International ‘rebel’ cricket just the ticket to put the ‘big three’ in their place
IN CASE you missed it, there’s a lot of talk about a "Rebel" cricket league being formed, and the chatter isn’t dying down.
We’re talking about an international league here, not club or franchise. We’re talking nation versus nation, SA against England, Australia against India, etc. Like most big ideas, it seems absurd and fanciful to the majority of us because we are the victims of our own limitations.
Most minds will boggle at the enormity of the logistics required. But all things are possible with three building blocks: media, money and motivation. And they exist.
The Essel Group owns Zee TV, one of the richest television networks in the world, and its owner, Subhash Chandra, is a billionaire with a strong interest in cricket. He started the ill-fated Indian Cricket League before the Indian Premier League had got off the ground but was outmanoeuvred by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) with the support of the world’s heavyweight nations.
The difference between then and now is that the "heavyweight" nations — the big three of India, England and Australia — have split the world game into them and us, the rich and the poor, and those left behind are only now beginning to see the truth, a year after being coerced into signing the document relinquishing themselves of all meaningful authority and limiting their income from the global game to little more than survival rations while the rich trio are set for virtually unlimited gains.
The West Indies are being sued by the BCCI for more than $40m which will ruin the game in the region as we know it forever. Pakistan are disenfranchised and isolated by India. New Zealand barely scrape by, Sri Lankan cricket is more than $60m in the red, while Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will be easily tempted to join a revolution promising meaningful cricket and a fair share of revenue.
SA may be the senior nation among the "small seven" of Test playing nations, but its "weakness" is that it produces more cricketers with first-class potential per capita than any other country.
Finally, there are the associate nations, the minnows which entertained us so warmly at the last World Cup and who are set to be thrown back into the pond from which they fought so hard to escape when the 2019 World Cup comes along. Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland, Netherlands, even the United Arab Emirates.
The credibility of cricket’s administration at the highest level can best be summed up by the conduct of Narayanaswami Srinivasan and England’s Giles Clarke, both of whom created new, previously nonexistent board positions in order to retain power for themselves at the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the England and Wales Cricket Board respectively. When their time was up, they clung to power by whatever means they could. For personal gain.
Oh yes, and then there’s the ICC’s Future Tours Programme (FTP) which used to give us a semblance of order to the wildly differing bilateral tours. Theoretically, each nation played each other home and away in a four-year cycle. Except England never played Zimbabwe anywhere, and India never went to Bangladesh. But we could pretend. Now, the FTP really is a random mishmash of games.
So imagine this: Four administrators, half a dozen coaching and backroom staff and a squad of 16 players from each country with at least one dedicated venue each. There is more than enough money in the pot to lure some big names and the opportunity will be too tempting for some talented youngsters to ignore.
It would be a league in every sense of the word, a Test match and two or three T20s in each country, home and away. Just like with every other proper league in every other sport, you’d be able to see how many points each team had and look forward to fixtures coming up.
Oh, and the governing body would be democratically elected and represent each nation fairly while, obviously, conceding that the league is driven by the broadcaster, just as Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket was in 1977.
I’d watch. Would you?