More politics than cricket at ICC conference
The ICC's annual conference opens in Kuala Lumpur with much that is ceremonial to be decided in its five days. The inauguration of a new president, Alan Isaac of New Zealand, at the end of Sharad Pawar's two-year term, the confirmation of the choice of Dave Richardson as the new ICC chief executive, and a significant constitutional amendment for the fourth time in 16 year
The ICC's annual conference opens in Kuala Lumpur with much that is ceremonial to be decided in its five days. The inauguration of a new president, Alan Isaac of New Zealand, at the end of Sharad Pawar's two-year term, the confirmation of the choice of Dave Richardson as the new ICC chief executive, and a significant constitutional amendment for the fourth time in 16 years.
The conference will begin quietly with a Sunday session involving the Chief Executives Committee, which is made up of the CEOs of the Full Members as well as three Associate representatives. It is this session that could indicate what direction the rest of the conference is likely to take. The ICC Board will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss, among other things, the Woolf recommendations on governance.
The CEC meeting may be expected to discuss affairs of cricketing import - particularly the most recent recommendations made by the ICC's cricket committee - but its consequences will be entirely political.
This annual conference is being predicted to be one of the quieter ones, without the dramas that marked the June 2011 meeting in Hong Kong. When it comes to the Decision Review System (DRS) the ICC is actually back to where they began last year, but with a different combination of interests at play.
At the Hong Kong conference, a modified DRS had been made 'mandatory' only to be turned over by its Executive Board in October, returning to the system dependent on bilateral agreement and financial constraints.
Now, the ICC's cricket committee has once again recommended a "universal application" of the DRS. While the cricketing logic behind the recommendation is sound, its political future looks grim.
This is because the debate around the proposed constitutional amendment has led to a re-drawing of political equations, certainly between the DRS' main opponent - the financially powerful and influential BCCI - and its South Asian neighbours.
Among the other ICC cricket committee recommendations to be discussed on Sunday are changes to ODI cricket, and balancing bilateral series with the mushrooming of domestic Twenty20 leagues. Minor rule changes will be easy to push through and lip service will no doubt be issued towards protecting the 'primacy' of Test cricket and the 'spirit' of the sport as a whole.
It is, however, the results of meetings that take place on the sidelines that will have a far greater impact on what is actually the heart of the matter for the Full Members at the conference - the constitutional amendment which will once again redefine the appointment of the president and the creation of a new, powerful post of ICC chairman.
The board presidents of Pakistan and Bangladesh told ESPNcricinfo that the BCCI president N Srinivasan had assured them of "some news" after a final round of informal discussions in Kuala Lumpur. Indian and Pakistan officials are expected to meet on a far more cordial note than they did in 2011 and talk about the prospect of resuming cricket between the two nations, which at the moment has political approval from the Indian government. Bangladesh have also been promised a first formal tour to India.
Neither the resumption of India-Pakistan ties nor a tour of India by Bangladesh is actually about cricket; the Indian calendar is far too packed with home fixtures over the next 18 months for there to be any room for two more tours. These are, in real terms, bargaining chips for when support is sought from Pakistan and Bangladesh at the voting table.
India will seek their support on several levels, the DRS to start with and then the creation of the post of chairman. What could help Bangladesh is if there was reciprocal support for the idea that the vice-presidency - recently linked to the name of BCB president Mustafa Kamal - need not be scrapped immediately.
It is even being suggested that Pakistan could be offered a rushed ODI series against India along with a few extra carrots of taking all the earnings from the series, because it is actually Pakistan's turn to host India.
Yet the biggest policy change sought after by the financially stronger Full Members - India, England, Australia and South Africa - is the formal creation of the post of chairman starting 2014. This will be a ripple effect of the constitutional amendment which turns the ICC presidency into a one-year ceremonial position and gives the chairman greater executive authority.
The names being whispered as potential candidates for the post of the first ICC chairman are those of Srinivasan and ECB chairman Giles Clarke. The ICC chairman, if instituted, must not be a serving member of any national board. Srinivasan's three-year term as BCCI chief ends in 2014, and Clarke's term at the ECB ends in 2015.
For a special resolution to change the ICC constitution, it must have the support of eight out of ten Full Members and 38 out of 50 in the full council. According to the ICC's current voting system in the full council, Full Member nations and the 35 Associates have one vote each, while the 60 Affiliates are split into groups of twelve, each of which has a single collective vote, adding up to a total of five.
It is perhaps the only time that the voice of smaller nations can mean something against the might of the others. Members of the ICC directorate have been getting what one called "thousands" of emails a day, not from various Associate and Affiliate nations, but from fans asking for the ICC to support Clause 4.5 of the Woolf recommendations, requesting the formation of a cricket supporters sub-committee.
The fact that the conference is taking place in a hotel called Shangri-la - the utopia brought to life in an old novel - is however, not lost on anyone. The Kuala Lumpur conference may not be quite as incident-filled as Hong Kong 2011, but it will lay down several markers for the future.