How the ICC is stifling cricket
Cricket has decided that growing the game is no longer a priority.
Cricket is the world's second most popular game, behind football. 106 nations are now members of the ICC. Since the first ever international game in 1844 between the USA and Canada, cricket has steadily grown across the world, largely on the back of English imperialism.
ICC’s ignorance for smaller cricketing nations
However, the sport has decided that growing the game is no longer a priority. In fact, it made that call some time ago. Somewhere along the line, the ICC have decided that other goals are more important than introducing the game to new children, new places and new fans.
The ICC have decided that they are the owner of the sport. This they are not. They are trusted custodians doing a horrible job in the category of expansion. Warped priorities exist worldwide. It is not a new phenomenon. However, sport should be above misguided thought bubbles.
David Richardson is the current CEO of the ICC. In reality, he is an apparatchik for India, England and Australia. He is not in the position to be a free thinker. He is there to make three-member country boards richer.
A member-driven body isn’t ideal
This is what happens when you have a member-driven governing body. Cricket Australia saw through this folly a few years back. Rather than letting the self-interest of the states run cricket in the country, they transitioned to a body run by independent directors. The results are clear to see. Every dollar is put back into the grass roots of the game where needed most, not just the pockets of New South Wales and Victoria.
The truism of needing an independent board is self-evident in ICC’s behaviour such as not allowing the sport to be part of the Olympics. The reason being that it would eat too much into the cricketing calendar once every four years. The ICC member nations would lose potential revenues and their sponsors would be blacked out during the tournament.
The other reality is that the ICC will never take instruction from the IOC. That would be belittling their own status. The benefits of showcasing the game on the world's biggest stage is not a pertinent counter factor.
The division among teams
The antiquated member category system is also a wonderful way for the ICC to maintain control over revenues and board positions. There are currently 106 member nations. 10 are full members. They can play Tests. There are 38 Associate members. These guys are deemed not worthy of competing in Test cricket. They might be crap at it and God forbid we have lopsided games of cricket. Well, at least this is the justification given by David Richardson.
Some Associate members have ODI and/or T20 status. Some don't.
Just more membership levels to confuse, block and stifle incentives for growth. No status means no ability to earn rankings points or negotiate with better teams to tour or play against. Nope, no lopsided matches please.
Finally, we have the Affiliates. There are 57 of them. These guys are like the untouchables. Never mind that markets such as China live here. What would the ICC do with another billion people interested in the game. It's all too much.
The status concept of member nations is perhaps the single most important reason why cricket can be curtailed and hijacked by India, England and Australia. This, therefore, brings control and revenues to those with power, rather than to the game itself.
Having all members on an equal footing, like FIFA does to its members, is seen as counter-intuitive. Common sense dictates that ranking everyone from 1-106 is the simplest way to open up the game. A country should not need 'permission' or a 'status' to be able to play an international match.
In football, Brazil are unlikely to ever host India in a match, but at least they could if they wanted to. The match would have an impact on rankings points and would help showcase the game. The result may be 30-0, but the positive impacts for the lesser nation is far greater.
The need for more teams at the highest level
This current cricket World Cup is showcasing only 4 nations that we rarely see – Ireland, Scotland, UAE and Afghanistan. There is no Netherlands (who beat England in the T20 World Cup last year), no Kenya (who have beaten Test nations in previous ODI World Cups), no opportunity taken to grow and promote.
The deepest, an ICC rankings table goes is 14. That is the T20 table. If you don't have T20 status as a country, the sport is essentially deeming you unrankable. You are not worthy to play the game. You might embarrass yourself.
The ICC seem to be blind to basic economics. The broader the demand, the greater the supply. Allow more cricket to be played in far flung exotic places that we haven't heard of, like say France or Canada, and watch the supply come. Players, pitches, sponsors, news coverage and the like.
However, you need to push the snowball off the cliff and allow it to roll before it can grow. Unfortunately, this thinly disguised rant means little. While the controlling body is only incentivised and driven to line the pockets of 3 members, there is no catalyst for change.
The ridiculous thing is that a bigger and broader base of players and fans will actually achieve that goal in an exponential way.