OPINION: Enjoy the sight of the majestic Virat Kohli whilst you can. India may never tour New Zealand again. If us peasants are lucky, we may be treated to the sight of England and Australia once every eight years. Presumably there will be ticker-tape parades down Queen Street to welcome such cricketing nobility. It is time we knew our place.
And make no mistake, India, England and Australia are determined to put the Kiwis and every other flightless cricketing bird in their place. Even the old tea planters treated the natives better than this.
If a love of money is the root of all evil, then India, England and Australia are a current axis of evil. They are threatening a takeover of world cricket. Their message to New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and the other 100 nations of the ICC is: "We've got more money than you, so you had better do what we want, or we will take our bat and ball away."
The language of the draft working paper put together by cricket's three big players - hang on, aren't South Africa the No 1 test team in the world? - is monstrously arrogant and patronising. The words alone should tell the rest of the world how they are viewed.
New Zealand is told that it has "a significant responsibility for giving the game leadership and direction" in its territory.
New Zealand is told that the recommendations of the Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee are to enable the ICC to become an organisation "of the members and for the members".
One is reminded of the Oscar Wilde quote, "Democracy is the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people".
"You must take responsibility," say India, England and Australia to little New Zealand, "and here is how you are going to do it."
One can only assume that Narayanaswami Srinivisan, Giles Clarke and Wally Edwards, the head of the respective boards, are so bloated by their own importance that they cannot see the comic cant of their language.
But should we wonder. Srinivasan would fail a fit and proper person's tests if the ICC had such a thing. Clarke was memorably pictured snuggling up to that old crook Allen Stanford after the bank robber's helicopter landed at Lord's.
Edwards, of Cricket Australia, is hanging on to their coat-tails.
Essentially this draft paper was made in India. It wants a "better distribution of ICC revenues". This involves a formula that abandons equity and hugely increases the revenue of India which thinks that the ICC should "compensate" them for playing in its events. In real terms New Zealand's revenue is likely to fall.
Part of helping New Zealand to take responsibility is to rotate the chairmanship of the ICC between India, England and Australia. New constitutional, financial and rights committees would comprise of members from, yes, India, Australia and England and one other nation. The chairmanship of these committees would, of course, be held by the big three. So, no chance of outvoting them in this brave new democracy "of the members and for the members".
The draft paper wants to ensure "World Cup cricket (50-over cricket) remains the primary ICC event and the key to generating the greatest value for the ICC".
One naturally asks, why place such value on 50-over cricket. And the answer is India.
They want to replace the proposed test world championship with more 50-over Champions Trophy tournaments to be rotated between India and England. In that way they can keep hold of TV rights and the money.
Test cricket is a thorny one, because India is not so keen as Australia and England. There's not so much moolah in it. But in the name of solidarity the draft paper wants to ensure that test cricket "remains the primary form of the game" within a "playing system based on meritocracy".
This ‘meritocracy' involves the 9th and 10th-ranked test teams in the world playing in an intercontinental cup every four years. The victor would then challenge the eighth-ranked test team in a four-test (two home, two away) series. If successful, they would earn promotion to the top eight and the loser would be relegated. So far, so good.
But. "Relegation exceptions will apply to India, England and Australia solely in order to protect ICC income due to the importance of those markets".
So much for meritocracy. Just because England or Australia or India might be relegated, there is nothing to stop them from reaching bilateral agreements for future Ashes series or passages to India. So don't believe a word of the justification. It is about power and money, in direct contravention of the Woolf Report that said cricket needed to be independently run.
The final poke in the eye for New Zealand is that although England and Australia will commit to playing the other top eight countries once per eight-year cycle - thanks for that, and should we doff the black cap and come to you - India's name is notably absent. Crumbs from the top table.
"The leading countries of India, England and Australia have agreed that they will provide greater leadership at and of the ICC. This new structure commits the primary revenue distributing members, namely the BCCI, the ECB and CA, to the ICC."
Or else. In 25 years of professionally writing about sport this may be the most iniquitous document I have ever read. It patronises and it threatens.
Time to call their bluff. New Zealand and the other 102 nations of the ICC need to tell India, England and Australia to bugger off. Let's see how India's beloved Champions Trophy works out then. Mind you, at least they won't have to keep losing to little, lowly New Zealand.
- Sunday Star Times
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