Well, the ICC is not bankrupt yet — and we all know that! But it is an organisation that is constantly at war… with itself!
Unlike FIFA or any other world sporting body that has taken (or attempts to take) total control of the game that it controls and the direction in which it is headed, the ICC seems to me to be content with being run around when strings are pulled by its members. People come and go in the organisation at regular intervals, but one thing that remains is that, in my view, the ICC seems to be heading towards bankruptcy (of ideas and power). It certainly resembles an organisation that is walking around with a gun pointed at its head.
Interestingly, however, the organisation that holds the gun to the ICC’s head is not always the same. The ICC appears to be so weak that any one of South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe, India, Australia, England, New Zealand, Bangladesh or Pakistan is able to be the owner of that hand that holds the gun.
We saw the existence of the gun but held by different hands when Bangladesh was admitted as a permanent member; when Muralitharan got banned and reinstated; when Shoaib Akhtar got banned and reinstated; when Harbhajan Singh almost got banned by a powerless Mike Procter and had his ban revoked by an Australian judge; when the IPL commenced; when Mike Denness banned Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar; when Hansie Cronje ought to have been banned; when the match-fixing controversy blew; when the ICL players were banned; when Shane Warne and Mark Waugh ought to have been banned but were protected by their host organisation; when Ramnaresh Sarawan asked about the health of Glenn McGrath’s wife; when Michael Slater enquired about the health of Rahul Dravid and Srinivas Venkataraghavan in a cricket pitch in Mumbai at a time when his own world was crumbling around him; when WADA wanted all cricketers to sign up to its anti-doping clause; and much more. A full compilation of a list of ICC-impotency moments will require a tome. Moreover, the ICC has made rabbits and headlights proud on the issue of Zimbabwe.
Now, the organisation is looking like old rabbit in new lamb’s clothing but with sharper headlights when Australia stated her intention of starting a new 50-over-2-inning-format of the game.
Today at a time when FIFA is marching on confidently with a firm grip on the ‘World Game’, the ICC seems to me to be an organisation that gives new meaning to the phrase “rudderless ship”. ICC says it wants to watch the new 2-inning-50-over (or 40-over) experiment that Australia wants to conduct.
Agreed. One has to wait and watch and see and analyse and move forward. There is no point in rushing into something without a proper pilot that measures the effectiveness of any change. But is there a need to wait and watch this experiment for 6 years? What more is a 6-year wait-and-watch pilot of a new 2-inning-50-over format going to tell you that you do not already know about an existing 50-over format that looks tired today?
This wait-and-watch experiment resembles the history of ICC’s involvement in the Twenty20 format. There is a suggestion that a Perth-man, George Christos, claims to have proposed a Twenty20 to the ICC in 1997 — a claim that the ICC has dismissed. However, the format was definitely researched, designed, developed and implemented by England’s Stuart Robertson between 1999 and2001.
ICC watched as the format grew in popularity. ICC’s response was to reacquaint itself with rabbits and headlights! As the game became more and more popular and as the ICL bandwagon grew in its popularity, the ICC was compelled to conduct the first World Championship T20 Cup. That was when Lalit Modi was “waiting and watching”. He waited and watched publicly for precisely 3 months! The IPL juggernaut rolled out of the stables before the ICC could say either “rabbit” or “headlight”! The rug was once again pulled from under the ICC’s feet. They lost control of yet another round of shadow boxing in a game of power politics.
In those three months that ICC spent twiddling their thumbs, an impatient Lalit Modi made a hash of a rebel-league attempt and created 8 extremely rich owners and poured more money (and thereby, more control) into an already bulging BCCI money pot! Modi did this right under ICC’s nose. Five years ago, the ICC with some dynamism could have created its own property.
Of course, the 2-inning-50-over format has problems. But surely, by setting a exit-scenario for mothballing the current ODI format, the ICC could send a stronger signal that it wants control in the development of the game. It is, instead, reacquainting itself with rabbits and headlights; an art form that it has become adept at.