India's large slice of the ICC cake may be hard to swallow | Mike Selvey

Proposals contained in leaked 'position paper' are not ideal but could be the best there are to be had

It is almost 70 years since George Orwell published Animal Farm and within it the pig Napoleon's maxim that "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others". It is an ideal that might apply to the International Cricket Council, except that there is no pretence that all animals are equal in the first place.

The controversial "position paper" of the ICC's financial and commercial affairs committee, due to be presented to the ICC board in Dubai over the next couple of days, makes it clear that future revenues from ICC events, principally from the next round of broadcasting rights and estimated to be around $2.75bn, should, to an almost exponential degree relative to the current agreement, go to India, in the main, the England & Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia.

The paper, one draft of which was leaked (and written in the knowledge that this would be the case), was devised by these three countries, although the West Indies president, Dave Cameron, is said to have been involved at a preliminary stage. Both the ICC chief executive, Dave Richardson, and the president, Alan Isaac, were also cognisant.

The figures are complex but in essence, on an increase in revenue of around $1.25bn, the Board of Control for Cricket in India would be $500m better off, the ECB something over $100m wealthier and CA around $70m; an increase to these three from $85.5m under the current agreement to $770m for the 2015-2023 cycle – that of a total distribution cost increase of $800m.

The surplus, meanwhile, shows an increase from $700m to $940m, to be distributed among ICC full members and its associates and affiliates on a 75:25 basis, with the new proviso that 12.5% goes to the top-six ranked associate members. Thus it is clear that India to a huge extent, but also the ECB and CA, becomes considerably more wealthy relative to other nations.

Also enshrined in the position paper is a proposal to create an executive committee, consisting of representatives of the BCCI, ECB, CA and one other nominated person (although it is understood this could be two) that will supersede current decision-making bodies, but will at least mean that India could be outvoted on some issues. So on the back of the leaked document, the opprobrium that is being heaped upon what is being referred to as "The Big Three", not least from a former ICC president, Ehsan Mani, has been not just predictable but massive. They envisage a fragmentation of world cricket rather than broad growth.

It would be naive to believe that the process is not a device to keep India onside, a giant sweetener to prevent them from simply walking away from ICC events such as the World Cup, with the implication that with India would go a huge slice of the revenue from such events. There has already been that threat.

The BCCI's stance tends to ignore the fact that the whole regeneration of its cricket, and the vast wealth it creates, was predicated first on India's 1983 World Cup win and, at a time when it would not give T20 cricket house room, their victory in the first World T20 in South Africa. In addition, there must surely be some residual value to an ICC global event even without India. However, it was not regarded as an idle threat: Indian cricket is capable of existing nicely on bilateral agreements, so maybe some attention should be paid to what might be termed the quid pro quo.

Here there are two elements, one of which, the agreement by the BCCI to negotiate and adhere to a Future Tours Programme (FTP), was not contained in the leaked document at least, because of some sensitivity during the nine months or so that it has taken to draft the proposal. It is believed this programme will see India play each of the other top eight ranked countries, including, significantly, Pakistan, home and away (or in neutral territory), as well as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh away. Getting the BCCI to agree to this when it has been steadfast in its refusal to commit to an FTP represents a considerable diplomatic achievement. Tours by India, both Test and limited-overs, are crucial to the finances of other full members beyond the ECB and CA, as West Indies have admitted.

The second element is the proposal to create two Test divisions, one consisting of the top eight ranked sides, and the other containing Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the six top-ranked associates. Through the machinations of the Intercontinental Cup they will, over an eight-year period, be able to challenge the bottom-ranked top-division side in a home and away, two-match series for the chance to displace that team.

The document does recognise that the reluctance of some boards to arrange bilateral Test series derives from the prohibitive cost of staging them, hence the creation of a Test Match Fund which will serve to underwrite the staging costs of a minimum three home Tests a year for those teams, aside from South Africa, in the top division. All other income derived from such series becomes profit for the home board. West Indies against New Zealand, say, becomes financially viable.

However, in return, it is expected that each board will file transparent accounts to the ICC each year and will take on responsibility for aggressively promoting Test cricket in particular. It has long been felt that it has been in the nature of some boards simply to take the ICC handout and do little to develop the game. Bangladesh, for example, have played 81 Tests since getting full-member status, won only four of them (two each against Zimbabwe and West Indies) and made little or no progress on developing a strong domestic first-class programme. In the same 13-year period, Zimbabwe have played 54 Tests, winning eight, of which six have been against Bangladesh.

The paper proposes not just greater accountability but personal responsibility for developing the game, particularly Test cricket. Countries such as Ireland and Afghanistan have achieved a considerable amount on a relative shoestring, it is argued.

Complacency and inertia are no longer options. By no means are these ideal, or even palatable, proposals, but they might just be the best there is to be had at present.


Mike Selvey

The GuardianTramp

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