After the controversial exit of his predecessor, Geoff Allardice, the acting CEO of the International Cricket Council (ICC), has managed to get the house in order.
He is trying to sort out various impending issues, including the FTP and media rights from 2024, the Afghanistan conundrum and pushing cricket as an Olympic sport. In a select-media interaction, Allardice explained the ICC’s position on several issues.
How is the FTP for the next cycle from 2024 to 2031 being worked out? Do we expect the next week’s ICC Board meeting to finalise it?
I’m hoping we get some clarity around the direction of the Test Championship and one-day cricket for the next cycle. There has been a number of options discussed. I think the Test Championship has been very well accepted and supported by the members. I think the cycle and building up to the final and the final itself was very positively received.
As far as one-day cricket goes, it all comes down to qualification for the Cricket World Cup in 2027. We are adjusting from qualifying for a 10-team tournament to qualifying for a 14-team tournament, so it will probably look a bit different. But which way it goes I’m not sure.
Should we expect any changes to the World Test Championship cycle or format?
No I don’t think so. The calendar’s pretty tight and the one-off final had a pretty big impact. The intensity of a one-off game to decide the Championship was quite a positive thing. And while some people have suggested it should be a best-of-three Test series the calendar simply doesn’t allow for that.
The context that it brought to Test cricket in the buildup to the final was really positive as was the final itself. So I think the structure of a two-year cycle and a final is one that will continue.
Any tweaks expected in the WTC?
Not at this stage. We’ll see how the discussions go over the next few days but generally we were pretty happy with how the first cycle of the WTC went.
What about the ODI Super League?
Generally, there’s a feeling that eight out of 13 teams qualify for a 10-team World Cup. But if you’ve got a 14-team World Cup, what is the jeopardy of qualifying for the World Cup from a 12 or 13 team league? In terms of the Super League itself, we just haven’t managed to get much momentum going with it in this cycle to date. It started in the middle of COVID. We’ve had big blocks with no series played with the T20 World Cup and the IPL.
We just haven’t built the momentum. As we saw with the Test Championship, when we got to the end of the first cycle the context really kicked in and there was a lot of weight in each series. We just haven’t got that yet with the Super League but it will identify the teams who will go through the global qualifier.
Can you give sense about the upcoming media rights cycle? Should we expect a revision in the policy, possibly a shortened time-span of a four-year cycle?
We are very positive with how its shaping up. The events cycle for the next eight years is looking really promising. I think people would have seen announcements about the formats of the events, World Cups in 20-over and 50-over cricket, Champions Trophy for men’s and three Twent20 and a 50-over event for women.
We’ve had a number of discussions with potential media rights partners over the last few weeks and it’s all shaping up well. In terms of the duration of any agreement or partnership, we are still working through the detail of that through various permutations internally. When we go to the market there’s going to be a very good package of rights for both men’s and women’s cricket.
Looking at the big picture, considering the importance of Indian market and expansion of IPL, how does that impact ICC’s revenue model? Does that result in revaluation for ICC events?
No I don’t think so. Cricket is very sought-after in the Indian market, and ICC events are very much towards the top of the pie. If our discussions with broadcasters are anything to go by, the interest in obtaining ICC rights is very high amongst the potential broadcasters.
Do you see the digital space attracting larger interest on its own in the years to come?
Yes, I do. There’s been a shift in terms of potential companies that are interested in obtaining rights. You are seeing a shift from the traditional broadcasters to some of these larger digital companies as well. I think it’s a good time to be in there with the market with rights sale in the next few months.
Cricket in Olympics movement has been stalled for a long time by the members and it’s again gained some momentum in the last few months. Do you practically see Cricket in 2028 Olympics?
Over the last decade, we have had various member countries expressing interest in being part of the Olympic games. This time, we have got all our members on board and are unanimous in wanting to be part of the Olympic Games. I don’t pretend it will be easy to campaign and be successful with the Los Angeles local organising committee and beyond that Brisbane as well. There are going to be a lot of other attractive sports that are going to be interested in being included in the Olympic. We are united in our effort and looking forward to putting our best foot forward.
Has there been any concrete discussion on continental representation, which is a must for the Olympics?
Not in any detail yet. We will be working through our proposal in the coming months and gradually working to get that in front of decision makers. I think that level of detail is a step too far at this stage.
But is T20 format the choice for Olympics?
At the moment, yes. It is our shortest format and one of things we have to do is put our best foot forward as an international sport. While T20 is our shortest format, that will be our proposal for the Olympic games.
In T20s, you have announced 20 teams from 2024. Is there anything you can do more to help the next batch of international teams?
The amount of bilateral T20 cricket among associate nations was on a steep upswing pre-COVID, men’s and women’s. COVID has had an impact on the number of bilateral internationals being arranged between those countries. They haven’t played much cricket for the past few months. In terms of what would be the first step, we would need them to play more regularly. And for a lot of that, you got to have Cricket World Cup League 2 fixtures. A lot of them have been postponed over the last 18 months.
We played a couple of series in Oman in the lead-up to this tournament. That was the first cricket they had while a lot of the full members have been playing regularly. So I am hoping as fixtures resume more regularly, T20 will be attached to those and the teams will be a lot better prepared. We are not looking beyond the normal scheduling competition at this stage before thinking of other measures.
In the World Test Championship, do you see the number of series going up?
At this stage, the limiting factor is the number of teams we can fit into two years. We tried to fit in eight series over two years initially and it was just too congested. We settled on six and I think that’s your base level of cricket. To add teams means you are just thinning out the competitiveness of the competitiveness of the league. At this stage it looks like a nine-team edition.
Do you see the need to put an overarching structure for bilateral cricket?
To try and schedule too many, particularly Tests which takes a fair bit of time if you have a three-Test series or longer, it's very hard to schedule a T20 league. If it doesn’t coincide with who you are playing in ODI cricket, and because the World Cups are staggered at different intervals, it's very hard to have a league with a finish line for ODI cricket and T20 cricket in parallel. I think what we prefer is the T20 World Cup in more regular intervals. So we get through one event and bilaterals are preparations for the next event. So you are not having to wait for the long cycle between T20 World Cups.
Coming back to the media rights issue. How much more attractive do you believe ICC media rights are now that you have an event every year and perhaps from a fan point of view one can argue if there are too many events now…
Right now, I don’t think we have too many events. We’ve had a long break between our events. In the next cycle, I think Twenty20 World Cups every two years is the right sort of frequency. We’ve identified that as our format to grow the international game. That goes hand in hand with expanding the number of teams in the Twenty20 World Cup. I think that frequency is right and the cricket World Cup stays at a four-year interval. Champions Trophy is a short, sharp ODI tournament. They’re very entertaining, good cricket. I don’t think that high quality global events are played too frequently.
Would it help from a commercial point of view?
Having an event a year certainly helps our broadcast partners, our commercial partners. It gives them an opportunity to leverage their investment on an annual basis. From a cricketing point of view it fits in pretty well too.
Afghanistan has been a bit of a difficult issue for the ICC. Australia has refused to play them and there may be other countries who follow suit. Can this affect relations between full members?
Afghanistan is our member and they are going through some change at the moment. We are just trying to liaise with them to ensure that cricket is being governed and the board is governed appropriately and in accordance with their constitution. The second is that their cricket is continuing to function. We’ve supported them and the team has performed at this event. You’ve seen their players in a number of events now. In terms of how our board will consider the situation in Afghanistan at its meeting next week, they will get a report on how things are travelling. They’re going through a lot of change within the country and in terms of the relationship of the cricket board with the new regime.
If women cricketers are not allowed to play in Afghanistan, could it be the end of Test cricket for the male team, for the time being?
Our goal is to see men and women playing cricket in Afghanistan. Our view is that the best way to achieve that is to stay closely connected with the cricket board and try to influence [things] through the cricket board. They’re on a steady trajectory of development there and we would like to see that continue. How other members react with their bilateral arrangements with Afghanistan is up to them. We will be working through their situation at our board level and with their board as well. They are the agent for developing cricket in their country.
Have you got any assurances or has there been any communication from the Afghanistan Cricket Board?
They have said to us that women’s cricket is continuing. They certainly haven’t given us an indication that it has stopped. Time will tell, in terms of how that plays out. Yes, we have been in regular communication with them from the time things changed in their country. We are hoping to have some meetings with their representatives around our board meetings.
Is there a thought of giving them a hard line, of saying women’s cricket needs to be played by a certain date…
I think that’s a bit premature. For the moment the board is going to get an update on the situation and then think about taking any future decisions. It’s premature for me to speculate.
Some people have suggested a women’s team for Afghanistan comprising people of Afghan origin who don’t necessarily live in Afghanistan. Is this something the ICC would consider?
Very hypothetical. We’re just trying to work out how cricket is being run in that country and giving them time to run the game as they want to. In terms of what might happen in the future, it’s too early to speculate.
Regarding venues for ICC events for the next cycle, will the ICC invite bids from countries who want to host events?
Good question. We started a process to decide the hosts for men’s events in the next eight-year cycle a while ago. We’ve been through two phases of receiving submissions. We’ve had a board sub committee looking at that over the past few months and I’m hoping that they will have recommendations to present to the board on Tuesday.
Some non-full members have also submitted bids. Is this encouraging news for the ICC?
Very much so. Taking an ICC event or a World Cup of any description to a developing cricket country has a huge impact whether it’s on facilities or awareness of the game. Particularly when the local team is involved, as was the case in Oman just now. It’s a great opportunity to develop the game. In those submissions, many were associate member countries, either as a joint bid with a full member or standalone. We will know on Tuesday how many matches end up in associate member territories.
When do we expect the women’s Under-19 World Cup to happen?
We are aiming for January 2023. We’re talking about the format for that tournament at these meetings and at our next set of meetings we will look for a host.
Would the ICC get involved over India playing Pakistan in bilateral cricket?
Not in bilateral cricket. We obviously enjoy it when they play each other in our events. But the relationship between the two countries and the boards is something the ICC isn’t able to influence.
Like any bilateral cricket, if the two boards agree they play, if they don’t, then they don’t. I suppose we’re not seeing much of a change on the horizon.
So, they will just have to be kept apart in the World Test Championship?
It’s just a pragmatic approach to keep them apart and let the competition function. If they both make it to the final of an ICC tournament, then playing each other at a neutral venue.
Will they continue to be in the same group [in limited overs ICC events] as they have been for the past few years?
It depends a bit on where they are ranked at the cut off dates. Initially they were not in the same group for this event. But so much time had passed and they did end up in the same group as the revised group. I’m not sure how they will be placed for Australia next year.
Certain parts of cricket are financially healthy. Can something be done to make other bilateral cricket more attractive to broadcasters?
The whole idea is to try and create context, particularly around Test cricket. There are a lot of days of Test cricket played and we’re trying to make those days of more interest to more people from more countries than just the two countries involved. That was one of the aims.
As you know we have a very busy calendar and we’re trying to find a balance between ICC events and the bilateral cricket played between members and domestic leagues in the shortest form. That is a juggling act.
Trying to make sure there is context or relevance for games and if it feeds into rankings and qualification for future events that’s probably the best way. Even in something like this tournament, West Indies' last game decided whether they got into the Super 12s next year or went in qualification. The more meaning the games have the better off we are. Facilitating context is the best we can do.
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