Significant changes to the way international cricket is run were agreed in principle by the ICC board on Tuesday, the governing body said, although they were toned down from a set of radical proposals put forward by the game’s big three – India, England and Australia.
“Key principles” that had “unanimous support” from the board at its meeting in Dubai, according to the ICC, included the dumping of the troubled Test championship, which will be replaced in 2017 by the limited-overs Champions Trophy competition which had originally been dropped from the schedule after the 2013 edition in England.
The International Cricket Council (icc) also said a new executive committee would be set up consisting of representatives from India, England and Australia and two other representatives taken from the ICC board.
The fact that those proposals were softened suggests they were opposed by members of the ICC board.
Pakistan and South Africa, two of the leading opponents of the original sweeping changes, stressed the principles laid out Tuesday had to be passed by their own national boards before they would back them at next month's ICC meeting.
“The PCB clearly stated at the (Tuesday) meeting that the guiding principles were subject to PCB’s governing board’s approval,” the Pakistan Cricket Board said.
Cricket South Africa said its board would carefully consider the changes before the follow-up meeting on February 8.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia (CA) had proposed a four-member executive committee, with those three countries deciding who joined them and rotating the chair between them.
The ICC said anyone from its board, which is made up of the 10 Test-playing nations and three representatives of smaller cricket countries, could eventually be elected to chair the board and anyone on the executive committee or influential finance and commercial affairs committee could chair those, but only after a “transitional period” ends in 2016.
Until then, India, England and Australia would lead the governing body’s top committees.
It was also agreed in principle that smaller countries would also have the chance to play Test cricket, but no one would lose their Test status. The ICC didn’t give detail on how current non Test-playing countries might win the right to play Tests.
India, England and Australia had suggested a reduced eight-team top tier for Tests with two countries immediately relegated, regular promotion and relegation, but immunity from relegation for the big three.
Tuesday’s proposed changes were yet to be formally adopted, with ICC President Alan Isaac saying “extensive work will now be undertaken in advance of a follow-up board meeting next month.”
In a press release issued by the ICC, Isaac stated: “This is an important time for world cricket and it is extremely encouraging that the ICC Board has unanimously supported a set of far-reaching principles that will underpin the long-term prosperity of the global game.
“These principles emphasise the primacy of Test cricket and that for the first time in cricket's history participation will be based entirely on meritocracy, giving everyone powerful incentives to play better cricket and develop better cricketers.
“There is more work to be done by the Members in developing their schedules of bilateral cricket while at the ICC we need to work through the detail of the manner in which these principles will be implemented."
Isaac also expressed his disappointment with the furore that had been created as a result of a draft position paper produced by three ICC Members being leaked.
“Several months ago I encouraged BCCI, CA and ECB to enter into a constructive dialogue together to help resolve some of the key commercial and governance issues facing the game. These leading cricket nations have worked tirelessly to produce a document which provided the basis for the past few weeks of extremely constructive discussions.
“It is obviously very disappointing that a draft position paper from these Members was leaked as this prompted a debate that ignored the ongoing negotiations between all Members and led to unwarranted criticism of many of those involved in the process.
“The principles agreed today provide clear evidence that through the course of further discussions over the coming weeks we can be increasingly confident in achieving consensus.”
David Richardson, the ICC Chief Executive, added: “An enormous amount of effort has gone into developing a comprehensive set of proposals that include input from all Members.
“The Board has held some very constructive, inclusive, wide-ranging and far-reaching discussions and I am looking forward to bringing to fruition some of the principles that have been proposed and accepted in relation to the cricketing structures of the global game.”
Before the start of Tuesday’s board meeting, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashaf told a Pakistani television station that his board was united with South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in opposing the radical proposals, which would have needed eight of the 10 Test nation votes to be passed.
Although the principles ultimately agreed on were watered down, there were concessions that India, England and Australia would take more control of the ICC, recognising the reality that the three countries, and specially India, raise a huge portion of the ICC's revenue.
Some of the changes agreed in principle are:
a) An opportunity for all member countries to win the right to play Tests, “with participation based on meritocracy,” according to the ICC. There were no details of any promotion format.
b) A Test cricket fund will make money available annually to the other seven Test countries outside the big three: Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
This would be introduced to “encourage and support Test match cricket,” the ICC said, with the game’s flagship format struggling to make money away from the big three.
c) Bilateral agreements for Test series could come into effect from 2015, a move away from the ICC-controlled Future Tours Program which ensured big teams had to play series against smaller teams at some point in the rotation.
Bilateral agreements would give India, England and Australia more scope to pick and choose who and when they play.
d) The ICC said the powerful and rich Indian board would take “a central leadership responsibility.”
e) The new five-member executive committee made up a representative from the BCCI, the ECB, CA and two other members. For two years from June the BCCI would chair the ICC board, CA would chair the executive committee and the ECB would chair the influential finance and commercial affairs committee while the governing body undergoes a “transitional period.”
f) The Test championship planned for 2017 will be dropped and the 50-over Champions Trophy played in its place.
"There will be three major ICC events in each four-year cycle. A new company will be incorporated to tender future commercial rights for ICC events," according to the ICC.
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