SA ‘may be left with minnows’

2014-01-23 14:33
Tony Irish (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Unless a global power grab quest by the three wealthiest cricket nations is nipped in the bud, the Proteas may play very little Test cricket in future against any of India, Australia or England.

That is the fear expressed by Tony Irish, chief executive of the South African Cricketers’ Association, in an in-depth interview with Sport24 over current ructions in the world game.

*For a full version of the Q ‘n A, CLICK HERE.

VIDEO: Jonty Rhodes on ICC's 'big three'

He was responding to controversial proposals, to be put to the International Cricket Council executive board next week, to centralise power among overwhelming market-leaders India and the next two most powerful countries.

“There are one or two positive proposals in the paper (to be tabled), for example that there should be two-tier Test leagues.

“But then the other proposal around this detracts from the credibility and also demonstrates a lack of understanding of what sporting contest is actually about – South Africa could be left playing very little Test cricket against England, Australia and India (and) this affects the overall credibility of Test cricket.

“There is also a ludicrous part ... which suggests there will be a two-tier promotion/relegation Test system, but that England, India and Australia are immune from relegation, which makes a farce of it.

“These countries could finish sixth, seventh and eighth and this system, yet No 5 gets relegated. In the football Premiership in England, is there immunity against the drop for Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea? Of course not.”

Irish said South Africa’s players “care an awful lot” about international cricket, and Test cricket in particular, where they valued being No 1 in the world.

“The new plans could drastically affect who they play; they could be left to play just the minnows ... it’s pretty obvious they’d be very unhappy about the proposals.”

Warning that the rich nations would only get richer and the others even poorer, he said the big three were “definitely shooting themselves in the foot” by seeking the new dispensation.

“In the long term the value of the game and interest in it will decline: no one wants to see three countries playing each other over and over again. The fans will tire of that.

“The question comes back: is this about short-term gain or the long-term growth and sustainability of the game? The ICC has an obligation on the latter score.”

He said the game was already under pressure in South Africa financially.

“There is also the major threat of player free agency – players opting for the T20 circuit instead of their country because of the money involved. If you can’t pay players fairly you encourage free agency.

“Under the current model (the ICC Future Tours Programme, which would become endangered under the new proposal – Sport24) and its projections for the next four years, we would still be OK. But these new proposals create uncertainty.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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