LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf claimed on Friday that the PCB took a firm stance in the larger interest of Pakistan cricket along with other countries to thwart the first attack of the ‘Big Three’ at the recently concluded meeting of the International Cricket Council (ICC) held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is pertinent to mention that the Big Three – India, Australia and England – are planning to effectively cede control of world cricket. The proposals call for more decision-making powers for the three-strong group of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), who between them represent the game’s wealthiest nations. Critics have slammed the plan saying it is very unfortunate that the ‘Big Three’ are representing the end of the notion that a fair and principled and just body can govern cricket in the interests of all. There is little merit in the ‘Big Three’ plan.
“We had a stance which suits our cricket and it helped us in defying the first attack of the ‘Big Three’ that also got the support of Bangladesh,” Zaka told reporters during a news conference here at Gadaffi Stadium on his return from Dubai after attending the ICC meeting on a crucial issue of giving extra ordinary powers and control of the game’s ruling body to the ‘Big Three’. Zaka said the ICC was looking to get resolutions that would shake-up the world game approved ‘hastily’. “The PCB and several other boards managed to hold off the onslaught for the benefit of cricket.” He insisted he wasn't against any of the proposals but wanted all decisions to be taken through consensus, with every member board taken in confidence.
He said during the meeting India made a number of offers to Pakistan for playing cricket but the PCB needed firm assurances and guarantees on the issue. “I think it is a positive move to resume cricket ties between Pakistan and India. If we will be playing frequent international cricket it will help in revenue generation through a lot of ways and means, but Pakistan wants to maintain its decent stance on the issue of the ‘Big Three’,” he maintained.
For those who favour the ‘Big Three plan, the BCCI, the ECB and Cricket Australia taking charge of the world game is not such a terrible thing for cricket. If anything, it ends the charade. Those who favour the plan say that one way or the other, these three boards have written the rules of the game in the last two decades without being officially responsible for them. The ICC has become a euphemism for cricket’s maladministration without ever having the mandate for it from its principal constituents, so for the proxy rulers to officially commit themselves to leadership cannot be the worst outcome.
The PCB chief said if given a chance he was keen to meet Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who is also the patron in chief of the PCB, to brief him on the ‘Big Three’ and to have his opinion on the issue. “I want to chalk out a strategy in the larger interest of Pakistan and to present the case of the country in the next ICC meeting.” The Bangladesh Cricket Board was one of the four boards that Zaka claimed were against the proposals, but on Wednesday they accepted the revised proposals for the restructure of the ICC after securing assurance that their Test status will not be revoked. Apart from Pakistan, it is understood that South Africa and Sri Lanka have sought time to study the revised paper.
“With Bangladesh extending support to the ‘Big Three’ now, the situation has changed and the number of support for the ‘Big Three’ has increased,” he added. He said later on the West Indies also joined Bangladesh to extend support to the ‘Big Three’. “But we will be deciding on the issue of support to the ‘Big Three’ after getting a guideline from the government. Whatever decision the ICC will take on the ‘Big Three’ it will be taken with mutual understanding and approval of all Test playing affiliated members.”
But the plan’s supporters argue boards would be freed from ‘unviable’ tours, whatever their merit in cricketing terms, and that this would lead ‘the seven’ beyond the ‘Big Three’ to become more financially self-sufficient. The proposals need seven votes from the ICC’s 10 leading nations to pass. The BCCI has also appeared to float ‘the nuclear option’ of withdrawing from all ICC events if the proposals are not accepted. This is a potentially disastrous situation for many of the game’s smaller nations given the BCCI, thanks to cricket’s huge popularity in India, currently generates some 80 percent of the ICC’s global revenue.
Zaka said if the plan of the ‘Big Three’ countries was approved then the trio would get major part of the income of the ICC, while Pakistan and other countries would continue to receive their respective shares. He dispelled the impression that he was having differences with the government saying he was serving the PCB after his reinstatement by the Islamabad High Court. Zaka said an important meeting of the PCB governing council would be held in February to seek the advice of all the members on the ‘Big Three’ issue.
Nevertheless, Cricket South Africa (CSA) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), representing two leading countries, if not two of the most financially powerful, have both called for the withdrawal of the ‘Big Three’ plan – ‘position paper’. Leading former senior administrators, led by Pakistan’s one-time ICC president Ehsan Mani, have also denounced the ‘Big Three’ plan. “Why does the BCCI need more money at the expense of other countries?” Mani wrote in an open letter to the ICC, adding more funds should be diverted to cricket’s junior nations. “If cricket could be established properly in the USA and China and become an Olympic sport, the ICC could double its revenues in real terms over the next 10-15 years,” he said. “This requires vision and a less parochial approach.”
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