Can you shine some light on the research being carried out at MIT on the various technologies used in the DRS?
Engineers from the field intelligence unit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] have been commissioned to independently assess the performance of the technologies used as part of the DRS system. The technologies can be classified in two categories - ball-tracking and edge-detection. The engineers are in the process of building an apparatus to assess the performance of each type of technology at the moment and the results so far look promising. It is likely that the edge-detection apparatus will go through its final tests shortly, and the ball-tracking apparatus is more likely to be ready later in the year.
Why are you doing this? Assuming the technologies are shown to be accurate, do you think this will persuade those against DRS to accept it?
Television, ball-tracking and edge-detection technologies have developed and improved significantly since the DRS was first introduced. New technologies are being developed all the time. One concern about DRS, particularly from the players' and umpires' perspectives, is that the various technologies used for DRS in different series are not standardised. Our long-term aim is to have one officiating system used across all international matches.
In the short term, our aim is to get the DRS working as effectively as possible. The process to achieve this is firstly to test the technology, and secondly, once the results of the testing are known, review the procedures and protocols to ensure they are appropriate. At the end of this process, we should have identified the best officiating system using technology to suit the needs of cricket, and we would hope that all members would want to use it.
Are the people who are opposed to the use of DRS just the BCCI or are there others?
The significant majority are in favour of using technology in the decision-making process in international cricket. BCCI is the only Full Member who is currently opposed to the use of DRS in international cricket. The BCCI's opposition is mainly because they believe the technology is still not fool-proof and that decision-making should be left to the umpires, not the players. There are some other members who choose not to use DRS for their home series, but these are for cost reasons.
What is your timeline?
We are hoping to have the testing apparatus finished in the next few months, and then to schedule testing with the technology providers towards the end of this year. Part of the testing will also involve at-match assessments of the technologies, and there are discussions with one technology provider about the first of these assessments taking place next month. We are hoping to be able to provide a full report to the next ICC Cricket Committee meeting in May next year, at which the Committee can review and determine the optimum process and protocols for the DRS going forward.
After the ICC annual conference you had said that one of the key issues to be discussed at the October round of the ICC board meetings would be the subject of bilateral series. What were you concerned about?
This is actually something the ICC has wrestled with ever since I joined the organisation back in 2002 - looking at ways in which additional context can be created around the Future Tours Programme [FTP]. Bearing in mind that all members have different scheduling priorities, it has proven challenging to get consensus. The FTP is determined by bilateral agreements entered into between the Members. The results of matches in each series count towards the ICC Test, ODI and T20I rankings, which provide some context, both in themselves and in relation to qualification for the ICC events.
However, the international cricket landscape has changed over the years and even more significantly in recent times with the advent and success of domestic T20 leagues such as the IPL, the Big Bash and the CPL. These events are attracting widespread support from fans and hence the interest of broadcasters, sponsors and other commercial partners. Similarly the interest in and value of ICC events such as the World Cup, the Champions Trophy and World T20 has grown significantly over the last eight years or so. The increase in interest in ICC events and domestic T20 leagues effectively provides competition for the interest in bilateral international cricket series [FTP series].
Apart from series such as the Ashes - which has an iconic, traditional status - and series between India and the top Full Members, many bilateral series are perceived as having little relevance. Attendances in most series, especially for Test cricket, have fallen and the revenues generated from these series are not growing.
Discussions are ongoing as to how this issue can be effectively addressed. How can we grow interest in bilateral series - bigger crowds, more people watching on television, following the series on their phones, tablets and computers? For this to happen, bilateral series need greater context, a clear narrative, improved marketing and a more certain and coordinated schedule. What's the use of scheduling a series in the monsoon season, or how can you expect to grow the fan base or attract attendances if series are scheduled or changed at the last minute? Australia has the Boxing Day Test, South Africa (more often than not) a New Year's Test in Cape Town, everyone knows when the Lord's Test will take place. But elsewhere? India should have a Diwali Test, Barbados maybe an Easter Test, and so on.
"What's the use of scheduling a series in the monsoon season? How can you expect to grow the fan base or attract attendances if series are scheduled or changed at the last minute?"
How do you make bilateral series more relevant?
Ideas and concepts such as "less is more", scheduling of more tri-series, creating a brand around the FTP and around individual series, creating a fresh brand for the ODI format itself (World Cup cricket, for example, as Wally Edwards is proposing), creation of Test or ODI World Cup qualifying leagues. These are all ideas that need to be considered and discussed.
They have been mooted before, but now with the involvement of Mr Srinivasan as chairman, the BCCI, ECB, CA and the other members, these issues are being seriously looked at.
Can you expand on the idea of creating leagues?
Not at this stage, we are just in discussions at the moment. Michael Holding has spoken about a Test league of two divisions. Others have previously suggested a "six and four" teams format. But first the principles and then the detail needs to be debated and agreed.
So would leagues replace the rankings?
The debate on leagues is still in the drawing-board phase, but even if leagues were introduced, the rankings would still co-exist. The ICC rankings will always be there. Take international football, for example. They have qualifying leagues for the FIFA World Cup and continental tournaments, separate to the world rankings.
Concerning the ODI rankings, recently there was a raging debate on Bangladesh's qualification for the 2017 Champions Trophy despite them recording handsome wins against stronger opponents Pakistan, India and South Africa. Why does the qualification deadline need to be in September, nearly two years before the tournament?
If we are using rankings as the qualification criterion for an event, it will obviously make sense to make the cut-off date as close as possible to the start of the event itself so as to create more relevance to those matches leading up to the event. However, various operational requirements, such as the determination of venues and ticket sales, do require that the participants and the match schedule of the event are determined a reasonable time out from the start of the tournament. Going forward we will make an effort to determine cut-off dates as close as possible to the start of the event.
The MCC recently recommended a 12-team World Cup. Yet the ICC remains reluctant about expanding the number of teams in the World Cup. Why?
The main reason behind the decision to move to a ten-team ICC Cricket World Cup was because it was felt that it would provide the best event - the pinnacle, showcase event for the 50-over format. The 10 best ODI teams with all matches providing the highest-quality competitive cricket. It is essentially the same format as the 1992 Cricket World cup, which many say was the best ever World Cup format.
The format will generate the optimum level of revenues for the benefit of all members, and importantly, it gives added profile, value and relevance to the World Cup qualifying pathway i.e. the ODI rankings and the CWC qualifier tournament.
It should also not be forgotten that below the CWC qualifier tournament the ICC funds and stages a World Cricket League, which goes down to six divisions, and various regional qualifying events which provide a clear pathway for Associate and Affiliate Members to qualify for the CWC.
But in a way doesn't that - limiting to ten teams - counter the comment made by the ICC chairman, N Srinivasan, after the annual conference, where he spoke about broadening the game's reach?
No. The decision on the ICC Cricket World Cup format was made for the reasons mentioned. But it should be viewed in the context of a number of other decisions aimed at growing and developing the game: the decision to increase the number of teams in the ICC WT20 event from 12 to 16 teams; the decision to promote the top two ranked Associate Member teams (Ireland and Afghanistan) to the ODI FTP; the decision to make qualification for the World Cup, the Champions Trophy and the World T20 events based solely on merit, rather than membership status - for example, both Ireland and Afghanistan could qualify directly for the 2019 World Cup by being in the top eight ranked ODI teams at the relevant cut-off date, or if they don't they still have the chance of qualifying through the qualifying event to be held in 2018. The decision to break the glass ceiling of Test cricket by allowing Associate Members the opportunity to qualify to play Test cricket; the decision to target the better performing Associate Members by providing greater financial and other resources.
In 2000 there were 52 Members of ICC. There are now 105. In 2000 there were less than 155,000 participants in the countries outside of the Full Members. There are now more than 1.4 million. The game needs to continue to grow both in Full Member countries and non-Full Member countries.
The ICC's objective over the next four years is to increase the number and quality of teams capable of playing at the highest levels in all three formats of the game.
So what is happening to the top Associates like Ireland or Afghanistan, who have been promoted to the ODI FTP? Are they securing fixtures against the Full Members?
Ireland have actually made quite good progress in securing fixtures for themselves. ICC is doing what it can to facilitate the scheduling of these matches and this issue will form part of the ongoing discussions on bilateral cricket.
Another talking point is absence of international cricket in Pakistan. Recently Zimbabwe played an ODI series in Pakistan without the ICC match officials and security apparatus. How concerned is the ICC on this subject?
The ICC is concerned that one of its prominent members has not been able to play home series due to reasons beyond its control. But this is a security problem, not a cricket one. The ICC, and indeed those members wishing to send officials or teams to Pakistan, have a duty of care to such persons. This involves assessing the security risk in an objective fashion and then making a decision. If independent security experts advise against sending such teams or officials then it is very difficult for the ICC or members to ignore that advice.
I understand that the security situation has improved in recent times, and certainly for the Zimbabwe tour, it was clear that the PCB and the security authorities went to extreme lengths to ensure the safety of all concerned. But, as I have said, it is the security experts that need to be convinced that the security situation is under control before members will be persuaded to send their teams. In the meantime, ICC will continue to support the PCB in whatever way it can.