India-driven ICC revamp plans on tenterhooks as Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka play hardball
The cricket Boards of Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka are in no mood to accept the revamp proposals that will give India, England, Australia virtually unilateral control of world cricket.
When it comes to distribution of money and power, pragmatism and logic often take a backseat. Two former world champions and the No. 1 Test team are clearly finding it tough to accept that world cricket could finally be in the hands of India, England and Australia, the self-proclaimed 'Big Three' of the International Cricket Council. (India, England and Australia close to becoming 'Big Three')
Citing considerable monetary gains for all cricket-playing nations, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, backed by its English and Australian counterparts, is pushing for the controversial 'Position Paper' to go through at the ICC Executive Board meeting in Singapore on February 8. But South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are in no mood to relent. The South Africans, who were the first to call the proposals "fundamentally flawed", have officially denied reports of any 'deal' with BCCI. (PCB's income could double if they accept ICC revamp)
The relationship between Cricket South Africa and BCCI has soured in recent times and the Proteas, the No. 1 Test team in the ICC rankings, have scotched reports that it is backing the Big Three's proposals on sweeping changes in ICC's administration and revenue share. (Sri Lanka to hold further discussions on ICC revamp)
In a press statement on Tuesday, the South Africans said: "CSA would like to dismiss a report (in Cricinfo) that suggests that CSA is in the process of concluding a deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that will see, amongst other things, Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat reintegrated into top administration in exchange for CSA supporting the International Cricket Council (ICC) revamped proposal put forward by the BCCI, Cricket Australia (CA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). (Pakistan Cricket Board told to oppose 'Big Three' proposal)
"While we are engaged in discussions with the ICC and other Full members, including the BCCI, to find an acceptable way forward, we have not and will not consider deals that compromise our key principles and integrity. This is a difficult time for global cricket and attempts to mislead and create confusion are not welcome," said CSA president, Chris Nenzani. (ACA hits out at Cricket Australia)
"CSA vehemently denies any notion of deals being made with any other party. On the contrary we will seek to uphold good governance and our professional approach to find solutions to the current proposals being considered by all the Member Boards. (India deserve lion's share in ICC revenue: Cricket Australia)
"We have carefully considered the proposals and we have declared that we will engage further with the ICC and other Members to try and reach any consensus ahead of Saturday's ICC Board meeting and that position still stands," explained Nenzani. (Read: CSA to not compromise on integrity over ICC revamp plans)
"Naturally we want good relations with the ICC and all its Members, especially India with whom we have always enjoyed a special relationship, but we will exercise our responsibilities with due care, skill and integrity and we will uphold the principles of good governance," concluded Nenzani.
Given the importance of this 'Position Paper', it will need a special resolution to accept the far-reaching changes. ICC will require a meeting to pass the resolution and according to its constitution, eight out of the 10 full members will need to back the proposal.
Will Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South stand united?
Former ICC president Ehsan Mani of Pakistan, who is against the revamp plans, said: "No one will suffer if they stick together. Any ICC events without these (three) countries would not be viable in cricketing and financial terms. Cricket cannot afford continuous strife among its members. This will damage the game and ICC's standing in the world," he stated.
The Pakistan Cricket Board, after a meeting on Monday, termed the proposed plan as "not in line with the principle of equity nor in the interest of game of cricket". Members of the PCB's governing board said in a statement that they had serious concerns over the proposals.
Pakistani cricket legend Imran Khan has blasted the proposals, saying they would take the game back to the days of colonialism. The PCB said it had asked chairman Zaka Ashraf to seek guidance from Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and "to apprise him on this matter of immense significance and of national interest, which will have wide reaching impact on future of cricket in Pakistan".
So, politics will mix with cricket and given India and Pakistan's tumultuous relationship, it is unlikely that PCB will easily cede power and control to their 'arch-rivals', even if financial logic suggests on the contrary. This, it will be a test of brain versus brawn.
The Sri Lankans are non-committal. Its executive committee is meeting in Colombo on Wednesday to chart the next course of action. But the mood remains one of defiance. As Sri Lanka celebrated Independence Day on Tuesday, their top cricket officials have voiced strong opposition to the proposals likening their campaign to the battle waged against to crush terrorism in the country.
"We fought brutal terrorists who were internationally powerful. But we fought them and defeated them despite international pressure," an unnamed SLC official was quoted as saying in an article headlined 'SLC will fight ICC like Sri Lanka fought terrorists' by the Daily Mirror newspaper.
The official warned that unless they take a stand now, cricket will be destroyed if power is bestowed on a few countries. "They might even change the rules of the game to fit them. We have past examples. The bouncer rule was brought in by the then powerful England and Australia and wiped of West Indies cricket. In recent times, we know how India's resistance has stopped DRS becoming law. There is a great danger lurking behind these proposals," the top Lankan official added.
On paper, it surely looks like a battle of attrition. But the power of money is so overwhelming, that equations can change dramatically. After all, cricket is a game of uncertainty.