The nameless man took a moment to concentrate on his breathing. Dubai Sports City frightened him and made him feel alienated. As he looked at the tall, glistening buildings, he couldn't help but think of the thousands of people within them. They all seemed so at home here, bustling about, getting things done, driving their respective sports into a future they already embraced. Despite the sheer volume of humanity, the nameless man felt entirely alone.
By focusing on his breathing, he managed to address his heart rate somewhat. It had plateaued, but would not fall. Maybe once he was inside, he would feel better. He could focus on what was in front of him then. He could focus on what he had come to do.
He reminded himself why he was putting himself through this; why he had climbed the ladder within his organisation, defying his own nature and reluctance. He had done it so that he could now attend a meeting of the International Cricket Council and present his proposal - the proposal he had been working on for years; the proposal that would save the sport he had loved since he first held a cricket bat as a small boy.
He strode through the open doorway and was pleased to find that he had penetrated an invisible curtain that somehow kept the interior cool. The sleek surfaces were unwelcoming, yet strangely soothing all the same. He felt that he would be okay.
An hour later, the nameless man was sitting at a giant boardroom table with his colleagues from the other Test nations. The meeting had been going on for a few minutes, and after a brief period of awkwardness, people had settled into it. He knew he was due to speak any minute and so thumbed through his notes, even though they were nothing but the tip of the giant iceberg that monopolised his mind. He looked up to see a burly man in an ill-fitting suit gesturing towards him with an open palm. Expectant eyes were trained on him from all around. It was time.
"Gentlemen," he began, for they were all men. "Our sport is stagnating. The pace of innovation is camouflaging this fact, but it is true. We are gaining fans readily and losing them almost as rapidly. I fear the bubble is about to burst."
The nameless man left a dramatic pause, but the faces around him were nonplussed. He decided to press on and over the next 20 minutes or so, he delivered a barrage of facts and figures, because this was the language they understood. He displayed graphs, identified trends and his speech was peppered with the names of different currencies. Slowly but inevitably he won them over. Only then could he deliver his conclusions.
"We argue over details and ignore the big picture. We stare at different parts of it, wondering whether this red should be deeper or whether this purple should be a shade of blue. Yet if we take a step back, one thing is clear. We all know it: there is too much cricket. The details are being lost as we apply more and more layers of paint to our sport. We need to lighten the canvas so that we can provide some necessary contrast. Let's do this rationally."
With that, the nameless man closed his speech and implored his colleagues with a facial expression he had practised in the mirror for just this moment. It portrayed seriousness, optimism and firmness all at once and it hit its mark.
"We need to optimise," said the burly man in the ill-fitting suit. He seemed taken aback by his own words.
"We need to optimise," repeated the nameless man firmly, reinforcing the sentiment.
"But how do we do this?" asked a fat man whose neck flowed over his collar like melted cheese. "You look at the fixture list and nothing stands out as being unnecessary. Are we just going to wade in, tearing up TV deals?"
"No," replied the nameless man. "Like I said, we do it rationally and we try to maintain balance. If we do the job properly, every series and every tournament should be greatly more appealing to the fans. The advertisers follow the fans, so we can profit from this. It really is in our interests to try and improve the game as a whole."
"You're right that we should do this rationally," said the man in the ill-fitting suit. "We shouldn't be held hostage by tradition or sentiment. We should do what needs to be done."
"Yes," agreed the nameless man.
"It's been a long time coming, but rationally speaking, there's one area of the game that's not pulling its weight." The man in the ill-fitting suit surveyed the room. "On no level does it make sense to continue playing Test cricket."
"Wait," whimpered the nameless man, but his words were drowned out by a chorus of muttering. Every other person had said: "Agreed".