Imran Khawaja, the ICC's deputy chairman, is set to contest the leadership of the global governing body against the ECB chairman Colin Graves at its annual meeting in June, ushering in a period of furious lobbying by both sides ahead of the vote of the board.
If elected, Khawaja, the former president of the Singapore Cricket Association, would be the first leader in the ICC's history to come from outside the governing body's traditional clique of Full Member nations, with India having four men in the role, England and South Africa two, and Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and West Indies one each.
While it has been reported that Graves has the support of India, the ICC's re-constitution under the leadership of the current chairman Shashank Manohar in 2017 has added a far greater degree of diversity to the board. Formerly dominated by the voting rights of the 10 Full Members, it is now a far more varied coalition, including an independent female director Indra Nooyi, plus the additions of representatives for Afghanistan and Ireland in addition to the Associate directors from Scotland, Malaysia and Singapore - Khawaja.
ESPNcricinfo understands that while Graves currently has the support of other major nations, including Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan, the traditional Full Members now represent only 10 of 17 available votes on the board.
Khawaja, a longtime presence on ICC boards and committees, was named as Manohar's deputy in June 2017, and as a senior lawyer and chairman of the ICC's associate member committee has been an influential player among the game's decision-makers for quite some time. The most recent example of Khawaja's influence came when he convinced Manohar to take back his resignation and finish his two-year tenure.
He was also instrumental in helping reshape the ICC constitution to encourage a wider power base and greater number of nations involved in decision-making, something he made clear when accepting the deputy role. "It is a great honour to be elected Deputy Chairman especially whilst wearing the hat of an Associate," Khawaja said at the time.
"I am also privileged to be part of the working group to have authored and reinvented the ICC constitution to make it one of the most inclusive, transparent and merit based sports governing bodies in the world. I have no doubts that a new era is dawning on our great game which will see not only a more vibrant membership but also a competition structure that sees cricket played at the highest level."
Graves was also involved in these changes, but in recent times he has taken the step of allying himself closely with the BCCI and its new incoming leadership, fronted by Sourav Ganguly as president but with plenty of other familiar administrative figures behind him, including secretary Jay Shah and the former ICC chairman N Srinivasan.
It was Graves who authored a letter to the ICC's chief executive, Manu Sawhney, in November that expressed strong opposition to his plans for the next global broadcast rights cycle from 2023 to 2031, in which another global event would be added to the calendar in an attempt to generate more revenue for members, who have been suffering from the steady loss on value for rights to bilateral series, even those featuring India.
"We are keen to work closely together with ICC to promote the interests of cricket globally, to attract more fans to the game, and to optimise commercial returns without further compromising the existing balance between ICC Events and bilateral cricket," Graves wrote in part. "I am of the strong belief that working together as stakeholders, we can establish a calendar of events from 2023 onwards that achieves all of these aims and serves the interests of all ICC Members."
One of Graves' points of opposition to Sawhney's proposal was the clash of the extra ICC event with the World Test Championship final scheduled for 2023 - a decider that was the end result of years of work by the ICC and member boards to establish a workable league structure for the game's oldest and longest format.
"We were the ones who have pushed the Test championship off the ground at ICC because Test cricket needs something to keep it all together. The worrying thing is you look at Test cricket around the world and most of the grounds are empty and that is the sad bit," Graves told the Telegraph in December. "Fortunately we don't see that in England but ICC has to get its act together and make sure Test championship is marketed properly.
"They have to put finances behind it. I don't think new members coming to the ICC should play Test cricket for the first five years. They should just play white ball cricket until they can make sure they are sustainable financially because they could lose a fortune. We know if you don't have full grounds you will struggle to make revenue from a Test match. Time will tell."