Test of mettle for game's guardians

Mismatches at the top level, mismanagement below - and much for the ICC to do this week

The new structure for international cricket should finally be settled this week after a review that has taken almost two years. There is no certainty of change and no consensus of what is the best option but it is an opportunity that the International Cricket Council dare not miss.

The new structure for international cricket should finally be settled this week after a review that has taken almost two years. There is no certainty of change and no consensus of what is the best option but it is an opportunity that the International Cricket Council dare not miss.

"There is a belief around that some change has to be made if we want to protect the integrity of cricket, particularly in the light of what happened in Cape Town last week between South Africa and Zimbabwe," said David Morgan, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. "I don't think saying Zimbabwe and Bangladesh should only play Test matches at home is a particularly good recommendation."

Morgan will represent England at the ICC's executive board meeting in New Delhi on Thursday and Friday. The immediate fate of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - something will have to be done - will be oddly linked with the discussions on the United States and Kenya, where the game is in chaos, and could have a genuine bearing on the need and desire to expand.

Before them the ICC reviewers will theoretically have a blank piece of paper, although bits have been filled in, deleted, redrawn and then amended in the past 20 months. It has been a trial to reach this stage and to try to ensure some form of harmony (or at least avoid terminal discord) a firm of consultants has been hired to interview individual board directors. The review was first announced by Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the ICC, in London in 2003.

This was enthusiastically received because it was plain that the international game had just about reached saturation point, an argument with which Speed himself expressed sympathy. It was delayed initially because it proved difficult to gather the necessary financial information from each member board.

Gradually, however, things fell into place but then the thrust of the review shifted because of the increasingly woeful performances of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. It was not simply then that there was too much cricket but that there was too much poor cricket. This reached its nadir, as Morgan indicated, at Newlands a week ago when Zimbabwe were bowled out for 54, South Africa made 340 for three in 50 overs and won by an innings and 21 runs inside two days.

All along the ICC have known that there is a delicate balance to be struck between globalisation, integrity and commercial imperative. These three components matter as much to the stronger nations as the weaker ones.

For instance, it is obvious that England will make much more money out of playing Australia than Bangladesh, but it is also true that to fulfil their obligations to television they need to have enough countries to play against. In turn, the weaker countries would much prefer to play strong, or at least attractive, opposition - India, first and foremost, England and Australia - because that enhances the value of their TV rights negotiations.

There is then apparently something to be said for the status quo, the Future Tours Programme as it now stands. This was laid down for 10 years and obliges each of the 10 full member countries to play each other once both home and away every five years in series of at least two Test matches and three one-day internationals. Any matches beyond that are entirely up to the countries (and presumably whichever television companies they are in bed with at the time).

In announcing the review, the ICC were aware that with regard to both forms of the game they were in danger of achieving the potent combination of overkill and player burn-out. But the ICC also recognise that they have a role as guardians. Something in the current FTP will have to give in Delhi this week. It will not be a reduction in Ashes Test series, for example, because they make money and they are still a draw. To allow Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to continue in their current form will invite something more than hollow laughter.

The chief executives of the various national boards whittled the options down to three, all involving modified programmes with a different cycle. No consensus then, but the possibility, no more, is that Zimbabwe and Bangladesh will play only home Tests and that the five-year cycle will become a six-year cycle to allow more breathing space.

As for the USA and Kenya, the ICC will have to decide what might best be done to try to get cricket in those countries back on track. In effect, they have no governing bodies and it seems bizarre that Kenya were World Cup semi-finalists two years ago and that the USA was being seriously considered as a venue for 2007 World Cup matches as part of major plans to expand the game there.

The format of the Champions Trophy will also be discussed, probably at the expense of weaker nations. Perversely, it is probably a tournament that the game could do without, but television pays a lot for it.

There are unsubstantiated suggestions that Ehsan Mani, president of the ICC, who has been diplomatic and gracious, may stay in office for an extra year instead of allowing the elevation from vice-president of Percy Sonn, the South African lawyer.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Sport
Wayne Rooney talks to the media during a press conference
sport
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?