The vexed question of ICC governance
Russell Degnan

Cricket governance is all the rage right now. Cricket Australia just completed a review, the ICC are in the process, and recently asked for public submissions on the matter. A first, asking the public, but one that ought to occur more often.

At heart, each of these reviews is trying to get at a central problem in the structure of cricket: boards are part of a pyramid structure where power derives from the states/counties/nations below. Power derives from those entitities and those entities are self-interested, and sometimes downright incompetent. The ICC, and Cricket Australia, would prefer a direct, independent role, afforded to other sporting organisations. The advantages: coherence and fairness of structures and schedules, and a better management to fulfil the entrepreneurial role of a modern sports administrator.

The downside: letting go of political control at the national level in favour of a global organisation means beign told what to do by the ICC. Jarrod offered a useful guide for exactly why the boards in question oughtn't to have any say. And in many ways those are cricket's more competent boards. At the level below, for every Ireland there is a USA, Kenya or Nepal. Fortunately they are already controlled by the ICC via their purse-strings.

But governance encompasses other aspects as well. The ICC is not always the producer of great ideas. Their management of the process to introduce the DRS, of global tournaments (they were behind the push for a 10 team world cup amongst other sins), and the tinkering with the rules is indicative of a body that needs better feedback. If they are not getting it from the boards, then processes need to be put in place to get it from the general public, players and other engaged and interested parties.

It was with those issues in mind, that, in collaboration with Samir Chopra of The Pitch I wrote our submission to the governance review. The recommendations were as follows:

  • The granting of voting power to the administrative arm of the ICC on the executive board.
  • Official recognition of players associations in negotiations over playing schedules and tournaments, with a preference for voting power on the executive board.
  • The establishment of a larger base of ICC tournaments to promote greater financial parity, meaning and context for cricket, and allow the ICC administration to promote and grow the sport beyond its current limitations.
  • The greater regulation of players and domestic T20 tournaments to encourage the sort of club and player devotion that other sports enjoy.
  • The disclosure of ICC Executive minutes and voting to make member boards accountable to their own membership (cricket clubs, players and spectators).
  • To establish a deliberative democracy approach to expand the scope of opinions and knowledge available to the ICC beyond the current mix of former international players.

The full submission (pdf)

Cricket - Manifesto 22nd December, 2011 16:06:56   [#] [2 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b c 3 a b c d e f

Concluding Remarks

In the first part of this manifesto, eight principles were put forward to guide the future development of cricket. They are not without controversy, as the implications of them involve a substantial change in the traditions of touring and the existing international flavour to the game. Regardless, I believe strongly in three key ideas that underpin what I was trying to achieve: that cricket can and should aim to be more widely played; that the existing structure of international cricket is not serving the game well, but rather causing players and fans alike to withdraw from the relentless but meaningless competition; and and that T20 domestic cricket will transform the finances of players and the emphasis of the game in a mostly beneficial manner.

Despite this, I believe strongly in the historical traditions that underpin the game, and am a devoted follower of test cricket, even to the exclusion of other forms of the game. Thus while the manifesto seeks to balance multiple competing ideals, it does so in a way that ultimately reflects my beliefs in what I would like to see played, and the competitions I would take an interest in.

With that in mind, three key ideas were put forward. Firstly, that the calendar should be divided between international and T20 domestic cricket, entailing a reduction in first class seasons (an problem most keenly felt in England) and a rationalisation of international tours. Secondly, that world cricket should be split into regions, or more precisely, that the existing regions be amalgamated into three, such that each has the depth to play competitive tournaments amongst its members that would include the test and associate nations. And finally, that half the international test calendar should be set aside to play regional and world test championships, such that, every four years there would be an official world test champion.

Of those three ideas, the first is controversial, but I suspect inevitable, if the growth of T20 cricket continues as it is likely to do. The second is controversial only insofar as many people are deeply reluctant to bring associate teams into the circle of test playing nations. Politically, this is understandable, as full member status carries with it broader implications. As was recently argued by Roy Morgan however, full member status need not be tied to playing the game. The growth of cricket on the fringes is rapid, and they will shortly clamour for more opportunities. Regional qualification competitions are a tried and true way of bringing smaller nations into competition without hurting the overall "product".

The third idea is not new, in the sense that everybody has their own preference for how a world championship should be played. I only proffer mine on the basis that its incubation has been long (almost a decade) and rigorous thought been applied to the intricacies of the problem. The combination of a 6 team world championship, played inside a year, a qualification play-off, and regional qualifiers is, I believe, a unique approach, which addresses the principles outlined at the beginning of this process. I put it forward now, for comment, as a serious suggestion for the enhancement of the game, on which I hope you, my silent (if not absent) readers, might approve.


A Manifesto for World Cricket (pdf)

Cricket - Manifesto 7th March, 2010 20:28:54   [#] [2 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b c 3 a b c d e

Part 3f. Outlining a Schedule

Having completed the proposed tournament format, it is now possible to lay it out in its entirety, to track the progress of teams from stage to stage. To help enable this process, a sample tournament has been constructed with teams filled in (the results being a reflection of the ratings a few months ago).

Using the tournament(s) as a base, and taking into account adjunct series - notably the marquee series - it is possible to construct a workable future tours program across the four year cycle of games. Below shows this for five different sides of varying levels playing within the same region.

Every one of the top 18 teams are basically full time professionals for the four year period in question, playing between 35 and 50 games. In the event professionalism is not an option, then the friendly series, and (potentially) the extra divisions can be shortened or scrapped. It is reasonable, however, to assume that a modest level of revenue from the regional championships would be sufficient to fund a team fully, and allow them to compete year round. The income to be gained from T20 domestic leagues for competent associate players will also, eventually, make the funding of international cricket less necessary.


Finally, the most frequent criticism of ideas that promote games between so-called minnows and others is the issue of mismatches. Ignoring, again, the marquee series, which are organised between boards and therefore not relevant to this discussion, the table below shows the frequency of games between teams in four groups: The big 4 (India, England, South Africa and Australia), the other competitive test teams (New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka), the other test teams and leading associates (Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Kenya), and the other associates (Afghanistan, Scotland, Canada and the Netherlands). This excludes Namibia and the UAE, who would add another 6 mismatches if they were put in the bottom group but would play 18 competitive (or better) games.

Games are considered very competitive if they are played against another team in their group, and competitive, if it is against a team in an adjacent group.

Two points are worth noting from the table. Firstly, there are only 26 games listed as a mismatch in the entire tournament. Of those games, 22 would be played in the first six weeks of year one, making them no more than a brief pre-season interlude before the actual competition starts. Secondly, those 26 games compare with over 100 games that are competitive and more than 100 that are very competitive. Of the 84 games played by the big 4, just 16 are against teams of Bangladesh's standard, or worse; the 5th to 8th ranked nations meanwhile, (rightly) split between the top test sides (48 games) and the next level (38 games). While there are a handful of mismatches, and no region can expect to always have stiff competition for either places in the World Test Championship or for Regional Champion, this is a highly competitive structure where few games can be taken for granted, and almost all have some meaning in the narrative sense.

Cricket - Manifesto 7th March, 2010 15:38:48   [#] [0 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b c 3 a b c

Part 3d. Year 1: Regional Test Championships

The creation of a world test championship satisfies the key goals of meaningful cricket and an elite competition without burdening the schedule. It leaves unresolved the problem of qualification and inclusiveness that is necessary to provide opportunities and goals for emerging nations. The proposed solution to both of these is a regional championship, played, as in football, two years prior to the world championship, also pitting the best six teams from each region against one another.

Unlike the world championship however, the appropriate format is not two groups of three. In that format, the regional heavy-weights would spend almost all summer thrashing minnows. To prevent that, and for logistical constraints imposed by the participants coinciding summers, the regional tournament is staged.

While regional variations are possible, and perhaps even desirable given the disparate levels of competitiveness each region contains, a standard format is here proposed, that can be completed across an 18 week international summer.

The final stage is a three team league, played over 12 weeks, with each team playing four tests at home and four away. Points are counted as described previously, and the top team is considered the regional champion. A final was considered but considered problematic. Firstly, the competition is already very long, potentially spilling over into the "off-season" in places where cricket is still playable. Secondly, a final like the inevitably dreary Shield final would be of no great benefit to the game, and in any case, would only be a single game in the competition (making most of the preceding 12 games meaningless). Thirdly, in such a small league, several group games will already have been decisive in determining the champion, and there is no need to devalue them in favour of another result.

As described previously each region will send either one or two teams to the world test championship, as well as one team to the playoffs. A plate competition needs to be held concurrently to determine places four through six.

The first stage is also a three team league, but with the competition split into two groups and ech side only playing two tests at home, and two away (one of each against each side). As before, points will determine the winner, with the group champions going into the final stage, and the two second placed sides going into the second, intermediate stage. This stage is designed to ensure that a random draw doesn't prevent a good side from making further progress. It is proposed as a two leg play-off, with the winner decided on aggregate margin.


There are numerous issues with the regional championships. Firstly, eventually the problem of playing against minnows has to be addressed. The regional approach minimizes mismatches, but does so at the expense of more games for those teams. You cannot have both, and there will inevitably be winners and losers in the process. Some team, somewhere, must be cut.

Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are the clear losers, being likely to lose their respective regional playoff games, and be relegated to playing the associates. It is possible to play, over the same time frame, a tournament with four in each group, but results in teams playing every week, with no rest (as described, a team will only play two weeks in three). The Northern regions lack of test teams makes that interesting. In the past 30 years it would almost never have been competitive, with either England or the West Indies dominating, and the northern associate merely making up the numbers. The rapid turnaround in the fortunes of the test teams in this group is sufficient reason to hope one of those associates can shortly match it with their counterparts, but who can say how long that might take (perhaps not long if the West Indies continue to rapidly close the gap in the wrong direction).

Nevertheless, necessary exclusions and too few games aside, the regional championship provides a fair balance between the competing objectives surrounding associate cricket, and the promise of reasonable competition at the pointy end of the tournament.


Part 3e. Year 0: Regional Associate Qualifiers

There is no graphic, or proposed format for this, as associate and affiliate cricket is too close to its infancy to be sure how this might develop. Only eight associates will play in the regional qualifiers however, two in the Southern and Asian regions, and four in the (much stronger) Northern region. Some sort of first class tournament is required to decide who qualifies - test sides, understandably, need not be included at this level.

It is likely, in the same vein as the UEFA Champions League qualifiers or FA Cup, that there might need to be several stages of competition, perhaps over several years prior to Year 0. Better sides would enter in the latter stages, culminating in a final tournament, or group competition that leads to the regional qualifiers. Every team that qualifies for the regional qualifiers would be entered in a division of the world test championship, making three tiers, and 18 teams in all.

Cricket - Manifesto 5th March, 2010 23:20:52   [#] [0 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b c 3 a b

Part 3c. Year 2: The World Test Championship Play-off

A test championship with regional qualification has some clear losers. New Zealand and the West Indies, on recent form, are highly unlikely to qualify above their regional counterparts. For this reason, the sixth spot in each division is determined via a play-off between the next best team in each region (teams not involved in the play-off are free to play marquee tours in the international window).

The format for the play-off is the same as for the world test championship. Each team plays a three test series home and away to the other teams in the play-off. The top team, again based on points, then aggregate margin, and finally net runs per wicket.

The top team in each group moves takes the sixth spot in the world test championship (or second division). The remaining teams are the two seeded teams in the second division (or third). This maintains reasonable regional parity through-out the divisions (a maximum of three teams from any one region).


The play-off system is not perfect. It is possible for the 6th best team to miss out to the 7th (or worse). An alternative system would be to have world, not regional qualifiers - four groups of four, and a play-off between the four second placed sides. There is no inherent improvement in fairness with this approach - the third best side in a group may deserve to be in the finals; it is logistically more problematic, with shorter series, and potentially more overlap in group scheduling; and it doesn't allow rivalries to build up from regular regional championships.

Having said that, teams from strong regions are at a disadvantage with this approach. The fourth placed teams in the Asian and Southern regions (normally Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) are generally excluded, although they will meet the two losing test sides in division two. Conversely, the sides on the border of the world group get meaningful and competitive fixtures against other test sides, with quite reasonable variety. An examination of the past 30 years indicates that the competitiveness and variety of the play-offs is quite high. Based on the ratings at the time, all the top 8 test teams would have failed to qualify on at least two occasions; would have qualified either directly or through the play-offs on at least 10 occasions; and would have been seeded at least once. Zimbabwe too, would have taken part in the play-offs at least twice, and been seeded first in the second division. But perhaps just as importantly, financially speaking, the major teams are almost always present in the finals.

Dark colours represent regional or play-off winners; yellow represents play-off participants; boxed teams are seeded teams.

Cricket - Manifesto 25th February, 2010 18:06:35   [#] [0 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b c

Part 3. World and Regional Test Championships

In this section, I will outline a format for playing world and regional championships, on a four year cycle, as discussed in the previous post on structural pillars. It make sense to work backwards, from the goal to the journey's beginning, outlining each of the five stages in turn.


Part 3a. Year 4: The World Test Championship Final

Naturally, a championship ends with a final. Because this is test cricket, and because this series should be the pinnacle of the game, it should be a four test series, played home and away, with two tests for each finalist. In the event of a drawn series, the host of the second leg should host a fifth, and deciding game. Because this potentially requires the crossing from one hemispheric summer to another, the sensible time to hold it is in the September/October international break, playing the four or five games across the six available weeks.

In addition, two plate championship finals, for the test teams that didn't qualify for the world championship finals, and the associate teams, should be played. Producing, in effect, three divisions, each with their own champion.


Part 3b. Year 3: The World Test Championship

In order to have a final, you must first play a championship. This section is the central idea for the whole test championship. Numerous people have proposed leagues and finals, but most fall short on logistical grounds, requiring endless overseas travel, and removing from the equation that unique aspect of test cricket: the series. As previously discussed, the aim here is to create a tournament, one that emphasises the good points of test cricket, for the elite teams, but structured such that any team might qualify. Given those points, the twelve test limit on the number of matches a team might reasonably play in a year, and the need to schedule around different seasons, and emerging T20 tournaments, the structure chosen is, I believe, the best that can be achieved.

The test championship would be contested by six teams. There are several advantages to this. Firstly, six covers enough of the test playing nations that the middling sides have ample opportunity to compete, but also allows a competitive second division, between the bottom four test sides and two associates. Secondly, six teams, playing in two groups of three, can play two home three-test series each, completing the entire championship inside a year.

Thirdly, six fits nicely with the existing qualities of the three regions discussed in part one. The Southern and Asian regions, with four test teams each, will have two teams automatically qualifying. The Northern region, with only two test sides, just one. That makes five sides. The final, sixth place, is drawn from the next best side in each of the three regions, as will be explained later.

The championship will be organised as follows:

The draw

For logistical reasons, regional teams need to be kept separate, as far as possible. The rules relating to the draw aim to achieve this end.

  • The top two teams are seeded, and placed in group 1 and 2 respectively.
  • For each region, beginning with the region with the most representatives:
    Draw each team,
    if one group has more representatives from that region place team into the other group,
    otherwise, draw a group number for that team and place in that group.

The play

Each team plays a three test series at home against the other two teams in their group, playing 12 games in total, 6 at home, 6 away. Games are scheduled into the international windows, beginning in October, and ending in the following July.

Points are awarded for each match as follows: a win: 3 points, a tie: 2, a draw: 1, a loss: 0.
Bonus points are awarded for a series victory: +1 point for each game not drawn.

ResultWinnerLoserResultBoth Teams
3-01201-14
2-1930-03
2-091 
1-062 

The top team on points in each group progresses to the World Test Championship Final. In the event of a tie, teams will be separated by:

  • Aggregate margin (23 runs per wicket for margins by wickets, 250 runs per innings for margins by an an innings)
  • Net runs per wicket.


There is very little about this structure that I would change. The number of matches is perfect, and it leads to a dramatic conclusion. The use of series instead of individual games, and a home and away structure instead of neutral venues are all superior to the shorter tournament formats often suggested. There is, however, more problems in the qualifying stages.

Cricket - Manifesto 25th February, 2010 17:59:34   [#] [0 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b

Part 2c. Tournament Play

To conclude the discussion of principles, before moving onto the specifics of competition structure, where most discussions begin, I want to talk briefly about structuring competitions. Unlike FIFA, and more particularly UEFA, who seem to have hit upon a standard structure for tournaments that works, the ICC has repeatedly bungled the World Cup format, and is regularly flouting, or inundated by disastrous ideas for unworkable test championships.

Three general principles should be followed for any tournament: firstly, they should be succinct, being no longer than it takes to determine a winner; secondly, the "best team" should win, meaning the eventual result should not be subject to too much luck, and there need be enough games to demonstrate that the winner is, if not the best, at least worthy; and thirdly, the draw should be fair to all participants, allowing any team an opportunity to win, and if not to win, then to progress as far as their ability allows, rather than the certain teams - particularly those so-called "minnows" - being beset by endless challenges, while so-called "better" teams sail through the early rounds without a challenge.

From the perspective of a fan, a tournament should build a "narrative", following, in general, that most generic but exciting of literary tropes: The Quest. The quest works as an analogy because sporting teams are heroes, a tournament victory (or even qualification) a goals, and the tournament itself is a journey, usually physically, for the fans and players, and always metaphorically. The only difference with the literary quest is that, in this case, there are dozens of questers, most of whom will fail miserably, if occasionally heroically.

From those general principles and aim, some specific recommendations can be drawn. In no particular order:

  • The tournament should build to a final, each stage becoming increasingly difficult, and increasingly shorter temporally. This is at odds with several cricket world cups where the latter stages were extended so most fixtures were between top teams. The absence of big names and/or the hosts at the super-six stage in favour of minnows in each of the past three world cups demonstrates the folly of this approach.
  • All teams should compete at each stage. This allows minnows to play against the bigger teams without clumping them into the tournament finals, and allows a slow build up of easy fixtures.
  • The number of teams qualifying should be 25-50% larger than the number of competitive teams at the next stage. The tendency of cricket authorities to tier the qualification to ensure only the top-8 progress makes it almost impossible for smaller teams to achieve worthy, if minor, goals (such as qualification into the second round).
  • Regional qualification, as well as being logistically easier and cheaper, allows more fans to attend and better delineates the qualification from the main event. The current world league system results in very strange match-ups with little to no existing rivalry. Similarly, football does well in avoiding regional match-ups in the finals, to diversify the opponents.
  • Seeding every team risks turning the tournament into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The advantage of including extra teams at successive stages is that seeding can be reduced, allowing groups of more mixed ability. Seeding should not extend past the number of qualifiers, and should be pooled (1-4 drawn against 5-8, rather than 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7 etc.).
  • In general, at least two teams should proceed out of a group, or, if this is not possible, one plus a playoff. This reduces the possibility of an unlucky draw (or game) knocking out a top team early on. Early rounds in a tournament should be more lenient than later ones.
  • The optimal tournament format is groups of 4, with 2 qualifiers, leading to either more groups, or a knockout. Groups of 4 have a reasonable number of teams, but few fixtures - just 6 to remove half of all teams.

Based on the above, the optimal size for a limited overs world cup is currently 12. 3 groups of 4, dropping to a super-six and then a final; or two groups of 6 with semi-finals and a final. The latter being a shorter tournament (20 days versus 27) but with a higher number of games against minnows. The preferred size should be 16, with 4 groups of 4, then 2 groups of 4, semi-finals and a final.

For a test match tournament, some other prescriptions should be followed, and a method for resolving drawn encounters decided upon:

  • Home advantage matters a lot in a test match. Playing home and away fixtures is preferred (if logistically challenging).
  • Test match-ups should be at least a three match series, unless played in a league format (such s a regional championship). A test match final should be played over at least four games - preferably home and away.

Because test match series often end in draws, and, as the Shield final invariably demonstrates, it is exremely undesirable to allow a draw act as a win for one team, there neds to be a resolution method for drawn series.

Two possible scenarios can occur:

A series is drawn leading into the final game - a result is required.

The days of timeless tests are gone, but as limited overs cricket has demonstrated, that need not prevent a result based on time. In these one-off games 6 days should be set aside for play (allowing a maximum of 540 overs), but a each side should be, across their two innings, be limited to 250 overs each (allowing 40 overs on the final day to make up time lost in the event of rain). It is quite rare that a single side bats for 250 overs in a game, so it is unlikely that both sides will do the same. However, in the event that it occurs, the team batting third must compulsory declare at the 250 over mark, and the team with the most runs at the conclusion of the game wins. In the event that the team batting third uses up fewer than 250 overs, then the team batting last must score the runs inside the total time available (500 overs), not just their 250 overs.

In a two-test series, teams are tied 1-1 after both games

In this situation, where two results have occured (if the first test had been drawn, the first scenario would have been in play), the tie should be broken on aggregate run margin. A victory by an innings should be worth 250 runs. Each unbroken wicket in a chase should be worth 250/11 or 23 runs. The side with the largest victory of the two games is then considered the winner. The advantage of this method, apart from being simple, is that it is obvious for both teams what the goal is, and therefore what declaration might be required.

In the event that teams are still tied, then numerous tie-breakers are possible: net runs-per-wicket, total runs, and a coin toss.


In the final part of the manifesto, I will detail the substantially more complex format for world and regional test match championships.

Cricket - Manifesto 11th February, 2010 22:38:43   [#] [0 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a

Part 2b. Scheduling

Perhaps no aspect of cricket has been so neglected by the ICC as the introduction of sensible fixturing. Even disregarding the sudden quandary T20 has introduced, the international schedule is a mess of haphazard tours, marked by uneven spurts of games and odd lulls.

The problem rests with leaving the individual boards to determine the schedule, resulting in the popular teams sliding tours in whenever and wherever one might fit, yet still playing not much more frequently than one day per week. The less popular teams, bereft of opportunities, but unwilling to play each other, much less than that.

The introduction of universal domestic T20 windows offers the chance to correct two glaring problems. The first, obviously, to provide a space free from international commitments for players to play in what is likely to be both the most popular and lucrative form of the game. The second, to rationalise the international schedule so as to provide a balance between time spent playing, resting and travelling.

The first consideration when devising these windows must be an answer to the question: what is their appropriate size? The answer, I believe, is the minimum amount necessary to complete the tournaments outlined previously. Anything larger unnecessarily restricts the t20 game and will be under constant pressure to be reduced. Anything smaller and players will be forced to choose international commitments over a larger contract, which is bound to be problematic.

Taking first the non test championship years. These have scheduled T20 and ODI regional championships and world cup competitions, along with some sort of marquee tour at home and away, or world test championship qualifiers. Both test requirements extend to 6 tests per home summer, with regional limited over competitions consisting of 8-12 teams and the world championships 12-16. Any additional time might be used for friendly limited overs games, preparatory tour games, or travel.

One necessary change is the reduction of world cup length, long a bloated two month long march of irrelevant games leading to the semi-finals. The main cause of this, is the insistence of administrators (and no doubt tv companies) that each round of games (not involving a minnow) be played on a separate day. Thus 24 games (in say four groups of four), which might be dispensed with in just 5-12 days, are played over nearly a month. A reasonable length for a small regional championship is two weeks. For a world cup: three weeks. Allowing 7-8 weeks for six scheduled tests and a week of friendlies, the total international season, for one hemisphere can be reduced to 14 weeks. That leaves 12 for the domestic T20 competition. A regional test championship, being the most difficult to schedule (on account of it being conducted in the same hemisphere) would need to fit within that 14 week period. This is possible, as will be seen.

The second consideration is when each format is best scheduled, taking into account patterns of fan attendance and support, and the need to build a coherent narrative across a summer. Recent crowds in Australia suggest the folly of scheduling day games outside the traditional holiday period. Given T20 is played predominantly in the evenings, it is likely to be more resilient to scheduling, and is well suited to the start and tail-end of a summer. International cricket should therefore remain as the centre-piece, allowing the scheduling of test matches in their traditional slots - Boxing Day for example. Similarly, by scheduling internationals at the very beginning and end of each hemispherical summer, some overlap into each is theoretically possible (and potentially useful in years with a large number of intra-regional games).

The proposed schedule, therefore, is for a 3 week international break to be followed by the first half of the domestic T20 season (6 weeks), the international (and the bulk of the domestic first class season) for 8 weeks, followed by the concluding half of the domestic T20 season, and a final 3 weeks of internationals to conclude the summer.

Leaving aside the international schedule for a time, this has several implications for the domestic T20 game. Firstly, a 12 week season, with a week set aside for finals, would allow a 10-12 team home and away league to operate. Secondly though, and more importantly, in light of recent global developments, by allowing players to play a full season in one hemisphere, and therefore, one competition, we can put an end to the farce of players playing for multiple teams, in multiple competitions, which threatens to make the champions league a joke. Given the Indian summer can (at least theoretically) extend across the full 24 weeks of the domestic T20 window, a player would seem to have two choices: play for an Indian T20 outfit; play for a southern hemisphere outfit and a northern hemisphere outfit. The latter is undesirable, as it, again, could lead to divided loyalties. However, it is possible, even desirable, that the northern and southern hemisphere teams could be linked (in the manner suggested by the new Royals franchise), such that players signed for one are signed for the other, with the added bonus that while the individual summer competitions might conclude in 12 weeks, the champions league could be played across a year (with the "home" venue shifting with the seasons).

The T20 game's detractors might equate the franchising scenario being played out with other detrimental aspects of the T20's glitz and glamour: all show and no substance. I don't believe the T20 game need be an entertainment vehicle full of gimmicks. The debatably useful bowling and fielding restrictions, the cheer-leaders, music and fire-works, are all undesirable, but the game is still fundamentally skillful and entertaining, with enormous potential to develop cricket in hitherto unforeseen markets. Turning something as fundamentally valuable as a champions league into a gimmicky sideshow is not in the best interests of the sport (not just T20). The sooner the national boards get together to reform the scheduling the better.

Cricket - Manifesto 10th February, 2010 15:56:44   [#] [0 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h

Part 2. Guiding Principles

Aims are not, by themselves, sufficient to produce a plan of action. They must be balanced against one another, striking a balance between the financial forces that drive the game forward, the emotion and history that make it great, and the logistics of scheduling games across three formats, diverse seasonal conditions and a seemingly infinite number of competitions.

The second part of this manifesto will deal with those issues, developing an over-arching competitive structure to produce competitive and meaningful fixtures, a domestic schedule to rationalise the existing mess of international tours and, now lucrative and expansionistic, domestic cricket seasons, and some general principles of tournament play to ensure fairness.


Part 2a. Structural pillars

The international side of the game has always been at the centre, and it is that that needs straightening first. The recent FTP driven expansion of the fixture list has not been kind to the sport, burning out players and fans alike on meaningless games. As a corrective I propose that the international fixture list be pared back to a handful of core fixtures played over a four year cycle: world and regional championships in each format and the marquee test tours.

There are a number of reasons why this is both desirable and possible. Firstly, the emergence of domestic T20 leagues reduces the need for money spinning limited overs friendlies to generate revenue. Given they have been, for a long time, merely used to prepare for the world cup and champions trophy, their almost complete removal will be lamented by few and will open up much needed space in the schedule.

Secondly, the expansion of world cup places to minnows has resulted in a bloated tournament while delivering only limited development opportunities. Pushing the development emphasis to a regional level allows both more opportunities to the smaller nations and a tighter, better world cup.

Thirdly, many lament the lack of interest in test cricket outside the major teams. In reality, the fans of those nations recognise those tours for what they are: perfunctory obligations of little value. Structuring the vast bulk of test matches into year long tournaments, and freeing them from the burden of short series should both increase the interest in test cricket in those nations and, as above, free up scheduling space for T20 games that will vastly improve the financial status of players in those nations.

Finally, by scheduling for marquee series every second season, there is ample room to continue playing those traditional series, such as the Ashes, upon which much of cricket's heritage, and no little interest or money, rests.


A final word then, on the future of one day cricket. As someone who gave up watching it some years ago, I was tempted to expunge it from the schedule entirely. That would be presumptuous and premature. The fact remains however, that ODI cricket is faced with dwindling interest and numerous challenges. Something that should be obvious from the rule tinkering that has beset the game of late. It has few core supporters, being neither as short or action packed as the t20 game so loved by the general public, nor as stern a test of character as the preferred format of the purist. Like games of professional vs players, or xxii vs xi, its time has passed. I suspect the only real question is how long will it linger.

Cricket - Manifesto 30th January, 2010 21:09:02   [#] [0 comments] 

A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g

Part 1h. Domestic and International Windows

No doubt, until two years ago, the idea that there should be times available in the international calendar for domestic cricket was laughable. Domestic cricket made no money, international cricket dominated the media and television schedules, and that was the way it was. Then came the IPL.

The impact of T20 Domestic leagues are a long way from playing out, but given their increasing popularity with the fans, and the obvious benefits for players currently struggling to maintain a regular place in their national side, it is not hard to envisage a time when international cricket intrudes on domestic schedules, as happens in most other sports.

International players will become quickly disgruntled if they are not granted full access to the riches of the T20 domestic leagues, and that will put pressure on administrators to reform the international calendar. This is no bad thing. At the moment, tours are a disorganised mess, players have substantial breaks over the course of the season, but there is always some international cricket on, somewhere. The most straight-forward reform of the international calendar is not to reduce the number of games, but to ensure that when international cricket is on, all teams are involved, not just one or two. Once this is achieved, large slabs of the season will be free, allowing all players to participate in the league system, further strengthening that part of the game.

It would be nice, at this point, to see test players return to first class cricket as well, given the sharp reduction in appearances at that level that has occurred in the past two decades, and the consequent diminished standards at that level, and quite probably, at test level as well. It is hard to see that happening, however, not unless ODIs were substantially reduced in number or excised completely from the calendar (I could only hope).

Nevertheless, there is still a question over how large a window is necessary. While other nations have failed, to date, to challenge the IPL with their own big money national or regional T20 leagues, it is almost certainly only a matter of time. A much larger window than has currently been shoe-horned in for the IPL will be necessary soon. As with the scheduling of international cricket, regional summers affect the amount of time available in different places. In the non-tropical parts of the world, it would be possible to have two months (8-9 weeks) set aside for domestic T20 games, but little more without a reduction in international cricket. In Asia, however, both domestic windows are feasible, allowing up to four months of domestic cricket a year.

Reform of the calendar would seem to be inevitable, though as with most things, it may take an entrepreneur to radically remake cricket before the ICC and the boards of control take action themselves. Despite the worries over scheduling conflicts and the drop-out of big name players, fitting several extensive domestic league windows into the schedule is feasible and desirable. More than anything, it is the international schedule that needs work, by forcing the current mess of tours starting and finishing any time they are able, into a strict timetable. The sooner players are able to move between international and domestic cricket without conflict, the stronger both the international and domestic games will be.

Cricket - Manifesto 31st December, 2009 00:35:39   [#] [0 comments] 

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