A shot across the bow

In a development that slipped unnoticed past the radar of the mainstream cricket media in India, the international players’ association has trashed the latest edition of the ICC’s Future Tours Program [and given me another excuse to keep banging on about my latest hobby horse: the need for the ICC to urgently rationalize not merely its calendar, but its overall approach to how it manages the game]:

FICA CEO Tim May said the ICC’s proposed international schedule is merely an extension of the existing format that does not address changes in the game and diminishes its value. “The ICC’s draft is just a continuation of the ad-hoc bilateral series that we have seen going on for 100 years,” May told Cricinfo. “The ICC draft does not address an increasingly changing cricket landscape, which demands considerations of changing priorities of players and broadcasters and the increasing need for context, not volume.”

May is aware that FICA could well be whistling into the wind. When it comes to taking on board the opinions of the game’s stakeholders — the players’ associations, the captains, broadcasters, the media — the ICC has routinely paid lip service to the concept, and as routinely ignored the suggestions that have been put forward. But, as the FICA chief points out, the ostrich policy may have outlived its time: earlier, the ICC could go its own way regardless, because what alternative was there? With the IPL establishing itself, and the Champions League emerging onto the stage, that is no longer true.

While the ICC admits that FICA is a key stakeholder in the game and has given the federation a seat on its cricket committee, it is not bound by law to accept any of its proposals. In fact, May admits that he would not be surprised if the ICC board rejects these proposals, but he also warns that in such a scenario “the natural forces will take effect.”

“More and more players will follow Andrew Flintoff by retiring prematurely from one or all forms of international cricket,” May said. “The grind of the present international calendar just can’t exist with the attraction of shorter-duration, less physical, better-remunerated T20 leagues. International cricket will no longer be the best versus the best. Crowds will diminish, commercial rights will reduce, and international cricket will be very much an inferior product.”

If this happens, May said, the ICC will have to accept the blame. “They will have no one to blame but themselves. It won’t be the first business to be destroyed by failing to recognise a changing landscape.”

Meanwhile, a paper to produce under the added pressure of an absent colleague. Will be back, as and when [oh, and will find time to respond to some of the comments you guys left on earlier posts].