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Big Three v ICC Redux: ECB joins BCCI and Cricket Australia

The ECB has joined the BCCI and Cricket Australia in raising concerns about the ICC’s decision to approve eight global tournaments in the next rights cycle (2023-31).

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has got a shot in the arm after England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) officially intimated International Cricket Council (ICC) that it will not support the global body’s bid to have a flagship event every year from 2023 to 2031.

ICC decided that the eight-year cycle (2023-2031) will comprise eight Men’s events, eight Women’s events, four Men’s U19 events and four Women’s U19 events. Photo: ICC

With the BCCI having already opposed the proposed move, and with Cricket Australia also having done the same, it is understood that the ICC may now face severe roadblocks on the issue with the ‘Big Three’ of world cricket in agreement among themselves.

The ICC in its last meeting in Dubai had proposed that in the next FTP (Futures Tours and Programme) Cycle for the eight year period between 2023 and 2031, there would be two 50-over World Cups, four T20 World Cup and two more multi-nation tournaments to make it eight events in eight years.

The FTP is a calender that both ICC and the member countries separately prepare for a five-year period during which the bilateral as well as multi-nation events are tentatively planned.

Like the BCCI and CA, the ECB is worried that an additional global event for men and women to the next cycle would hit bilateral cricket. Colin Graves, the ECB chairman, told the ICC that the move would not only “significantly risk marginalising” bilateral cricket, but also has the potential to “devalue” the World Test Championship model.

“ECB is not in a position to support the current proposal for ICC events from 2023-2031,”ECB chairman Colin Graves wrote in an email (in possession of PTI) to ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney.

Graves broadly made three specific points as to why ECB will not be able to support the move.

First, its own bilateral engagements will be compromised; second, concern about workload and health of its players; and third, an extra ICC event in a particular year will take sheen off the ICC World Test Championship final.

“The impact of the proposed schedule on ICC events on bilateral cricket is a serious concern for the ECB. The proposed schedule risks compromising the time available and thus value and integrity of the bilateral cricket calendar for all member boards,” Graves wrote in his communications to Sawhney.

Graves mentioned that “increased frequency of ICC world championship” will devalue it further.

Colin Graves has written to the ICC expressing his ‘serious concern’ Getty Images

The second issue about players’ welfare was also specifically mentioned by Graves.

“ECB cannot support a schedule where our best players need to play more than they currently do. Players’ welfare is primary concern to the ECB and current proposal requires that international players are likely to have fewer days to prepare and rest,” he stated, reminding that the global body should also be concerned about mental and physical wellbeing of players just like member Boards.

The third and final point raised is ECB’s commitment to long term health of Test cricket.

“ECB cannot support a proposal that seeks to play an additional ICC Men’s event in a year where the ICC Men’s World Test Championship is scheduled as it risks devaluing World Test Championship and future health of Test cricket,” Graves said.

Earlier, Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts’ apprehension about the global body’s plans will be music to BCCI’s ears.

“The ICC schedule of tournaments is certainly something that is absolutely up for discussion at the moment and will continue in the months ahead,” Roberts recently told SEN Radio.

“There’s a sense that fans really value World Cups and international events in general, and in this last cycle on the men’s side, I think we’ve had six world events in the eight years whereas the previous cycle, we had one event per year with the Champions Trophy as part of that.”

The next eight year cycle will see four T20 World Cups being played, along with two fifty over World Cups. With another Champions Trophy like tournament included in between all of this, Roberts feels it might have an impact on the ICC Test Championship.

“We need a healthy balance of World Cups along with international cricket that occurs between World Cups and the space for great domestic leagues like the BBL and the IPL to thrive into the future,” Roberts said.

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