India is in the middle of what is a marquee 5-match Test series for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Already, there is anticipation about how England will do in their 5-Test Ashes series against old rivals Australia later on in the year. Yet New Zealand, the winners of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) get just a 2-Test series in India. Call it an unequal world? That’s the WTC for you.
“Over here (in England) we look for a significant diet of Test cricket through our summers. I don’t think that can be the same everywhere,” ECB CEO Tom Harrison said over a Zoom conference. “The sense of occasion works in certain markets…rather than playing it (just) because we have to play certain number of matches in the WTC.”
Harrison spoke of the primacy of Tests in cricket but also justified the unequal distribution of matches in the WTC cycle. That’s so far as playing disparity goes. What about the clout richer cricket boards enjoy at the International Cricket Council (ICC) because they pump in more money?
“I believe for ICC as a global governing body, there are some realities that face the world, certainly around India’s influence. (Their) economic strength in the game is unlike any other major sport. That’s a fundamental reality,” Harrison said. “But again, ICC’s responsibilities are to all its members. It’s really important that we get that right and that we are able to continue to grow cricket. This is where the definition of fairness and equality can be argued. But I do believe ICC has responsibility to all its members.”
An indicator of Indian cricket board’s economic strength is the IPL, cricket’s most cash-rich tournament. The rescheduled IPL will resume in September and although it will finish days before the T20 World Cup, all cricket boards will release most of their players for the T20 league. The ECB, in fact, announced the postponement of their limited overs series against Bangladesh so players can participate in the IPL.
“It was a joint decision with the Bangladesh cricket board. That will potentially open up opportunities for some of our players to play the IPL,” Harrison said.
While Harrison said that player availability calls will be taken “on a case-to-case basis with the busy winter on the back of a busy summer”, captain Eoin Morgan has already said he will be leading IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders.