If there were ever a sure way of proving that cricket’s administrators are panicking, the incessant backflips and bungles by the ICC would be it. At a time when the sport most needs its leaders to show unity and strength, they are instead portraying themselves as head-less chooks with no real plan. Whilst the game is experiencing a moment of confusion, the fundamentals are still strong, and as such, the ICC should be reinforcing this strength through clear and concise leadership. Some chance!
In his excellent book Sphere of Influence, Gideon Haigh talks at length about the shift in power to the BCCI, and the drastically poor leadership provided by the ICC. There is no doubt that with stronger leadership from above, the crises effecting the once strong cricketing administrations in Australia, Pakistan and the West Indies, would have been diminished. Instead we are left with a game, which has no central base and is not capitalising on the still evident popularity of all three formats.
The latest incarnation of this disastrous progression of events, which includes, but is not limited to the test championship and betting corruption, is the backflip by the ICC regarding the 2015 50 over world cup in Australia and New Zealand. Originally, the governing body had decided that they would reduce the competition to the ten test-playing countries. Various groups had a fuss, and as a result, the ICC has again backed down and delivered a ‘compromise’. One would imagine that Zimbabwe’s strong connection with India must have had an influence, so again it would seem that the ICC might well have ceded to the BCCI.
The outcome is a new 50-over league, which will serve as a qualifying for the cup itself. This system will work by awarding the top two teams from the qualifiers automatically getting into the cup, whilst the rest will have to battle it out in another league, which will decide the participants…unbelievable. The real kicker is that this overly complicated process will only last until the 2015 competition. Yes, the 2019 World Cup will be a ten-team event! In sum then, the complicated process of qualification, which will effectively change the meaning of ODI matches played before the 2015 Cup will be scrapped after just one competition.
This returns us nicely to my initial point. Cricket has strong fundamentals but is suffering at the moment from a perceived lack of connection with the public. Some poor crowds and confusion regarding three different formats have been seized upon to suggest that cricket is in some way on the wane. In any logical state of affairs, the ICC would be flooding the marketplace with strongly worded and cohesive messages that represented the stability of the sport. Further, they would issue considered edicts on their flagship competitions, which were supported by member countries and were not subject to continuous change. Until these steps are taken, and the ICC projects some kind of authority, the doubters will continue to doubt and cricket will be all the worse for it.
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