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ICC chair Greg Barclay flags major review of 'unsustainable' cricket schedule

"The players can't play all this cricket, just from a health, safety and welfare point of view."

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
Greg Barclay at an ICC meeting  •  Getty Images

Greg Barclay at an ICC meeting  •  Getty Images

Greg Barclay, the new ICC chairman, has declared the "unsustainable" global cricket calendar needs to be fundamentally examined and effectively rejected the suite of global events put to market by the governing body's chief executive Manu Sawhney earlier this year.
In a strong initial statement of intent, Barclay told ESPNcricinfo that the proposed return of a Champions Trophy style event in addition to men's and women's ODI and T20I World Cups was not on his agenda, and also indicated that cricket had to consider awarding major events to nations such as the USA in order to grow the game beyond its established base.
After winning a run-off with the incumbent Imran Khwaja over two rounds of voting, Barclay also said he would quit as chairman of the International Rugby League in order to concentrate on the many governance, strategy and cricket development issues piling up for the ICC in the time of coronavirus.
"We haven't really built the calendar of events. There's a lot of conjecture around whether it should be eight events, seven events, six events or whatever. I honestly don't have a preference," Barclay said. "What I want to ensure is that whatever we do end up with gives us optimum cricketing outcomes. I know a lot of the emphasis has appeared to be on commercial outcomes and this view that eight events will give the ICC more money.
"I don't think we've put enough thought into cricket and cricketing outcomes, particularly from the players' point of view. The players can't play all this cricket, just from a health, safety and welfare point of view, it's just not sustainable. So we've got to work around that so we've got our best athletes in positions where they're able to give their best for their countries in world events, and also make a living out of the game.
"So there is a heck of a lot to balance, and we've got to be really careful as to how we construct our annual calendar, so all these issues are taken into account. So it's not just a case of building a world events program and saying 'hey there it is, everything needs to fit', we need to get it all together into a dynamic model so that we get optimum cricketing outcomes."
Coming from New Zealand, Barclay suggested he would offer empathetic leadership while also striving for strategic cohesion after some years of dysfunction at the ICC. "The first thing we need to do is get the ICC strategy very clear, so we understand what it is we're trying to achieve, how that helps global cricket, how it supports members' interests," he said. "We're through a strategic planning exercise, but it's been two or three years and we need to get that closed out so it is quite clear what we're doing. Then we can make some decisions based on our strategy.
"That can be as simple as if we have more money, do we want to invest more to grow the game, and if we do that what does it look like. Are we looking to grow cricket in the USA, what does that look like. That might mean we need to accept some of our world events need to be hosted in places like that, where it can be showcased and used as a platform to grow the game. But that will mean the revenue generated off that might be less than what the members ideally would want. So a lot of decisions, but it needs to be driven by a strategic approach."
The possibility of wresting global events away from India, England and Australia, the most concrete remaining legacy of the "big three" governance resolutions in 2014, would be a major change in direction.
"A major reason for doing that is if we want to grow the game, whether it's in Asia or the Americas, but the USA being the logical place to start," Barclay said. "Maybe we need to look at hosting a world event, maybe a co-host between the West Indies and the USA. but we do need to have a good look at the outcomes we're trying to drive here. Those world events are an integral part of decision making.
"The second thing is while from a revenue point of view we need to accept those countries have to be there or thereabouts in hosting a certain event, maybe the way that events are funded and the way revenue is dealt with can be done differently as well. So it doesn't necessarily stand to reason that a country hosting an event keeps the amount of revenue they do. Maybe there's different ways of approaching the commercial properties that emanate from an event. I just think we need to be open-minded, look strategically at what we want to do, and move forward to see what's workable."
Maybe we need to look at hosting a world event, maybe a co-host between the West Indies and the USA. but we do need to have a good look at the outcomes we're trying to drive here
Noting the lengthy and often chaotic process by which he ultimately took the chair, Barclay said it was fair to suggest the major differences in worldview around ICC events and bilateral series had played a part. But he also stated firmly that he was not in the job to work merely at the behest of cricket's richest nations.
"I think it would be fair to say that there was a clash of agendas, which meant that it suited some directors not to get a decision," Barclay said. "To give it some context and be fair to them, we are trying to undertake a governance review at the moment, so a lot of them felt we should just leave things until such time as we had an outcome of that review process. The difficulty with that is we didn't know how long that would take, and of course whatever recommendations came to the board from that process may not have been adopted. So it was fraught to leave it totally reliant on the outcome of the review.
"A lot of the media has touted the "big three" concept, but I don't subscribe to it at all. There is no big three to me, they're just members of the ICC. Sure they're really important members, they help drive a lot of cricketing outcomes, and to have them as hosts of events or as cricketing opponents is hugely beneficial. But they are individual members of the ICC, so they're just as important but no more so than anyone else. I wasn't at the ICC when the big three resolutions were put in place, but while that changed the funding model, there were also some good things that came out of that like the FTP, so members got certainty around their playing arrangements and certainty around their funding.
"While it was an inequitable split, New Zealand and other members were still better off than what we had been previously. But I think what was done under Shashank [Manohar] once he got there and they rolled back the resolutions and lessened the influence of those three countries was absolutely the right thing. Now there has been no concept of "big three" for the last four years or so, and I know for a fact that England and Australia are very much of that view.
"They get the same amount of [ICC events] money as everyone else and that's never really been an issue. India are a slightly different case, they're a huge cricketing force, we need to have them in the tent and with 1.3 billion people and the stuff they do around cricket, I think we just need to address some of their issues differently. There are a lot of positives to come out of what they do as well as any perceived negatives."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig