Like South Africa, Sri Lankan cricket officials have finally agreed to the Board of Control for Cricket in India-led plans to revamp International Cricket Council's governance and revenue share structure. Sri Lanka were among the three cricket Boards that had doggedly opposed the controversial 'Position Paper' that bestowed almost unilateral control of the ICC to the Big Three of India, Australia and England. But Sri Lanka's officials have seen enormous commercial value in the revamp plans and accepted the changes in relation to administration, future tours and of course, finance.
Sri Lanka's acceptance leaves Pakistan as the only Board against the new ICC plans. The Pakistan Cricket Board remains 'isolated' in its views even after several clauses in the revamp plans have been watered down. While the revenue share model gives a lion's share of ICC's earnings to India, Australia and England, other Test-playing full members as well as Associate members stand to gain appreciably. (Also read: India threatened us at ICC Meet, says PCB)
After the Big Three-led plans were tabled in Dubai January-end, Sri Lanka's media seemed to be mirroring the aggressive mood in its cricket Board. In an editorial, a section of the media called ICC's revamp an act of 'terrorism' that the island's cricket administrators would fight like a 'war'. That antagonistic stance has now mellowed down considerably as ICC continues to remain the 'happy' family that it wants to be.
On Monday in Colombo, the Sri Lanka Cricket Board's executive committee unanimously agreed to support the revamp plans. "The Executive Committee met today (Monday) at SLC headquarters to converse regarding the revised resolutions forwarded by the ICC at the ICC Board meeting held on February 8 in Singapore," the Board said. "Subsequent to the committee members assessing the revised resolutions in detail, all members were satisfied with the amendments made in the areas of governance and competition models and thus unanimously decided to support the paper."
It is clear that Sri Lanka have seen the value in accepting the "bilateral tours" formula instead of the Future Tour Program that often leads to commercially unviable tours. SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga said: "We need to understand the importance of having tours with India, England and Australia," adding that Sri Lanka stood to make $60 million from bilateral tours in the next seven years. Out of this 60 million USD, one Indian tour for one month would fetch $28m, one England tour $12m and one Australian tour $7-8m.
"When you calculate, a series with these three countries will bring us a revenue of $47-48m. If we are going to object to their proposals our cricket is going to suffer," Ranatunga said. "People who talk about principles and all that will not give us the money. We have to make our money from these tours. When any other country comes for a full tour we bear the same cost to host them but the returns are very small compared to the other three countries." India are scheduled to tour Sri Lanka in 2017 but all equations can change as BCCI, for example, is known to add or delete to the FTP.
Pakistan's anti-ICC stand seems to be more anti-BCCI. The PCB is run by men appointed by the country's government and given the political climate across the border, sports can never be free from government interference. But for how long will PCB look ICC in the eye? Pakistan haven't hosted international cricket at home since the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009. And the ICC has already decided that there will no major world event in the terror-torn nation till 2023. PCB can't afford to remain isolated. It's time to see commercial value in the new plans and move on. Cricket is no more a sport for the romantics, it is dictated by the big bucks, whichever way it comes.