A four-nation limited-overs tournament comprising India, England, Australia and one other invited nation has been proposed by the BCCI in part as a way of defying the ICC’s prohibition of bilateral tournaments comprising any more than three teams in current and future Members Participation Agreements (MPA). The Super Series – as announced by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly over the weekend – is proposed to be rotated annually between the boards of cricket’s three major financial powers, starting 2021, and span two weeks.
As players and officials around the world reacted to the Super Series proposal, Ganguly toned down his language by telling the Times of India that “nothing is confirmed yet” and “nothing is concrete”.
However, ESPNcricinfo has learned that, as was the case in the lead-up to the Big Three breakaway move by the BCCI, ECB and Cricket Australia in 2014, a central issue is the terms under which India will be prepared to sign the MPA. Back then, the issue was primarily a larger slice of ICC tournament revenue for the BCCI, and the resultant reshaping of the global scene saw millions of dollars pushed back India’s way, a scenario that remained even after many of the reforms were rolled back after 2015.
Nevertheless, Ganguly stated even before he was formally installed as BCCI president that one of his agenda items would be to increase India’s share of global cricket revenue, an uncannily similar ticket on which N Srinivasan vaulted to the top of world cricket’s hierarchy before he was sidelined as a result of the IPL corruption scandal. Srinivasan is now back in circulation as a senior figure behind many of the recent machinations.
This time around, the four-nation bilateral series concept has risen in direct opposition to the idea floated by the ICC’s chief executive Manu Sawhney of two “Champions Trophy-style” ODI events in the next tournament cycle to begin in 2023. This would be geared at providing a global event in each calendar year and thereby allow greater and more consistent flows of ICC revenue to nations other than India, England and Australia, all of whom are increasingly reliant on this central funding for their operations.
Linked to this is the intention for the MPA to limit the types of tournaments that member boards can stage, in order to raise the value of ICC broadcast rights as the global governing body would be the only source of events that collected all of the game’s most attractive teams and players at once for international tournaments.
At the same time, this would serve to raise bilateral revenue for all nations via league structures for Test matches and ODIs that require all nations to at least maintain some pretence of playing each other an equitable amount, rather than the rich nations simply playing off against one another every year or two. Asked recently whether there was any danger of India, England or Australia not signing the MPA as a result of their reservations about an extra ICC event, CA chairman Earl Eddings had said he hoped such a scenario could be avoided.
“We’re a long way off – this is post 2023 so we’ve got a number of years to work through it, but you can’t do one thing without the other,” he told ESPNcricinfo earlier this month. “To be able to work on your Future Tours Programme, you need to know where that fits in with an ICC schedule, so you can’t just look at an ICC schedule in isolation, just as you can’t look at a bilateral or Future Tours Programme in isolation.”
There has been some anxiety among member nations about the direction of the ICC, pushing aggressively for an increase in global events revenue, since Sawhney took over from David Richardson at the end of this year’s ODI World Cup in England, and Eddings and chief executive Kevin Roberts recently met with Sawhney in Melbourne to discuss the issues of the moment. Eddings and Roberts are due to travel to India to meet Ganguly and the new BCCI administration in Mumbai in January around Australia’s first of three ODIs against India.
The ECB confirmed its leaders recently met Ganguly and other BCCI office bearers, during which time the concept of the four-nation event was discussed. “We meet regularly with other leaders from the major cricketing nations to share learnings and discuss topics that impact our sport,” the ECB said in a statement. “A four-nation tournament was raised at a meeting with the BCCI in December and we are open to discussions with other ICC members to see if this concept can develop.”
CA has been tight-lipped about the proposal, with some conjecture as to how much of it has yet been shared with the governing body by the BCCI. Australia’s coach Justin Langer admitted that the tightness of the current schedule made any attempts to slot in extra tournaments extremely problematic.
“We all understand the schedule in world cricket is really tight,” Langer said. “So I am sure there will be lots of negotiation and there are people, that’s their role to negotiate and get that right. But we all know it is a tight schedule.”
Struggles for other ICC member nations have been underlined by the fact that New Zealand’s board has returned a financial loss each of the past three years, while Ireland have recently been forced to cancel a host of matches due to a lack of funds. This after the leaders of the Big Three proposals of 2014 had promised to make all nations better off.