Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts
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The ICC will take a further step towards ensuring the World Twenty20 returns in 2018 when senior figures meet with Star Sports later today. South Africa is believed to be the preferred option to host the 2018 WT20, which could place pressure on the South African government to review its recent decision to ban CSA from bidding to host world events for a year because of failing to meet transformation guidelines.
ICC members are overwhelmingly behind the idea to restore the WT20 to every two years, leaving the main question whether Star Sports agree to buy two extra WT20 tournaments - in 2018 and 2022 - in addition to the 2020 tournament already agreed during the current rights cycle. The ICC is also considering expanding the Super 10s to include two teams, which would go some way towards assuaging Associates who complained of being excluded during this year's WT20.
It is understood that the ICC is optimistic an agreement will be reached with Star Sports, after the huge success of the last WT20 tournament in India. Over 80 million in India watched India's semi-final and games against Australia and Pakistan, while there were over 750 million views worldwide for online videos of matches, compared to 250 million during the 2015 World Cup. Assuming an agreement is reached, it would then be voted on at the ICC Annual Conference in June.
The 2018 and 2022 WT20 tournaments would be likely to take place in September and early October, during the three-week window previously reserved for the Champions League. This timing would ease broadcasters' concerns that the extra WT20 tournaments could reduce interest in the IPL.
The UAE is another possible venue - like South Africa, it has a timezone well suited to India and a climate that would fit the available window. However, South Africa is the preferred option. The country has not staged any ICC events since the 2009 Champions Trophy and felt particularly aggrieved by the ICC restructuring in 2014. Hosting a WT20 event there would symbolise a new era for world cricket.
"Of course we would be delighted to host any major ICC event," Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat told ESPNcricinfo. "We have proven in the past what a perfect destination South Africa is."
CSA is working with the government to resolve its issues, and it is believed that the ban on bidding to host world events could be reviewed after the municipal elections in South Africa in August. The timezone factor counts against the West Indies, which has already been awarded the 2018 Women's World T20.
Including the qualification tournament held in Ireland and Scotland last year, the most recent WT20 generated around $250m in profits for the ICC, suggesting that two more events during the ICC's eight-year cycle would generate around an additional $500m. This money would then be distributed to the ICC's 105 members, which could transform the finances not just of Associates but also of poorer Full Members.
The ICC has long held the view that T20 is the best format to globalise the game. This belief was reinforced by the worldwide interest in the last WT20 and the competitive performances of Associates, led by Afghanistan, who defeated West Indies in the Super 10s. The most likely format for the tournament in 2018 is similar to that used this year, but with two teams from each pool in the first stage, rather than one, advancing to the second stage, which would become the Super 12s.
Further forward, the ICC hopes to adopt far more radical changes to how T20 is played at international level. Senior figures favour introducing regional qualifiers, akin to football, for the WT20, although these are unlikely to be in place for the next couple of tournaments. The ICC is also considering mandating a huge increase in the number of countries allowed to play official T20 internationals, which is currently 18.
Some might view two additional WT20s during each eight-year cycle as aiding the ascent of T20 at the expense of Test cricket, but the ICC takes a different view. It is envisaged that the extra sums generated would safeguard the Test game, by helping to fund the proposed introduction of divisions in Test cricket: seven teams in Division One and five in Division Two remains the most likely option.
It is also understood that the ICC has formed a working group to discuss how to fund the envisaged changes to the structure, and one concept being mooted is whether to pool revenue from all matches. The sums would then be divided up according to a revenue distribution formula. The largest countries would still receive more but the mechanism is seen as a way to safeguard the finances of smaller nations and reduce their dependence on incoming tours from India.