Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cricket heads back to the Dark Ages

Alarm bells are quite rightly ringing around the cricket world over the changes planned to the administration of the world game, and especially the cosying up of the interests of India, Australia and England.

Historically, and fortunately cricket is a game with wonderful access to its past, there have long been issues with the administration of the game, stemming from the autocratic colonisers of the game, the Marylebone Cricket Club and, by association, the Imperial Cricket Conference.

This was the all-powerful representation of the incantations of Empire with its benevolence determining the shape of the game.

This stranglehold of imperialism was broken down in various degrees, albeit slower than the rest of humanity was moving towards a more democratic solution to life, resulting in the International Cricket Council being formed as a more representative mouthpiece of the game.

But in the last decade the flexing of monetary muscle in India has resulted in a shift away from the notion of democracy to one of more self-interest, based around the reliance on television rights money and creating imperialism of an even worse kind.

Just how much this has changed is clear from the second page of the Draft Position Paper on the suggested future.

The paper suggests the "ICC reverts to being a member-driven organization [sic]; an organisation [sic] of the members and for the members."

Pardon me, but isn't that what the ICC was supposed to be anyway?

Then it states: "As part of this process [above], the leading countries of India, England and Australia have agreed that they will provide greater leadership at and of the ICC."

Leading as in what? Performance, money, players or, more importantly, ideas?

Cricket is cyclical and form waxes and wanes – there are any number of examples of this. So too, does leadership. It doesn't always hold that the strongest are the most able when it comes to administration.

Another claim made in the draft report says: "All members, as guardians and leaders of the game of cricket, carry a significant responsibility for giving the game direction and leadership in their respective territories and for setting and sustaining a framework of support within those territories to ensure the game continues to grow and thrive for the sake of fans, stakeholders and participants."

Given the Indian reaction to the appointment of a chief executive of South African Cricket recently, a chief executive who recognised the need for the ICC to be run by an independent board, it has to be wondered how far the tentacles of this supply-driven model is likely to intrude upon sovereign nations right to control their own game.

In other words, "If you don't change what you are intending to do, we will withhold your [monetary] dispersal."

This is an inglorious grab for power. Trickle-down economics have been proven to be flawed on far greater scales than this scheme envisages.

It is also interesting in a situation where two of the three nations looking to seize control have played 10 Tests in succession between themselves in the past eight months. The players were clearly exhausted at the end of it all, especially the English, and if contact kept becoming so common, eventually the public would tire as well.

New Zealand spokesman Martin Snedden has said that the changes may not be a bad thing for New Zealand Cricket. The important words are 'may not be'. Who is to say the model as it has been given to him is the complete answer?

Given the role New Zealand played in removing the power of veto from Australia and England in the mid-1990s, it is regrettable that its effective, albeit extended to India, return will likely have New Zealand's support.

New Zealand won much credit among the other nations, including India, for that stance and it will be a shame if its role in accepting this change proves a wrong decision.

Not surprisingly, South Africa have led the charge to have the position paper struck down, labelling it as 'unconstitutional'.

This suggests a fascinating legal battle lies ahead. Solomonic wisdom would be a handy tool and given past experience it has to be wondered if that quality exists in the halls of ICC power. Oh for a Sir John Anderson now.

In effect, what Australia, England and India are saying is: "Trust us."

By agreeing to the suggested plans cricket nations would be signing away their sovereignty. That can't be in the best interests of all concerned.

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