Graeme Smith – Above and Beyond

Graeme Smith walked alone through the guard of honour, the applause of the crowd ringing in his ears, and came to the crease for one final time.

The master of the defiant fourth innings would be asked to lead his side to safety one final time and, as he has so often before, took guard, settled his considerable bulk over the bat, jutted out his chiselled chin, and stared back down the pitch, ready as always to take up the challenge.

Just a matter of months ago he had scored a famous 234 to lead his side to victory over Pakistan, yet he had been unable to recapture the feeling throughout this series, dominated by the guile of Harris and the blistering pace of Johnson.

Yet these were distant yesterdays and this was today and only the now would matter to a proud man with a slightly obdurate streak who might have forgotten his form temporarily but not his will to fight.

Harris bustles in and is immediately on the money with a ball that rises from a good length. Smith takes it high on the bat to successfully negotiate the over and to await the fury of Mitchell Johnson that was soon to come.

He only had to wait one ball as his partner takes the single – it’s time for his acid test against Johnson.

Over the years Biff had faced a fair few examinations. He never looked like a guy who would do well in them and yet his report card was one mostly filled with A’s, year after year after year.

One last test to complete and you could hear the sharp intake of breath from the crowd who were willing their hero to his fairy tale finish. Johnson’s arm comes over like a slingshot and the ball is up into his ribs in no time at all. Smith rides the bounces, gets the ball to ground, and scampers three runs.

The relief around the ground is palpable, their belief in their captain unshakeable, their hearts a flutter with admiration. Can Biff perform one final miracle?

Down the other end he watches as Harris traps Petersen in front to claim his 100th Test victim. The task has become harder yet the crowd will continue to believe in fairy tales and miracles – their mighty captain is still there.

Johnson hands his cap to the umpire and walks briskly to the top of his mark. Time almost stands still as he approaches the crease and then suddenly all is a blur.

Over comes the whiplash arm, the ball careening into Smith’s body. He tries to shuffle inside but can only meekly fend it to Doolan in close. Before you could return to your seat from the beer queue the career of one of South Africa’s finest was over.

Smith’s fight was over and it would be left to others to safeguard a mighty legacy against the marauding Australians. In the image of their captain, and with a nod to not so long ago Adelaide, you know they will fight to their last, and their record suggests they can not be written off no matter the odds.

Should they not succeed it will mark their first series defeat since 2009, a period during which they have remained at or near the top of the cricketing tree, having built a side that deserves every consideration as being among the finest of any era.

Far more than his runs, and there were many, this is the legacy that Graeme Craig Smith will leave to his nation, a man who at the tender age of just 22 took the reins of his national side for 109 of his 117 Tests and led them to the summit. No man has led his country in the Test arena on more occasions and none enjoyed more wins than the 52 his teams achieved.

Throughout a storied career he scored runs in all conditions, against all comers at the top of the order, in the process becoming the second most prolific opening batsman in Test history behind the legendary Sunil Gavaskar. To the eye Smith bore a striking similarity to the old Land Rovers so commonly seen on safari across the savannahs of his country – sturdy and powerful with little in the way of aesthetics, devoid of flash accoutrements but immensely reliable and uniquely equipped to handle all manner of going, staring down each challenge and robustly finding a way through. Their slogan, “Above and Beyond”, seems to sum Smith up rather well.

Smith’s journey saw him contribute over 9,000 runs at a high quality average of 48 with 27 centuries thrown in for good measure. Like everything he did it, his batting had a sense of meaning and purpose, each century a robust cornerstone of a victorious push or a successful rear guard stonewalling effort – none came in a losing cause, a symbol of his sheer will to win and ability to survive, and also an indication of the quality of his individual output.

He was always a man of function over form, substance over style with an insatiable will to win which, when this became impossible, drove a desperate determination to avoid defeat. His team contained better stylists, perhaps even better players, but all became imbued with his spirit and relentless desire to make the best of their talent, and a refusal to accept defeat or the impossibility of any challenge. Defeat, when it occasionally came, would be met by honest self-appraisal and learning from mistakes. The response would usually be emphatic and decisive with Smith often leading the charge.

He may not have been able to rouse himself to lead one last charge overnight in Cape Town but his spirit and example will be with the remaining batsmen on the final day as they fight to their last breath to avoid defeat. It is a spirit and attitude that will remain with them not just during the battle today but long after he departs the change room for the last time over the months and years to come.

His record will be about what his has done but his legacy will lie in the culture and team that he has built – something that will withstand the ravages of time and make a far more compelling case for greatness than his batting alone.

Welcome to the pantheon of greats Graeme Smith !

Until next time … that is stumps.

The Fellows of February

It has been a truly remarkable summer for the ever-expanding army of marketing wunderkinds that seem to have stormed into occupation of the entire top floor of CA’s Jollimont headquarters.

The results of course are there for all to see with over one million people pouring through the gates to watch the dismantling of the hapless English tourists, a doubling of BBL attendances combined with a four-fold increase in ratings, and of course the rivers of gold that now flow down the stairwells courtesy of the bumper new TV rights deal and sponsorship bounty.

Now none of this could occur without the creative input of the ponytailed geniuses who masterminded such events as the spin-off of CA Digital Media, #AskBoof, #bullshit, the World’s Greatest Dress Up Party, lycra-clad trampolinists, and of course the piece de resistance, the giant mobile corporate edifice of the KFC Skybox where original recipe and VB reigned supreme.

But, with the end of the Australian summer at hand, and a brief hiatus until the baggy green tackle the Proteas in far away South Africa, the thorny question of just how to maintain the momentum now rears its ugly head.

Fans fear not because the team have been hard at work over the Christmas period to plan for such an eventuality and I can exclusively reveal that, in addition to the launch of the @ShaneRWatson twitter character, the team are proud to announce, and sell to you, the Fellows of February calendar.

That’s right, a calendar, available exclusively by retweets of CA Digital Media click-bait material !

Concerned that, amidst the blizzard of social media and promotions focussing on social frivolity rather than on-field happenings, CA may be losing core supporters the creative types started work on executing the plan in conjunction with none other than the Frank Drebin of selectors, the urbane John Inverarity.

Artfully conceived, the plan targeted the selection of 28 players to represent Australia in the international arena, with each earning the privilege of appearing as a daily pin-up accompanied by one of CA’s 19 commercial partners and 4 broadcasters, with the remaining spots available for a negotiable fee.

Having skilfully accomplished this wondrous feat of planning and talent management last month you can now grab your ‘exclusive’ and highly prized memento of a golden summer – just head to CA Digital Media and use the special hashtag #ILoveILoveACalendarBoy.

Until next time … that is stumps.

It’s Legs Eleven at the Souk

In a souk under the blazing Dubai sun a cacophony of raised voices and shouted demands cuts through the early morning silence as officials of Full member nations continue their unedifying daily haggling with the stall holders of the BCCI, ECB and CA around the future of the ICC and the structure of world cricket. It is a scene that has been seen often over the past week since formal meetings began to discuss the draft FC&A position paper, and each day has brought us fresh news of the latest peripheral accommodation sold in exchange for their vote.

In today’s latest update from the horse-trading at the souk we receive news of a fresh proposal to facilitate the possibility of top Associate members attaining Test status. You might recall that just a few short days ago that a promotion and relegation system was suggested under which there would be two tiers of Test cricket, one involving the top 8 Full members and a lower level that accommodated Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the top 6 Associate nations who would play in an Intercontinental Cup.

The winner of this competition would earn the right to challenge the lowest ranked nation from the top-tier for promotion to the top flight over a 4 match series with the victor being elevated, or remaining, in the top-tier – that is unless one of the bottom ranked teams were the rich merchants of the BCCI, ECB or CA who were unilaterally exempted from such market forces in order to protect their business interests and without whom it was argued the souk would fall into financial ruin.

As an encouragement for the development of cricket in leading Associate nations the proposal had some merit as well as providing continued incentive for those in the top flight to maintain and enhance standards. Naturally self-interest and the now familiar horse-trading at the souk saw the proposal quickly jettisoned given that the stall holders required the support of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to advance their broader financial agenda.

The latest negotiations have resulted in a new proposal that would provide the leading Associate nation with the opportunity to challenge the lowest ranked Test nation to a series, victory in which would award them Test status for the following four year period – naturally, given their previous accommodations, the stall holders have assured Full members that their Test status will not be affected regardless of the result. “Legs eleven” cries the bingo caller at the souk!

Again, it is not a bad proposal if the aim is to provide clearer pathways for leading Associates, but it remains eerily silent, as was its earlier incarnation, on the broader implications of such a decision.

The first, and most important, issue it ignores is the very clear link between Test status and Full membership of the ICC with all of the financial and voting rights it brings. As the ICC website makes clear in its Members Overview section:

“Full Members are the governing bodies for cricket of a country recognised by the ICC, or countries associated for cricket purposes, or a geographical area, from which representative teams are qualified to play official Test matches.”

It goes on to note in their section ICC Classification of Official Cricket (with effect from January 2014) that:

“Test matches are those which:

  1. a.      are played in accordance with the ICC Standard Test Match Playing Conditions and other ICC regulations pertaining to Test matches; and
  2. b.      are between:

                                            I.            teams selected by Full Members of the ICC as representatives of the Member Countries (Full Member Teams)

                                          II.            a Full Member and a composite team selected by the ICC as representative of the best players from the rest of the world … “

And yet under this proposal from the Dubai souk there appears to be no suggestion that should the top ranked Associate would attain Full member status should they defeat the bottom ranked Test nation. This should really come as no surprise given the narrowing of financial and governance power to the BCCI, ECB and CA articulated even under the latest modification of the FC&A proposal – after all such status would create an additional, albeit much disembodied, voice and vote at the ICC table, not to mention reducing the distributions (after Contribution Cost) to each Full member by around $5.7m over the next 8 rights year cycle based on realistic ICC revenue projections of $2.5b.

This is the real elephant in the room – Test status confers Full membership rights and it does so because those that attain it meet a set of criteria (see here for details) that demonstrate their financial stability, the sustainability and strength of cricket in their nation or region, and their ability to grow the game. In return they are entitled to a greater share of ICC revenue and decision-making power as a Full member.

It is clear that historically this criteria has not always been consistently applied by the present incarnation of the ICC, Bangladesh for example had neither a FC structure at the time of their introduction or a sustained period of dominance at lower levels. Nor does it appear that members are regularly reviewed against it as Zimbabwe lurch from one disaster to another over the past decade as a corrupt government and compliant cricket administration burn piles of ICC cash and reduce player numbers and programmes to the point where have been unable to afford to participate in Test cricket and pay their players on several occasions.

But past failings of governance should not mean that such criteria are not relevant into the future. If the new proposal emanating from the souk is adopted, Associates can attain Test status without the need to meet a set of criteria that, if sensibly and objectively measured, ensures that they continue to invest in cricket infrastructure, participation and playing strength. Equally though, such participation may impede their ascension to Full membership – new nations have historically struggled to be immediately competitive and this may colour judgement over Full membership applications as the strength is no longer purely assessed against performance at lower levels.

In addition, if the FC&A document can be believed, the successful Associate would experience an additional financial impost by having to host unprofitable tours of which this position paper would have us believe there are many and without the additional ICC revenue derived from Full membership, and with no guarantees of bilateral series against the Big 3 would they really be better off?

And then of course, with potentially another Test nation added, there is the problematic question of how to create a realistic FTP with meaningful Test series length when scheduling issues and the lust for financial returns cannot see such a dream realised in the present day with less nations to accommodate.

Realistically, if it is desirable to ensure that “Test cricket remains competitive and relevant” and have each nation play each other on a home and away basis every four years with each series having a minimum of 3 Tests, it is hard to find a way in which this could work with more than 9 teams given that this would result in each playing 6 to 8 Tests each domestic summer – after all it is hard to have a fair and realistic ranking system without a workable FTP.

A greater number of teams will simply result in either more meaningless two Test series, or less frequent (or potentially no) bilateral tours to smaller Full members from the largest three nations which would further erode the already fragile financial position of many given the almost certain introduction of the Contribution Cost model over the next rights cycle.

However, as Srini, Giles and Wally board their magic carpet en route to the Burj Al Arab, weary from another day of frenzied bargaining at the souk that brings them ever closer to their goal, you can rest assured that they will waste not one minute’s contemplation on such difficult issues – after all they are not particularly germane or helpful to their broader agenda.

Tomorrow will undoubtedly be another frantic day at the souk bringing more breathless news of new deals, alliances and accommodations but it is unlikely to supply the answer to this problem.

Until the market opens tomorrow … that is stumps.

The Beginning of the Reckoning

“This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless, by a supreme recovery of moral health … we arise again and take our stand for freedom …”

Winston Churchill uttered these words in the House of Commons in 1938, just a few days after the then British PM, Neville Chamberlain, stepped from plane clutching the now infamous Munich Agreement in his hand with the proud boast that “I have returned … with peace for our time”.

Perhaps we could substitute Chamberlain for Alan Isaac, the ICC Chairman who has just received a draft proposal, hatched in secret by the BCCI, ECB and CA under the auspices of a ‘working group’ of the ICC Finance and Commercial Affairs (FC&A) Committee, a report that seeks to “address the significant challenges to the viability of cricket” for an ICC that has “lost touch with the issues Members face in sustaining the growth of cricket in their markets”.

In return for greater control over the ICC and a greater share of its revenues this already powerful triumvirate assert that their plan will:

  • ensure that “Test cricket remains competitive and relevant”;
  • “re-energise nation versus nation cricket while recognising the permanent place in cricket for certain major domestic events”;
  • make “the financial position of a number of the Full, Associate and Affiliate members sustainable”;
  • ensure a “fair distribution of revenues, recognising the contribution of each member to the ICC both on and off the field”;
  • ensure “sufficient and appropriate support” for Associate and Affiliate members;
  • establish an idealstructure for the ICC; and
  • “streamline bilateral arrangements to ensure relevance to ICC events and the viability of the game in relevant markets”.

You could be forgiven for stretching the earlier historical allusion a little further and think of the institutions and finances of the ICC as a modern day Sudetenland with these three powerful boards as the Axis powers – the more acerbic among you might even be moved to attribute the monikers of Mein Fuhrer, Il Duce and Fimimaro Konoe to their leaders.

Perhaps this goes slightly too far, but it is certainly no exaggeration to say that the final outcome of discussions and negotiations over coming weeks will be of critical import to the game, not just in the immediate future, but likely for decades to come.

At stake is the “democratic character of the … Constitution … First they ask [people] to agree to the establishment of a protective system including taxes … and secondly they ask that the Lords shall be granted not merely the veto they have used so freely over legislation but a hereditary veto over finance as well”.

But, as the speaker Winston Churchill, went on to say over a century ago in a debate over extending the powers of the House of Lords, “it is not merely a question of rejection of the Budget … but the claim of a … Chamber over which you have no control, which may be civil to you if it likes, but which if it chooses to cut up rusty is altogether beyond the reach of your remonstrations … They are matters of vital and striking importance …”

Churchill could just as easily have been commenting on the FC&A draft proposal that, when stripped of its shiny facade, seeks to concentrate the powers and revenues of the ICC into the hands of its authors via the introduction of an all-powerful new Executive Committee (ExCo) and the concept of a Contribution Cost that would be applied against all ICC revenue, essentially providing an exceptionally uneven commission structure to Full members.

The proposed ExCo would consist of a permanent representative from each of the BCCI, ECB and CA together with a representative from one other Full member nation, with the wide remit of being the sole recommendation committee to the ICC Board on all constitutional, personnel, integrity, ethics, development, nomination and revenue distribution matters.

Effectively, proposals from any of the other 8 ICC committees will require ExCo support before they are presented to the Board, consisting as it does of the 10 Full members, 3 Associates, CEO, Vice President and Chair.

It is unclear how the introduction of a committee that effectively concentrates decision making into the hands of just three ICC members and which actively restricts the diversity of voices and opinions heard by the Board remains consistent with the aim of the ‘working group’ in ensuring that “the ICC reverts to being a member-driven organisation; an organisation of the members and for the members”.

Equally baffling is the way in which the FC&A proposal seeks to fulfil its objectives of making ‘the financial position of a number of the Full, Associate and Affiliate members sustainable” and ensuring that Associate and Affiliate members receive “sufficient and appropriate support” by developing and advocating a Contribution Cost model that effectively takes millions of dollars of potential future income away from them and diverts it into the hands of the 3 wealthiest members, in particular the BCCI.

Although it is presented as a mechanism to recognise “the role of each Member in contributing to generating the ICC revenues required to sustain the game” and the “Member’s contribution to the ICC in terms of history and how the members has performed on the field over the past 20 years in both men and women competitions”, in reality it is nothing more than a glorified commission payment based on some mysterious, unseen formula that attributes income to its source in terms of the broadcast rights agreements.

Based on revised, and lower, budgets for ICC administration and event costs, a number of high level  projections are presented in the FC&A proposal, the detailed calculations of which can be found in Attachment 1 ICC.

In my opinion the most likely scenario is that the 2015-2023 rights cycle will deliver the ICC revenues of around $2.5b which represents a 66% increase over the 2007-2015 cycle despite two fewer events being held. Under this scenario, the proposed Contribution Cost model delivers the BCCI a $445.9m windfall compared with the current distribution methodology, while the ECB and CA reap $49.7m and $7.3m respectively.

The remaining 7 Full member nations each receive between $27m to $57m less revenue across this 8 year period under the proposed methodology, although the elimination of member subscriptions would save each between $7.2m to $9.6m. At the same time $200m in total is stripped from Associates and Affiliates, although this is likely partially offset by eliminating member subscriptions ($41m between 2007-15) and compensatory increases to the ICC events budget to fund A&A events ($53.5m funded from distributions between 2007-15).

It is proposed that half of the A&A total will be allocated to the top 6 Associates to accelerate their progress and development. No doubt this will please these nations greatly as it would represent a significant increase to their current level of ICC funding but it is impossible to escape the conclusion the growth and participation in the sport outside of the top 16 nations may be slowed due to lower funding.

The magnitude of the funding gap for each membership category will ultimately depend upon the ICC revenues attained and the scale of the disparities obviously increases in line with higher revenues – I have constructed a complete financial summary in Attachment 2 ICC.

What is clear is that other than redistributing revenue to those that need it least the introduction of the Contribution Cost serves no other ostensible purpose other than to appease the BCCI who have long grumbled about the lack of recognition, and presumably reward, they receive for generating a significant proportion of the revenues in world cricket, both at an ICC and bilateral level.

And what exactly has world cricket gained in return for recognising this special contribution? The answer is even less than they had before with the albeit flawed FTP to be scrapped in favour of bilateral arrangements that provide no assurance that India will even complete full tours of all Full member nations, tours which could offset the loss of ICC revenue distributions or even surpass this figure; no end to the farce of 2 Test series; and the loss of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe from the Test playing ranks.

For a proposal that, in the minds of some commentators, has been a necessary pact with the devil in order to save Test cricket it does very little to achieve that outcome, notwithstanding the creation of a Test Cricket Fund that only takes effect at the uppermost (in my mind) revenue point likely to be achieved in the next cycle, and the creation of a vehicle to enable top ranked Associates, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to return to the Test ranks via a promotion and relegation system that exempts the Big 3 in perpetuity from the chop.

However, even Churchill was a pragmatist, famously striking deals during times of crisis that would not otherwise be contemplated, and I can’t but help think that this, albeit significantly flawed FC&A proposal, allows an opportunity to create a workable path forward that:

  1. improves the financial stability of a number of Full member nations;
  2. provides a workable and binding FTP calendar that allows for a full programme of Test and ODI bilateral series on a home and away basis;
  3. provides meaningful bilateral Test series with context; and
  4. provides a clear pathway for advancement for the top level of Associate nations

Much of world cricket, whether it likes it or not, is dependent upon the revenues that India brings to the table, both at national and ICC levels, and India is the only nation, blessed as it is with a huge population (bigger than the other 9 Full members combined) and increasing wealth, that could successfully afford to adopt the American sporting model and place primacy on its domestic IPL competition over international contests given its latest bumper profit of approximately $61m USD.

Without the audience that India brings to bilateral contests, particularly in the Test arena, and to ICC contests, I fear that the game will become more unaffordable for an increasing number of nations and the growth of the game could stagnate in both new and existing regions. Already we are seeing many nations prioritise the scheduling of shorter forms of the game over Tests because they generate a greater return, especially when for some, visits by cricket’s Big 3 are either sporadic, truncated or do not happen at all.

The starting point for my way forward is a recognition that, as unpalatable as it may be, real change cannot occur without an accommodation of India’s position regarding revenue re-distribution but this does not require new committees like ExCo that seek to concentrate power in the hands of a few and silence the voices of other members, nor anything more than clearly agreed and monitored budgets and expense management protocols that maximise the return to all members and for which the ICC executive is accountable to the members for.

Clearly any proposal that means a reduction in the current funds received by members cannot be countenanced and on this basis I would propose to apply no Contribution Cost calculation applies to the $1.5b figure, representing as it does the current revenue and funding position. From that point forward I have adopted this methodology, albeit it at a lower and more sensible rate.

Based on the likely ICC revenue figure of $2.5b, the BCCI would now receive additional revenue of $312.1m compared to the current distribution methodology while the ECB and CA would receive $34.7m and $5.1m respectively. Distributions to the remaining 7 Full member nations would fall by between $19.3m to $40.2m (offset by $7.2m to $9.6m in membership fee savings) across this 8 year period, an improved result from the FC&A proposal and one which nonetheless delivers greater overall funding than received at present. Detailed revised calculations are provided in Attachment 3 ICC and Attachment 4 ICC.

In return all nations, including the BCCI, ECB and CA, will need to agree to a contractually binding FTP schedule that provides for home and away series (with a minimum of 3 Tests and 5 ODIs) between all Full members in each 4 year period , with the financial gain provided by consistent and regular tours by the Big 3, and India in particular, allowing the reduced ICC revenue distribution to be offset at worst.

This can only be achieved, using a basic capacity of 6 home Tests per summer, with a maximum of 9 teams and as such I would propose that Zimbabwe lose its full membership and Test status, the two in my mind being intrinsically linked. This 1/10th share of Full member funding should be reallocated equally between seed funding for the Test Cricket Fund prior to the $2.5b revenue threshold and the now top 7 Associates.

I realise this is a radical step but Zimbabwe have not been a competitive nation for almost a decade, have demonstrated for many reasons that they cannot manage their affairs or funding appropriately, and to be brutally honest have limited growth and revenue prospects compared to others based on their unstable political situation, small population and their medium-term economic prospects.

As proposed in the FC&A document, the top 7 Associates will play in an Intercontinental Cup with the top ranked nation earning the opportunity to challenge the 9th placed Test nation for promotion. This will provide a clear and relevant path for advancement of Associates but the outcome of the contest should also be linked to the attainment (or loss) of Full membership rights with no nations exempted – after all if the Big 3, with all the financial resources and infrastructure available to them, cannot avoid what would be a most unlikely relegation then they deserve their fate.

There have been countless pieces written on this proposal since it was unearthed a few days ago, far too many to mention individually, and this is but another. Each contribute to an understanding of today’s cricketing landscape and a rigorous examination of the issues attached to the proposal, but beyond that few offer a concrete way forward that is rooted in the reality of cricket’s present situation.

I have tried to do that here and whether you agree or disagree I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter – at the end of the day we all love the game and want it to prosper, even if we have different ways of achieving that end.

Until next time … that is stumps.

Happy Christmas (War is Over) – The Ashes are Won

Well a much-anticipated return clash has turned into something of an anti-climax as Australia battered England into Ashes oblivion to reclaim the famous Urn and deliver its long-suffering fans a decidedly early, and perhaps unexpected, Christmas present.

After the turmoil of the year that was in Australian cricket, with its disgraceful examples of off-field behaviour and player discipline, the appalling results and standard of cricket leading into the contest, and the sacking of a decent and amiable coach who presided over much of it, the ease of such a victory was certainly a great surprise.

And yet amidst the euphoria of victory we should not forget that it will not solve some of the systemic and underlying problems in Australian cricket. I’ll have more to say on that front in the new year, when I have time for more sober reflection after the celebrations.

Until then this will be my final post for a tumultuous 2013 as I make preparations for a trip to The G and my annual Christmas sojourn, this time to Sri Lanka where I hope the wonders of cable let me stay in touch with the games.

To end the year I have enlisted the help of John Lennon to pen an ode to the return of the urn and the memory of a few of the ghosts of Christmas past – I hope you enjoy it!

And so this is Christmas

The Ashes are won

After all of the turmoil

We’re leading three none

And so this is Christmas

Mitch back with a bang

After all of their hubris

English heads now hang

A very Merry Christmas

Forget the dark past

The homework forgotten

As Mitch just bowls fast

 

And so this is Christmas (war is over)

They did not get along (if you remember)

In change rooms and bar rooms (war is over)

Now they’re singing our song (if you remember)

And so Happy Christmas (war is over)

Remember Davey and Joe (if you remember)

Boof comes in for Mickey (war is over)

Who got told to go (if you remember)

Now we’re doing all right

 

A very Merry Christmas

Nathan belts out the song

On a cracked WACA wicket

Time to say we were wrong

 

And so this is Christmas (war is over)

Recall the Mohali four (if you remember)

The appalling behaviour (war is over)

From the man with top score (if you remember)

And so Happy Christmas (war is over)

The rotation is dead (if you remember)

With a ramp up of sledging (war is over)

To mess with their head (if you remember)

 

A very Merry Christmas

I hope you have fun

Watching in Melbourne and Sydney

To see us win it five none

 

War is over, and we’ve won it

War is over now

 

Happy Christmas

 

Thanks to everyone for reading and supporting my musings in 2013 and until next year … that is stumps.

 

Crossing the Rubicon – The BCCI’s Continued Grab For Power

In 49BC Julius Caesar stood with his troops on the northern bank of the Rubicon River, the geographic border between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy proper which was controlled by Rome and its allies.

He faced a decision of some historic, political and personal importance because under the laws of the day he, and his men, would be committing a capital offence by crossing the river into the territory of Rome with the certainty sparking armed conflict as a result.

After some reflection and contemplation Caesar is reported to have uttered “alea iacta est” or loosely translated, “the die is cast”, before setting out with his men across the river.

In doing so he shattered the convention of the age, flouted the law, and gave rise to the adage of “crossing the Rubicon” which has come to refer to any person or group committing themselves irrevocably to a risky or revolutionary course of action, often called in the modern parlance “the point of no return”.

Cricket today faces a similar moment of historic significance with news filtering through of the BCCI’s latest attempt to assert its financial hegemony over much of the international cricket landscape via an audacious bid to secure a greater share of the spoils generated from ICC tournaments.

Under the current arrangements the ICC redistributes 75% of the profits from tournaments such as the Champions Trophy, World Cup and World T20 Cup to in equal measure to the 10 full member nations, with the remaining 25% allocated to funding the further development of the game among associate member nations.

Not satisfied by corrupting the Future Tours Programme with its malevolent vengeance against CSA and its CEO Haroon Lorgat, its unilateral refusal to implement the Wolfe Report and adopt DRS, and in ensuring the schedule of world cricket is bent to accommodate the needs of the IPL and the profits it generates for a small group of its cronies, members of the BCCI, led by its iron-fisted dictator, the infamous Narayanaswami Srinivasan, are now furiously lobbying that the vast Indian domestic audience and broadcast rights deals it generates entitle it to a larger share of the spoils.

Although it would appear to run completely counter to the interests of all other nations, history suggests that the financial hegemony the BCCI exercises over many of the full member nations, in particular Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh, means the audacious cash grab has a realistic prospect of success, which will both further cement their hold and have serious implications for the growth of the game among associate member nations.

In 49BC the Roman consuls failed to take action and fled in fear of Caesar and his victory resulted in the law and convention of imperium never being enforced then or into the future.

Should other member nations and the rather toothless ICC fail to observe the lessons from history the consequences for the game, both for its future development and current strength, could be calamitous.

It is indeed a Rubicon moment for the game and should the members nations fail to recognise its long-term consequences I fear that Caesar’s words will be prophetic – alea iacta est, the die is cast.

Until next time … that is stumps.

It’s All Greek to Me – The Ostracism of Haroon Lorgat

It has been nearly six weeks since I brought you news of the shameful shenanigans and malevolent vengeance endangering India’s highly anticipated tour of South Africa – if you missed it the first time around have a look at How do you Like Them Crab Apples in the archive section.

There has been little to report since then aside from the deafening sounds of silence followed by an unnerving static of rumour and innuendo but, if recent media reports can be believed, it would appear that a deal to save the tour has finally been reached following a meeting between the BCCI’s infamous Narayanaswami Srinivasan and CSA’s Chairman, Chris Nenzani.

The reported tour of two Tests and either three T20I matches or three ODIs to be confirmed following the BCCI Board meeting on October 26 represents a financial disaster for CSA who stand to lose approximately $19.9m USD in revenue as a result of the shortened tour, but considerably less than the crippling $49.8m USD at risk had the tour not gone ahead at all.

Obviously cognisant of this financial catch-22, and perhaps even more acutely of the underlying reasons at the heart of the BCCI’s artfully crafted piece of bastardry, Nenzani extended more than an olive branch and a persuasive argument when he met Srinivasan last week in a desperate attempt to salvage the tour.

According to Cricinfo one of the conditions demanded in return for the tour proceeding was that the man at the centre of the enmity, Haroon Lorgat, have no part at all in it. However, once bitten and twice shy, Nenzani was also reported to have offered to “send Lorgat on long leave” and that CSA “would be working out a plan before the end of the tour to ensure Lorgat is not involved in future dealings with the BCCI”.

I suppose it isn’t quite the grovelling apology sought from a prostrate Haroon Lorgat, nor was it his complete removal, but it comes pretty close with Nenzani’s Faustian pact having more than a passing nod to ancient Greek history in its reintroduction of the practice of ostracism to high cricketing life.

Ostracism was introduced to ancient Athens in around 580BC as a response to almost a century of warring between rival noble families that saw murders and entire families being permanently banished from the city, leading in turn to a never-ending cycle of further retaliatory violence and counter expulsion.

At its heart ostracism transferred power from the noble families to the citizens of Athens who were given the power to decide who should go and who should stay via a vote whereby they would scratch the name of candidate for expulsion onto an ostracon or potsherd.  

If a candidate received more than 6,000 votes they were asked to leave Athens for ten years, after which they could return, and to encourage them to accept the decision peacefully they were permitted to retain their property and any income accumulated from it.

The system provided a clever means of ending the never-ending cycle of conflict between the noble elites of the city but it did not take long for it to be abused for political advantage, so much so that anyone targeted could be ostracised, whether they were a threat to the peacefulness of the city or not. Themistocles, the city’s leader from 493BC, was particularly adept in using the process for political advantage and he successfully cast a number of prominent rivals from the city, only to finally receive a taste of his own medicine around 470BC.

Obviously Chris Nenzani forgot to read the last few pages and missed seeing how the story ended!

But people in South Africa’s cricketing fraternity are starting to notice, with journalist Telford Vice reporting of a schism emerging among the board of CSA over the Nenzani’s handling of the matter with five members against his ‘compromise’ and six in support, including the Chairman himself.

No doubt many are asking how their CEO can be an effective representative and agent for South African cricket when he has been withdrawn from ever dealing with cricket’s most powerful group, the BCCI, presumably even at the ICC level?

Perhaps some are contemplating why, despite the obvious warnings of retribution from the BCCI, they appointed Lorgat in the first place?

Maybe they are wondering whether having made a stand for principle and independent governance only to suffer a loss of $19.9m USD as the BCCI extracts its artful revenge, how much face is lost or saved by Nenzani’s ostracism of Lorgat?

Or maybe they are wondering how cricket in South Africa can survive if the alternative is no tour at all and a further $30m USD drop in revenue, combined perhaps with their very own future ostracism from the lucrative ownership of the Champions League?

Is it really better to die on your feet than die on your knees? Or is that the other way around?

Perhaps it’s just all Greek to you, me and them?

Until next time….that is stumps.