The MCC World Cricket committee met at Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th January to discuss a number of topics ranging from the future of Test Cricket to the MCC Laws of Cricket.
It was the first meeting attended by Shakib Al Hasan, Suzie Bates and Kumar Dharmasena, who joined the committee earlier this year while Mike Gatting, chairing his first meeting, thanked David Peever, Chairman of Cricket Australia, and Kevin Roberts, Executive General Manager of Cricket Australia, for addressing the committee during the meeting.
The key outcomes from the meeting were:
• Rewarding players properly is vital to the future of Test Match cricket
• Test Championship key to help safeguard the future of Test cricket
• BCCI strongly urged to support cricket in the Olympics
• Player associations should become more involved in reporting of corruption
• Women's cricket must seize momentum following successful World Cup
• Better educational materials needed to highlight dangers of concussion
• World Test Championship requires standardisation of DRS technology
• MCC to review overseas tours strategy to maximise support for developing nations
• Suspending play in extreme heat is within the Laws
Rewarding players properly is vital to the future of Test Match cricket
The committee discussed how a proper wage structure, together with the provision of more longer-term national central contracts, would entice more players to commit to international cricket, rather than opting out to play in domestic T20 leagues. There is concern that players in the poorer or developing nations are not being paid sufficiently, and there needs to be transparency and accountability of where ICC funds are being spent by some member boards.
Shakib Al Hasan, the first player from Bangladesh to sit on the group, and who was attending his first meeting, addressed the World Cricket committee by giving his view on a range of issues affecting the modern player. Shakib’s experiences contrasted with those of Jonny Bairstow, who spoke to the committee at the July 2017 meeting, and highlighted that the choices facing a modern professional vary greatly from country to country.
Shakib described how his greatest honour is representing his country, but the financial incentives do not match those available in global domestic T20 tournaments. He was concerned that many younger players, who don’t share his view of wishing to play Test cricket for a long period, will prefer the shorter format of the game that is more readily available and offers more financial security than playing longer-form cricket. It is a hard choice for players in some countries to make, and the committee feels it has created an imbalance in the international game.
Test Championship important but market research needed to safeguard the future of Tests
The World Cricket committee believes the upcoming World Test Championship is the key event to help safeguard the future of Test cricket, with other measures recommended for the continued success of the longest form of the game.
The committee, however, feels the public isn’t consulted enough as to what they would like to see from Test cricket, to encourage future generations through the door. If Test cricket is to survive and flourish, it needs to adapt to what the fans want. The committee therefore asks ICC and its Members Boards to conduct a significant global market research exercise to try to understand better customers’ expectations for Test cricket.
The majority of committee members were in favour of Tests being played simultaneously towards the end of the cycle of World Test Championship matches to maximise interest, whilst the committee also believes that Test Matches should still be of a five-day duration, despite the recent four-day match between South Africa and Zimbabwe being given full Test status by the ICC.
Global domestic T20 leagues are seen as the biggest threat to Test cricket; it is believed, however, that offering better pay would go some way to ensuring the future of Tests for the poorer Test nations, with the best players competing against each other.
BCCI strongly urged to support cricket in the Olympics
The World Cricket committee believes that the game’s application to become an Olympic sport is gathering momentum and that the only remaining barrier is India’s reluctance to proceed. The committee has long been a supporter of Twenty20 cricket being included in the Olympic Games, believing it the single biggest step the game could take to unlock worldwide government funding and aid its global development.
For men’s and women’s cricket to thrive in future generations, new countries must be introduced to the sport; playing cricket in the Olympics is the best way to achieve this objective. With plans for the 2024 Paris Games well advanced, the committee urges India to unite with the rest of the world game and lobby the International Olympic Committee for the inclusion of Twenty20 cricket in the Olympic Games, ideally in Paris but if not at Los Angeles in 2028.
Player associations should play increased part in fight against corruption in cricket
The World Cricket committee believes that player associations have an important part to play in helping to fight corruption in the game. At present, there is no mechanism to report corruption to a player association or a trusted third party, who would in turn report the approach to the ICC’s Anti-Corruption & Security Unit, therefore protecting the anonymity of the player. Having heard from a number of international players on the subject, the committee understands that some players may be reluctant to come forward due to the concern about their protection of anonymity. The committee feels that a player association that protects anonymity would see far more players coming forward as a result.
An alteration to the education process for professional players is also required, with the practice of players educating players believed to be the most impactful method of building awareness, trust and acceptance, and helping to augment the work carried out by anti-corruption personnel. The committee feels better results would be achieved if the message has been delivered by players with personal experience.
Furthermore, the committee believes more needs to be done to improve the education of young players on corruption in cricket. Programmes to prevent corruption should begin well before a player makes it to Academy or professional level, potentially starting at the Under-13 age bracket. Education programmes, such as e-learning platforms, would need to be tweaked to ensure ease of access and understanding for these younger players.
ICC Full Members must seize the initiative in Women’s cricket
The World Cricket committee praised the ICC on the delivery of such a successful Women’s World Cup in 2017, which culminated in a thrilling final where the hosts England defeated India at Lord’s, in front of the largest crowd ever for a women’s World Cup match of 25,012 spectators.
New Zealand women’s captain Suzie Bates attended her first MCC World Cricket committee meeting and led discussions on the impact and legacy of the ICC Women’s World Cup and what women’s cricket needs to thrive.
The committee believes that crucial to the development of the women’s game is that the momentum which it has enjoyed over the past twelve months is not lost, and that more women and girls are inspired and encouraged to take up the sport around the world.
More than 180 million people across the globe are estimated to have watched the tournament and there was almost a 300% increase in viewing hours in comparison to the last tournament in 2013.
The ICC’s decision to ensure that every match was available for viewing either on television or via live-streaming as part of its commitment to the global growth of the women’s game appears to have paid dividends and the committee encourages each ICC Full Member to ensure it invests in the development of women’s and girl’s cricket.
Suzie explained how the streaming of all Women’s Big Bash games in Australia and Kia Super League matches in England has become really important as fans can now follow their teams and players when matches are not being televised. Of equal importance is to ensure that cricketing authorities and each venue is set up to create the right spectacle – with good pace in the pitch being crucial.
The committee is concerned, however, about the danger of the rich getting richer and the other countries not being able to keep up. Some form of minimum wage and payment structure should therefore be introduced to help close the gap and the present imbalance in international cricket. For women’s cricket to be really successful, the game needs at least eight nations to compete – with only six realistically challenging for honours at present.
The committee would also like to see a window created in the international cricket structure for the Big Bash and Kia Super League to ensure that the best players play in it. At present there is some international cricket scheduled during the Women’s Big Bash, which prevents some of the game’s best cricketers from playing in the tournament.
Better educational materials on concussion required; Laws under review
The committee discussed concussion, which is a very serious issue for the sport and a medical condition that cannot be self-diagnosed. The committee encouraged MCC to increase its educational materials on this subject for players and umpires, through adaption of the Laws of Cricket e-learning platform, which is free to access for all.
The Laws currently allow for a replacement player with the opposition captain’s consent but this is not always practical at all levels; there is a requirement to balance player-welfare with the integrity and traditions of the game. A player must not feel obliged to continue playing because otherwise it will leave his/her team a player short. On the other hand, allowing replacements brings logistical and practical concerns, including having too many players sitting idle, as well as potentially opening loopholes that could be exploited.
MCC will continue to monitor trials (e.g. the England & Wales Cricket Board’s recently announced decision to trial concussion replacements) in the professional game in 2018 and intends to review the specific Law (2.7) at the conclusion of this process.
In addition, the committee recommends that helmets – with stem guards – should be mandatory in all professional cricket. At present, not all countries ensure that their players wear helmets when batting and the committee feels that this should now be implemented across the board in the professional game. Furthermore, every international team should take a fully trained medic with their team to perform in-ground assessments of players who have been struck on the head during a match.
World Test Championship requires standardisation of DRS technology
With a World Test Championship being introduced in 2019, the committee recommends that ICC standardise the use of DRS technology for all matches in the competition. Currently, not all international Test series are played with DRS, and some contests only use certain elements of the technology, such as ball-tracking, but may lack other elements, like Hotspot.
ICC’s World Test Championship should be played under the same regulations regardless of which teams are taking part in the matches and where in the world they take place, to ensure a level playing field and consistency of application throughout the competition; the ICC should be prepared to fund the system, possibly through a global sponsor, to assist host countries that cannot at present afford to pay for the required technology.
Zimbabwe and Nepal to form part of MCC review of overseas development strategy
Following the success of its fledgling work to help talented young cricketers from Pakistan, MCC will now embark on a review of its overseas tour strategy to focus on visiting, on a repeat basis, countries where the Club can have the most impact with regard to player, coaching and facilities development.
Countries such as Zimbabwe, Nepal and Germany are believed to present ideal developmental opportunities and could benefit most from the Club’s overseas work. MCC will now review its strategy and will work with the ICC to identify where it can best help the world game. The Club will also work with the Foreign Office and the ECB to seek specific advice on touring Zimbabwe.
The committee praised the initial work that MCC has done with young cricketers from Pakistan who have suffered from a lack of international cricket being played in the country, and encouraged the Club to work with the Pakistan Cricket Academy to aid the development of more players. This follows the work carried out with Lahore Qalandars in 2017, where MCC gave an opportunity to Yasir Jan, an ambidextrous bowler, to train with MCC Young Cricketers and benefit from the world class facilities at Lord’s, assisting with both his cricketing and personal development.
Suspending play in extreme heat is within the Laws
The MCC World Cricket committee confirmed that, in extreme heat, it would be within the Laws of Cricket for the umpires to suspend play. Law 2.7.1 empowers the umpires to suspend play if conditions are unreasonable or dangerous. Having consulted with MCC’s Laws sub-committee, it was agreed that extremes of temperature do come within the remit of this Law and it would be up to the umpires, taking all factors into consideration, to decide whether it is appropriate to suspend play.
It was noted that Cricket Australia already has extreme heat guidelines in place, which uses the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index to measure the discomfort level based on heat, humidity, wind and sunshine. Such an index could be used by other bodies, including ICC, to protect players, officials and fans in extreme temperatures.
The next meeting of the MCC World Cricket Committee will take place at Lord's in August 2018.