A new draft proposal to the ICC, which has been leaked—as seen here on A Cricketing View—could have a serious impact on scheduling of Test cricket and the sport moving forward.
The document is heavily in favour of the boards for cricket in England, Australia and India—ECB, CA and the BCCI‚ taking control of much of Test cricket. According to Sharda Ugra of ESPN Cricinfo:
[It] recommends wide-ranging changes in the ICC's revenue distribution model, administrative structures and the Future Tours Programme (FTP), questions the relevance of Test rankings and suggests the reinstatement of the Champions Trophy over the World Test Championship.
In short, if voted in, the proposal will give the ECB, BCCI and CA enough power to do whatever they want in terms of scheduling tours, with the FTP rendered null and void. Even though the FTP has until now served as nothing more than a guideline, this will effectively make it completely irrelevant.
This could have a serious impact on the future of South Africa's cricketing schedule. The number of Tests the country plays is already far less than most other countries. In the last five years, South Africa has played just 40 Tests, fewer than anyone in the top eight, with only Bangladesh (22) and Zimbabwe (10) having played less out of all members with Test status. In context, England have played 66, Australia 59 and India 49.
The discrepancy is massive and massively concerning.
Though there is no way of knowing exactly how the new power cabal would approach scheduling, there are two ways it could play out and have a damaging impact on South African cricket.
Scenario 1: India, England and Australia will end up playing each other a lot
Considering their strength in broadcasting figures, the three teams who are forming the power cabal will most likely end up playing each other quite a lot. England and Australia have already played 10 Tests against each other in the last eight months. India have a five-Test series scheduled against England for next year, while Australia and India will play each other in four Tests, too.
This kind of scheduling, although fun at first, will become tired and boring pretty soon. If the same teams end up playing each other all the time, with no context to the games other than the money made from broadcasting rights and, to a lesser extent, ticket sales, cricket isn't exactly going to thrive in growth.
That means the world's No. 1 Test team and quite possibly the best South African team the country has ever produced will have to suck on the hind teat of scheduling. There are no marquee series up for grabs for them, and they will most likely struggle financially. That financial loss will have a ripple effect on cricket development, and the game's progress will eventually stall, as it will with most other teams.
Scenario 2: India, England and Australia might want to test themselves against the world No. 1
You become the best by beating the best. Perhaps, maybe, the proposed cabal will see some merit in testing themselves against South Africa, both home and away. South Africa has the best win-loss ratio out of any Test-playing nation away from home over the last five years.
Their consistency has been rewarded by them holding on to the No. 1 ranking despite playing just a handful of Tests compared to other teams. However, if the ranking system is also abolished, as is proposed in the draft, then beating the No. 1 side won't matter anymore.
Overall, it's very bad news for cricket globally. If it sounds bad for the world's No. 1 side, who have obvious draw and appeal right now, imagine the effects on a struggling side like the West Indies or New Zealand. Jarrod Kimber at ESPN Cricinfo has broken down the impact it will have on the sport and has called for support from fans, to let the administrators know they are not happy.
The proposal will be debated and discussed at a meeting at the end of the month before it is voted on. There are 13 members of the ICC Executive, comprised of 10 full members and three associate representatives. To pass, a vote needs a majority of the executive (seven votes), and two-thirds of the full members to be in favour of a proposal. There are already three votes in favour, with a report from ben Stanley of Stuff.co.nz suggesting that New Zealand, West Indies and one of the associate representatives are also for it.
Cricket is currently in scary times and, as Kimber suggests, one of the ways—perhaps the only way—to try to make it better is for the fans to respond.