Dubai // Cricket boards have chosen short-term financial benefits over long-term investment in the game and failed to treat Test cricket with the importance the format deserves in recent years, according to Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Lorgat is due to step down in June 2012 after a four-year stint during which more money has flooded into the game than ever, and the growing popularity of Twenty20 has threatened the five-day game. Concerns have spread over those years about the health of Tests, highlighted by the recent ICC board decision to postpone a proposed Test championship to 2017.
Asked in a wide-ranging and frank interview with The National whether boards had prioritised Tests, Lorgat said: "I think not, because they tended to lean away from Tests. There was a two-Test series in South Africa recently. People were desperate to see a third Test. That is an example where it has not leaned towards Tests. I realise it's a difficult balance to achieve but the evidence shows us that many of us are not pushing, or promoting Test match cricket in the fashion that we ought to."
The delay in the Test championship, a concept Lorgat was particularly keen to push, was, he said, indicative of this thinking. "Invariably people lean towards commercial aspects at the expense of other strategic issues," he said. "I think we got the balance incorrect. There was a strategic choice that had to be made, it was an investment that had to be made and the leadership chose not to do it. It had nothing to do with the broadcaster. It's a board decision. The broadcaster is but one party to the discussion but it's a board decision."
Another dominant theme through Lorgat's tenure has been the continuing rise of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and in particular, the influence they now exert through their financial strength on global decision-making. Lorgat welcomed India's financial strength but was coded on whether the board had acted with requisite responsibility with that power.
"You can draw your own conclusions on that because the evidence must speak for itself," he said. "It shouldn't be a judgmental call. You do the research and make up your mind as to what you think India has been doing. I think it is a serious opportunity for India to lead the game, because they do enjoy an inordinate amount of influence. With that kind of power comes responsibility."
The one recent example of this power was demonstrated in the u-turn on the Decision Review System (DRS) to aid umpires with technology. In June the ICC agreed to implement the compulsory basic use of DRS across all international games.
Last month, however, after continued opposition from the BCCI the decision was overturned and it was decided to leave the use of DRS to individual boards to decide. The backdown was the result, effectively, of a series of trade-offs; support for the BCCI's DRS stance enabled, for example, the rotational system of ICC's presidential appointment to remain in place. Some boards agreed to back the stance in return for the prospect of a series with India.
Within this, Lorgat's message for other, financially-weaker boards was clearer. "[A solitary power] is a clear risk towards good governance and leadership. But we must acknowledge that the economic might of India is good for the game. I don't begrudge India for its strength. What concerns me is the weakness of other boards. They need to find ways of generating revenue, of sustaining the game. They cannot operate on a dependency mentality and weaken their own leadership and governance. It's not the strength of India that is a concern to me, it's the weakness of others. They need to have their own future strategies and they must have the courage of their convictions to do it. The game cannot exist with India alone."
Asked whether he felt the BCCI was aware that India cannot exist alone, Lorgat said, "That is the responsibility of leadership, their leadership."