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Interviews

Ricky Skerritt: 'There's a growing desire to support the sustainable return of international cricket in Pakistan'

Skerritt explains the bidding process and logic behind picking the hosts for the ICC tournaments from 2024 to 2031

Ricky Skerritt was part of the ICC hosting sub-committee  •  CWI

Ricky Skerritt was part of the ICC hosting sub-committee  •  CWI

This week the ICC approved 14 host countries across continents that will stage eight marquee global tournaments between 2024 to 2031. Major and significant decisions like the USA hosting a global tournament for the first time and Pakistan staging an ICC event for the first time since the 1996 World Cup were approved, which ratified the recommendations by its hosting sub-committee, comprising New Zealand Cricket chairman Martin Snedden, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, Cricket West Indies president Ricky Skerritt and former PCB chairman Ehsan Mani until he stepped down recently.
In the following chat with ESPNcricinfo, Skerritt explains how the bidding process went and the logic behind picking the 14 hosts.
Fourteen hosting venues for eight men's events in the next rights cycle. How big is that for the ICC and cricket?
There are three themes. One is to show the extent to which the ICC has committed to spread its major events geographically across the world. All the Full Members are involved in hosting in this next eight-year cycle from 2023-31 except Afghanistan, and three Associate members factored in, in some of the partnerships - Scotland, Namibia and USA. Remember, just not so long ago, when I became a member of the ICC board, there was this very strong perception that only three countries could host any events - the Big 3 (India, England and Australia). The Big 3 story was hammering the ICC by the media. So I would say that this venue allocation is a statement that's very powerful in a new direction of inclusiveness.
But the biggest story of that would be the West Indies partnership with USA for the obvious reasons and the multiplicity of strategic objectives that it would tick. So it's about the balance and about the outreach to grow the game, and about the obvious, inevitable, I would say, move into the US and whether this is going to be a big step or a small step that depends a lot on how we all work together, including internal forces in the USA.
What was the process to finalise the hosts?
There was an events hosting sub-committee put in place to review the bids. There were several bids that were basically expressions of interest with some depth of why me. That's how it works generally. [The bidder says] I would like you to consider me and my board and my country, my venues, and here's what we have, and here's why we think that we can help you meet your various objectives by bringing a particular event in a particular year or particular time of the year. The bids were not final documents. Even with the present decisions, there's still a period up until March next year [2022], when venue agreements will have to be sort of hammered out.
What were the parameters used to determine the hosting country? We know India remains the commercial driver for world cricket. So you would want the marquee tournaments in India. But can you explain the process?
It is not by accident that in the eight years, India is involved with three events. But you see that two of the three events are in partnerships: India and Sri Lanka [2026 T20 World Cup] and India and Bangladesh [2031 ODI World Cup]. So economic returns on media rights and commercial investments was clearly one of the criteria. The four key objectives we used were:
  • Geographic spread
  • Alignment with the ICC strategic objectives, which includes growing the game
  • Distribution of events in Asia
  • Commercial outcomes
  • Other considerations like time zones matter. The USA-Caribbean time zone is one of the weaker time zones, but geographic spread and strategic objectives would have overpowered that. You will note, for instance, that the Australia-New Zealand event and West Indies-USA event - we've sort of broken them into two four-year event cycles. These are the two weaker markets so to speak. So the two couldn't be too close together in terms of the economic yield.
    "I could tell you from the new leadership in Pakistan [at the PCB] and its neighbours, and from a cricket perspective, there's a growing desire to support the sustainable return of international cricket in Pakistan"
    When it comes to having the USA as a hosting venue, what were the factors considered? Did the Olympics play a role?
    This move to actually bring USA Cricket and Cricket West Indies in a bid partnership is historic. It came about primarily because of the kind of attitude that we saw from the new leadership in the USA Cricket. The first time I met Paraag Marathe and Iain Higgins [USA Cricket chairman and then CEO respectively] was in England at the ICC meetings in July 2019. It was my first meeting at the ICC board as CWI president and so too theirs. We began to talk about how we could do some meaningful stuff together. Then, just before the pandemic hit, Johnny Grave [CWI CEO] and myself actually travelled to the USA to have some further discussions with USA Cricket. We all agreed that it was an opportunity to go after an [global] event. We were committed to doing something together. And you know, the rest is history.
    But the history has to be made now in the implementation and that is where we have to move speedily to put a more detailed structure and plan together in terms of how we are going to do this. We have a pretty good idea because we've already agreed on some principles. For instance, of the 55 matches, we have proposed that a third of the games will be in the USA, two-thirds will be in the Caribbean.
    How will organising the 2024 T20 World Cup in the USA have an impact on the ICC's Olympics dream?
    I'm not into any details of the Olympics, but the process is underway. It's now about getting support from the International Olympic Committee. It is one step at a time. But it opens up the reality that there are two or three facilities right now available for cricket in the USA, and whether USA Cricket will be able to deliver some more cricket stadiums in advance of the Olympic Games. We have been told that there are three grounds that can be made ready for the T20 World Cup.
    Your committee also finalised Pakistan as the host for the 2025 Champions Trophy. It is a major decision considering Pakistan has not hosted a global event since the 1996 World Cup and then the Asia Cup in 2008?
    We fitted Pakistan in the most pragmatic spot in a way in which Pakistan can meet its own objectives while the ICC meets its own. We are aware of the special circumstances that have surrounded Pakistan, but I could tell you from the new leadership in Pakistan [at the PCB] and its neighbours, and from a cricket perspective, there's a growing desire to support the sustainable return of international cricket in Pakistan.
    I can't speak for either of them [the BCCI and the PCB], I could just tell you my observations. But when you bring past cricketers together in leadership positions, they have a lot of respect for each other, and they're not going to undermine each other in ways that can derail these kinds of possibilities. So we're very excited at our committee that we were able to achieve this because it was an objective that we put in place - that we want to spread the Asian component. India was going to be the No. 1 priority. I have no hesitation to say that India is the commercial backbone of cricket. And that will continue. But we wanted to spread that as much as we could in Asia.
    Was there any hesitation with respect to Pakistan at all?
    Not in our committee. Not at all. Not at the ICC board as well. When we presented it, the board received it with great support. Let me put it this way, we were committed from day one, to spread ICC events in Asia. And getting Pakistan and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh involved were key objectives of the committee. Remember, we had the mandate to take the received bids and rearrange them, with some discussions with the bidder, and to suggest the formation of partnerships where it could help the success of the bid. We were not too worried about who was competing against who. We were prepared to get partners together where necessary.

    Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo