are full, so those people are interested in watching the game of cricket.
"In earlier days, there were only about five Tests in two years' time. There was no television. So people used to go and stadiums used to be full. But today, for all 365 days, there's some game going on somewhere in the world. So you can watch a game of cricket anytime, any day. So why would a person waste seven hours for five days, from 10am-5pm? All these things had been argued at the meeting."
Manohar also offered specific numbers on the budget for the Champions Trophy 2017 to be hosted in England, saying the BCCI's claim that it was "three times" that of the budget allocated to this year's World T20 hosted in India was false. "That's not factually correct. The budget for the World T20 2016, including the television production cost, was $55,084,116. The budget for the Champions Trophy 2017, including television production cost, is $46,781,507.
"Yes, there were more matches and teams at the World T20 2016 compared to what will be there for the Champions Trophy. But the Champions Trophy games are full-day games and the accommodation and travel cost in the UK are substantially higher that what they were in India."
After replacing N Srinivasan as ICC chairman in November 2015, Manohar had stated his intent to end the imbalance of power at the ICC caused by the constitutional revamp of 2014 - the "Big Three" episode. Now he reiterated his commitment to the international governing body over the BCCI, of which he was president till May. "Today I'm unconnected with any particular member of the ICC," he said. "I'm the independent ICC chairman, so I have to look at the best interests of the ICC. It's for the BCCI representative to look after the best interests of the BCCI."
When asked if the BCCI's views did not deserve special attention at the ICC level given it is the biggest contributor to world cricket financially, Manohar said: "I don't agree with this. Then, why the same logic shouldn't apply to the BCCI? There are 30 state associations [in India], why shouldn't somebody have a veto power? For example, Mumbai generates the highest revenue but does that mean that they should have a veto power on the BCCI decisions? Institutions function in a democratic manner and decisions are taken by the majority."