x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Each ICC member board faces test of its own on position paper

On Saturday and yesterday in Dubai, the ICC’s Chief Executives’ Committee (CEC) met to discuss, a news release warned us, the DRS and anti-corruption issues.

The N Srinivasan-presided BCCI could be headed in the seat to decide on what works best for the ICC. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP
The N Srinivasan-presided BCCI could be headed in the seat to decide on what works best for the ICC. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP

It takes some doing to make the Decision Review System (DRS) a non-issue but cricket has managed it.

On Saturday and yesterday in Dubai, the ICC’s Chief Executives’ Committee (CEC) met to discuss, a news release warned us, the DRS and anti-corruption issues.

Predictably, as this was a bit like discussing traffic congestion issues a day before the world’s scheduled end, there was not really much meaningful discussion.

“Agenda items came up but members said is there any point in discussing all this right now because the whole structure is about to change,” confirmed one chief executive. “What is the point of this?”

Not much, frankly. The point is what happened on the sidelines over Saturday and yesterday, what will happen in the Finance & Commercial Affairs committee meeting today and finally what goes down tomorrow and Wednesday at the ICC board meeting; the last two days, when the “Big Three” boards of India (BCCI), Australia (CA) and England (ECB) officially table their bid to take over world cricket, are the only ones that matter.

Meanwhile, the wheeling-dealing has already begun. On Saturday, when most board officials from around the world arrived, was the first time since they saw the report that they had come face to face. Once the CEC meeting was over, the real meetings began.

In the words of one board head, this was the domain where the BCCI “set up shop”. One by one came other boards to test the waters of the coming new world. What is the deal? Can something be worked out? Can we work together? Please?

Members of the “Small Seven” pow-wowed with each other, too, and it is fair to say, the mood was not bright: “Troubled,” is how one described it. What were their options? Not many as another admitted. “If Australia and England are saying they had to jump on board because they could not handle the financial fall-out otherwise, what are the smaller boards going to do?”

The BCCI, to one board at least, did not even dangle specific carrots. Sign up to these proposals, is the message, and only then can we discuss bilateral series. If the option is between definitely not playing India in the foreseeable future and probably not playing them, well, to most boards that is not an option.

Theoretically that should embolden some boards to take a stand, so that those from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who are effectively surviving without India anyway, should feel themselves to be in a position with, literally, nothing to lose.

In practice it is not quite so painless. If the BCCI, say, does go ahead and pull itself out of ICC events then whatever loss of revenue that inflicts upon the ICC will hit these two boards doubly hard because they depend heavily on ICC revenues.

The one board, it is emerging, in an even worse position than this group is Cricket South Africa (CSA). On Saturday at least, it was said to be the only board not invited to the BCCI shop. It has officially expressed its disapproval at the proposals and increasingly talk of the personal aggravations between the BCCI head N Srinivasan and Haroon Lorgat, CSA’s chief executive, looms large.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that an effort is made to completely isolate CSA; that is, at least, the feeling of a couple of officials from Saturday’s proceedings.

Ultimately it is these three boards, as well as Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), that form the core of a loose, disparate opposition bloc. Three of them have publicly expressed concerns about the proposals and the PCB has done so within their own board.

But to bind them together come crunch time? One board chief’s remarks were telling. “All the aces are in the BCCI’s hands and people are cosying up to them. The problem is no board is particularly trustworthy. They all look at their own interests.”

The assessments of some in this opposition for Wednesday are not bright, but the situation is fluid. These are such uncertain and volatile times that one or two unofficial meetings may upturn matters, even as late as today.

Else, the best hope may lie – gasp! – with the lawyers. A few boards have been advised to try to stall proceedings and salvation might lie in the report itself. For a document that asks to so drastically restructure the cricket world, with so many implications, it is very thin on detail and feels hurriedly prepared.

The ICC has been busy seeking legal clarity on the implications of many of the proposed changes for much of this last week, right until at least as late as Saturday. Only when the specific resolutions are put forward will it become clear what weightage of voting is required to pass or reject some of them (constitutional changes, for example, could require as many as eight out of 10 votes instead of seven).

To take just one potential legal issue, touched upon in former ICC president Ehsan Mani’s detailed rebuttal of these proposals but taken further by a legal observer: Should, the observer asks, the big three even be allowed to vote on these matters given that they – and only they – benefit from its approval? Is that not a huge conflict – one of many, admittedly – right there and one of immediate potential advantage to the seven?

Ominously though the big three are not in the mood to be stalled.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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