An Open Letter to Haroon Lorgat
To: Haroon Lorgat,
Chairman, ICC Development Committee
Dear Mr Lorgat,
Over the past decade and more, the ICC’s Global Development and High Performance Programs have made an enormous contribution to the emergence of cricket as a worldwide sport; indeed, one might go so far as to say that they have been one of the ICC’s real successes.
Supported by the Development Officers in the five regions, those who play the sport in 95 Associate and Affiliate member countries have enjoyed hitherto undreamt of opportunities to develop their skills in steadily-improving conditions and with ever-better facilities; the Intercontinental Cup, while not without its problems, has emerged as a genuinely first-class competition for the leading High Performance countries; and the World Cricket League has given players from no fewer than 39 countries experience of global competition, in many cases in conditions they would never have encountered in their domestic cricket.
Only last week, a new and expanded cycle of League competition began in Kuwait with the inaugural Division 8 tournament, giving Kuwait (the winners), Zambia and Bhutan their first taste of 50-over cricket on a global stage. According to the schedule which is still published on the ICC’s own website, Kuwait and runners-up Germany have the theoretical possibility of emulating Afghanistan’s remarkable achievement in working their way through all the WCL divisions to reach the World Cup qualifying tournament – indeed, had the 2011 World Cup not been reduced from 16 teams to 14, the Afghans would now be preparing for participation in the ICC’s ‘ flagship’ tournament itself.
As you and I both know, the promise of that World Cricket League schedule has been nullified by the decision of the Executive Board to include only ten teams in the World Cup from 2015, effectively ending the ICC’s commitment to providing a ‘pathway for all its members’ to the premier one-day tournament on the planet. I do not propose to repeat here the many arguments against that decision, since I realise that no amount of rational argument is likely to soften the determination of the Full members to act in their own interest in this matter.
But your obligations as Chief Executive extend to all 105 members of the ICC, not merely to those who wield the power within it, and as Chairman of the Development Committee, the specific capacity in which I am writing to you, you have a special obligation to ensure that the development of cricket continues to be fostered in your powerless Associate and Affiliate members.
I have to say to you that recent events have given rise to profound anxiety across the cricketing world about the depth of the ICC’s commitment to the development strategy it has pursued under the two previous phases of its Strategic Plan. I do not anticipate that the Plan for 2011-14 will include any explicit disavowal of that strategy, although I fear that in the vague and high-sounding language which is typical of such documents there may be indications of a significant shift in policy, of which the decision to move to a more restricted World Cup appears to many to be a clear and menacing sign.
You will no doubt argue that the proposal to expand the World Twenty20 championship to 16 teams, with a system of regional qualifying tournaments and then a Global Qualifier indicates otherwise, but the fact is that that move, while welcome in itself, is no compensation for exposure to the longer forms of the game. We are already seeing the ICC Regions beginning to cut back on their 50-over tournaments in order to focus on Twenty20, and that seems likely in due course to affect the pattern of domestic competition in the Associates and Affiliates as well.
It is, I and many others believe, inevitable that so strong an emphasis upon Twenty20 cricket would fundamentally change, and indeed, distort the nature of coaching across the Associate and Affiliate world. The progress which has been made, sometimes haltingly, sometimes more effectively, towards developing players’ ability to perform in the longer formats would be lost, and all except a fortunate few whose talent gave them access to coaching in the Full member countries would be consigned to a cricketing wilderness. In such circumstances, the periodic opportunity to ‘compete’ against Full member sides hardened in the crucible of competition against their peers in all forms of the game would be little more than a travesty.
That is not to deny that Twenty20 cricket has a legitimate place in the sport’s overall economy, or that it can play a significant part in the popularisation of the game amongst those who have never been exposed to, or are averse to, one-day and multi-day formats. But to make it the effective limit of ambition for the Associates and Affiliates would be to introduce a barrier between the privileged few and the unconsidered many which would forever disfigure the face of the sport we all claim to love. It would, in effect, be a form of apartheid.
What, then, am I calling upon you to do? I am sure that you understand that undiminished funding of the Global Development and High Performance programs, at least as a proportion of the ICC’s resources, is a crucial token of the Executive Board’s continuing commitment to its development strategy. It should not take a further series of meetings, of the Governance Committee and the Board, to enable you to offer reassurance on that account. Silence, on the other hand, tends to confirm fears that 2010 may prove to have been the high water mark in the ICC’s support of the great majority of its members.
Equally, the Associates and Affiliates need reassurance that there will be no phasing out or downgrading of the World Cricket League, the Intercontinental Cup and, if it is no more than a temporary expedient, the Intercontinental Shield. This, too, is something which should not require an explicit statement from the Board; in a healthy organisation, the success of these events would be a guarantee of their future. The first matches in the next edition of the Intercontinental Cup should be no more than nine months away; it is hard to see how sensible planning can take place if there is no confirmation that the tournament will be played.
I indicated earlier that I have no great hopes that the will of the ICC’s most powerful members to impose a ten-team World Cup can be resisted. But there is a way in which that decision can be reconciled with the concept of a pathway, however narrow, and that is by the introduction of a meaningful qualifying tournament involving the lowest-ranking Full members and the leading Associates and Affiliates. I do not expect that the Full members would have the courage to submit themselves to that test without a fight, but it would go a considerable way towards restoring some faith in an organisation which is at present in danger of becoming a by-word in the abuse of power by an unscrupulous minority.
The Development Committee which you chair is charged with the oversight of ‘all policy matters relating to the structure and delivery of the ICC Global Development Program’, and it is therefore central to the issues which are at stake here. I therefore hope that you will take steps to ensure that from the Committee’s next meeting there comes a strong , unambiguous and public reaffirmation of the importance of the GDP, the World Cricket League and the Intercontinental Cup, and a call for the Governance Committee and the Executive Board to ensure that the Associate and Affiliate members continue to be meaningfully engaged with the longer forms of the game.
Between 2002 and 2009, according to the ICC’s own figures, the number of cricketers in the Associate and Affiliate countries doubled to 122,000, while those who had been actively exposed to the sport almost quadrupled to 227,000. That is a huge achievement, but it is no exaggeration to say that for many of them the Board’s recent decisions look very like a betrayal.
I trust that as the servant of all the members you will be determined to ensure that any such fear is rapidly and decisively allayed.
With best wishes,