The fact that Australia, England and India have formed a cabal to choke the game of cricket is not exactly new. Like a bum with a sandwich board, myself and others have been walking the streets of cricket shouting this message for a long time. During the Champions Trophy I wrote that only the top three in cricket matter. Before that I started making a documentary on the death of Test cricket. And during this Boxing Day Test at the MCG, I was chatting to ABC Grandstand about it.
If you follow cricket politicking at all (and I do, so you don't have too), you could see this coming. So it was nice that Sharda Ugra showed that it was not just a conspiracy theory by a few nut jobs. That it was a real takeover of cricket by the greedy and wealthy.
But what does this leaked draft actually mean, and is the working group's financial and commercial committee actually run by giant lizards? I tried to answer a few questions that people had.
In a word, good or bad for Test cricket?
Bad, not just for Tests, but for all international cricket.
If there is promotion and relegation in Test cricket, but Australia, England and India can't be relegated, isn't that cheating?
It's not just cheating, it's organised fixing. Any individual who signs off on a regulation like this is corrupting the game, and should be banned by the ICC for their action. They are ensuring the result of the competition before a game is played. The integrity of the game is corrupted as much as by any huge no-ball. They might as well only let other teams use five batsmen, bowl with beach balls and field with sponsored flippers on. As long as the sponsorship money is split unfairly, favouring the stronger nation.
Who are the people involved in this secret dossier for cricket's potential kidnapping?
The names of the people on the committee that the draft came from are Giles Clarke (chairman, ECB), Alan Isaac (ICC president), Dave Richardson (chief executive), N Srinivasan (BCCI), Neil Speight (Associate and Affiliate member, Bermuda Cricket Board), Wally Edwards (CA), Dave Cameron (WICB), Campbell Jamieson (GM, commercial) and Faisal Hasnain (CFO).
However, a working committee wrote the draft, not the entire committee. The members of the working committee are not yet known. The winners, if the draft was implemented, would be the boards of Clarke, Srinivasan and Edwards. It is they who will be taking over cricket officially on behalf of their boards. We don't have the details of who the architects of the plan are, but being that these men and their boards get the best deal, it's not a big stretch to believe they were behind it and not the chairman of the Bermuda Cricket Board.
What did the FTP do? What does FTP stand for and why does it matter?
The FTP is (was?) the Future Tours Programme. It essentially meant that teams would have to play everyone, and not just who they wanted to play with. It was brought in to ensure that teams had a schedule to play each other and ICC tournaments. It helped sell TV rights and aided smaller nations financially by drawing them up against teams with larger markets and on the cricket field through experience against the best teams. It was a flawed but well-meaning system of sharing the wealth and making cricket fairer.
Wasn't the FTP ignored?
Occasionally. It was more a nagging aunty than a scary prison guard. I know Australia have played Bangladesh, I just can't remember when. And Bangladesh have never toured India. Things are moved around on a whim quite often, but it at least meant that if something did happen, like Sri Lanka and West Indies cancelling their Test series, they had to come out and say it, not just silently agree never to play again. No FTP makes it all a bit more covert and easier for board members to ruin things without us noticing.
"We have no vote in cricket. All we have is our passion, which is what makes the money that gives these men their power"
Why does it matter if the big three countries make more money from ICC tournaments and share the ICC top jobs? Don't they already own and run cricket?
Yes, they do. But it matters because cricket isn't limited to three nations, or even ten. There are 106 member nations of the ICC. If this structural upheaval happens, less money and no power will escape this evil cricket cabal. These dirty three will be able to continue to rule cricket forever for their own good. And they'll have the backing of cricket's governing body, which will essentially be them in all but name.
Will cricket's best interests really be looked after by these three nations?
One recently got involved with a fraudulent crook; the second stopped players picking who they wanted to represent them at the ICC level; and the final one wanted all the other nations locked out of the World Cup.
Isn't the current ICC set-up terrible anyway?
If by that you mean there are no votes at ICC boardrooms, that it's run by the ten Test-playing boards who are all out for their own good and that India have all the financial muscle, then yes. The Woolf Report, an independent evaluation of the ICC (that the boards never wanted, and of which they ignored all but the bits that helped them keep their stranglehold), suggested that cricket needed to be independently run, instead of by the member boards. But at least the current set-up, as pointless and ignored as it is, gave ten nations a say.
Sport is a business, and this is just a business decision, isn't it?
It is a business decision. A bad one. A short-term one. Like most decisions made by cricket officials, it follows the money where it is right now. It doesn't look ahead. It doesn't grow the game or improve it. It picks cricket up by its underwear and takes what is in its pocket.
Surprisingly, most billion-dollar businesses aren't run by unpaid men who face absolutely no consequence if they completely stuff up the business. Who would have thought a billion-dollar business run by amateurs with no independent management could be taken over so easily?
Should Bangladesh prepare for a five-Test match tour of Australia, England or India shortly?
Which Full Members outside the trio will be playing Test cricket by 2020?
It is impossible to tell. But this is not a move to lock in the future of the current Test-playing nations. It is a move to lock in the future of three of them. The rest can go to hell, and by hell, I mean more Champions Trophy tournaments.
I'm from outside the cricket cabal but don't really like Test cricket. Why should I care?
Because the FTP and ICC restructuring isn't just about Tests. It's about stopping your country from getting money. It's about ensuring through financial means that while three countries will have every single advantage, the others will have to live on far less. Money doesn't guarantee success. But it certainly helps in sport.
I'm from inside the cabal. Why should I care about the other nations?
Maybe you shouldn't. You'll have all the IPL, Big Bash and Ashes you can eat. But if the other seven teams stop playing Test cricket, or don't play enough to make it relevant, you're going to get pretty damn bored pretty damn quickly. And while you may only watch for your own players, do you really want to live in a world that involves less Sri Lankan mystery spin, New Zealand pluckiness, Misbah-ul-Haq, and the current best Test team on earth?
What will happen to the non-Test playing nations?
Not much will actually change for them. Life wasn't exactly free beer and endless casual sexual encounters before. If anything, now they have seven new friends who also have no power.
Can saner people in the future undo this mess?
Yes, probably. Even the old veto was eventually taken away from the ICC. Things can change. If the chairmen of the three cricket boards were to change, it could change very quickly. There is also little doubt that at least one of Clarke, Srinivasan and Edwards wants to eventually run the ICC once the main job there is made more powerful. Which means this reign of bullying and grabbing for power may not end anytime soon.
Should these three men step down?
Yes. Anyone who agreed with this draft, whether it was their idea or not, should leave cricket immediately. They won't, obviously. But they should.
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
Someone leaked this draft. Someone who saw it realised that cricket fans wouldn't like this, and instead of it being announced through an ICC press release, it was blurted out before they had a chance to lock it in. In fact, there are many good people working in cricket all around the world. They don't like this situation any more than we do. Hopefully more of them will step forward with details. That gives us a chance.
What can I do?
Contact them. Don't be rude, don't abuse the people who are answering the emails, calls or letters, but contact them. Tell them what you think of all this. CA can be contacted here, the ECB here, the BCCI here. We have no vote in cricket. All we have is our passion, which is what makes the money that gives these men their power.
They are banking on you not knowing or caring about any of this. Giles Clarke regularly tells young cricket writers to stop writing about administration because it's boring and fans don't care about it. What this does is allow cricket's most important men to run the game while no one is watching. Show them you're watching.
If you have time to complain about a shocking DRS decision or a terrible cover drive, surely you have time to send an email to the men running the game. Show them you care. Tell them what you think. You have no vote in cricket's future. But you do have the contact pages.