ICC makes U-turn, to revisit plan for extra global event in next eight-year cycle

The ICC will revisit its decision to include an additional global event in its next eight-year cycle, a move that makes apparent the divisions within the game about how international cricket should move post 2023.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo soon after being elected the new ICC chairman, Greg Barclay had said the decision taken by the ICC last year was no longer set in stone for 2023-31.

“No. We haven’t really built the calendar of events,” Barclay said. “There’s a lot of conjecture around whether it should be eight events, seven events, six events or whatever. I honestly don’t have a preference. What I want to ensure is that whatever we do end up with gives us optimum cricketing outcomes.”

That, effectively, marks a U-turn for the governing body, given that the ICC has already gone to market to tender eight events for the cycle – one each year for men and women. That roster included two 50-over World Cups, four T20 World Cups and two editions of an extra event that may have looked like a six-team Champions Trophy.

However, that extra event has been a bone of contention among members: some want it because they rely heavily on the revenues generated from an ICC event, while others feel it eats into their calendars where bilateral cricket might fit, which remains a lucrative property for them.

In some ways, the issue came to dominate the election that saw Barclay emerge victorious, and finding a balance and consensus among members would be among his most pressing tasks. ESPNcricinfo understands from multiple board sources, for instance, that executives from India, England, Australia and New Zealand – all of whom backed Barclay in the election – have been mapping out an alternative future tours and ICC events programme.

While greater details of these plans are still to emerge, it is clear that the re-addition of a Champions Trophy-style event is missing, thereby reducing the number of global tournaments over an eight-year cycle, and increasing the emphasis on the nascent World Test Championship and ODI Super League that got underway last year before being severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the ICC approved the extra event in 2019, the BCCI made its opposition plain, and was backed up by the ECB and CA on the premise that the game’s richest nations continued to earn the majority of their revenue from bilateral series and have argued that the introduction of leagues would, in time, contribute to an increase in the value of broadcast rights for bilateral meetings involving less financially healthy boards.

Matters will likely come out into the open at a scheduling meeting due to take place in December, to be attended by ICC management as well as chief executives from member boards. One ICC Board director confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that there were strong differences of opinion on the matter, though he insisted that fears of another Big Three takeover may be exaggerated. There is, however, clearly a degree of secrecy to the alternative plans. A number of officials who attended or were involved in the ICC meetings last week expressed ignorance of a potential alternative schedule, one suggesting that there was still widespread acceptance of eight ICC events.

“There was an analysis done around six months ago that showed little or no impact on bilateral cricket from playing eight ICC events instead of six,” the official said. “Following that, all countries have pretty much accepted that eight events will take place now and there was little challenge at the meeting the other day when the outline of eight events was presented.”

That suggests that, at the very least, there remains a fundamental disconnect between those who believe that ICC events revenue now represents the lifeblood of the majority of cricket’s major nations, and the boards of primarily India, England and Australia, with the co-operation of the game’s most sustainably-run smaller board, New Zealand.

Whatever direction is chosen, meanwhile, will play into the broader strategic review of the game – carried out by a global consultancy firm – currently ongoing. The report is not yet final, but at the ICC meetings last week, both the chief executives’ committee and the ICC Board were updated on the review’s progress. Barclay has stressed the need, with this review in mind, of a quick decision on what direction the ICC takes.

This off-camera battle, which has now played out over more than a year and well beyond Shashank Manohar‘s resignation as the previous permanent chair of the ICC, is only adding to numerous pressure points building up for the global game, as summed up by the Australian opening batsman David Warner when he was asked about priorities for scheduling.

“It’s an interesting question and a tough one for me to answer. You’ve just got to find time where you do have a couple of weeks off before you do play a series, which is going to be very rare because that’s an opportunity and a window to put something on, or someone else will put their franchise cricket on,” Warner said. “You’ve got the introduction of the 100-ball as well in England, which looks like a great tournament, but yet again next year it’s on the back end of the Test Championship final.

“Yeah there are only two teams playing that, but after that series I know Australia go to the Caribbean, so it’s hard to play everything. When it comes to that scheduling, they took out that T20 Champions [League] that was in September/October, they got rid of that, but then there was more cricket put on, which allowed that for the international calendar, which rightfully so takes more preference over the franchise leagues. But it’s a difficult one, those guys who do the scheduling and with the ICC putting the new Test Championship there.

“Then you have unprecedented times and the unique situation with the coronavirus, now it’s gone to a percentage of points on the table, so it’s difficult to get all these games in and then play all your other white-ball games and BBL and then the IPL as well which had to be moved, T20 World Cup had to be moved, is that going to go ahead in India next year, we don’t know. So it’s very hard, we can talk about it but it’s very hard to try and schedule that in.”

Additional reporting by Osman Samiuddin

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