Global game set for major shake-up as ICC backs 'principles'
South Africa later cast doubt on their initial support, as governing body scraps proposal to protect 'Big Three' from any two-tier test relegation system
World cricket was set for a major shake-up after the International Cricket Council (ICC) gave "unanimous support" for "principles" to change its structure and governance.
However, no sooner had the ICC presented a united front following the first of a two-day board meeting at its Dubai headquarters on Tuesday, than South Africa broke ranks.
Prior to the meeting, Cricket South Africa had opposed leaked draft proposals designed to give the sport's most financially powerful "Big Three" nations of India, England and Australia a greater say in the running of the world game.
And after Tuesday's talks concluded, CSA president Chris Nenzani said their backing in Dubai would need endorsement from his own board.
"Our position will be subject to full consideration by our board and other stakeholders," he said.
But the section of the leaked plan that arguably provoked the greatest criticism, namely the "Big Three" being spared relegation in any new two-division test set-up because of their commercial importance, was rejected by the ICC.
It even indicated the likes of Ireland might join the existing 10 test nations, but without giving any concrete details.
"There will be an opportunity for all members to play all formats of cricket on merit, with participation based on meritocracy; no immunity to any country, and no change to membership status," the ICC said.
The statement was clear, though, in signalling the end of the proposed World Test Championship.
Its delayed launch was supposed to happen in England in 2017.
It has been replaced by the reprieved one-day Champions Trophy, a more commercial and broadcast-friendly proposition. The "mini World Cup" was spared after a successful "final" edition in England last year.
Plans to bolster the position of the "Big Three" within the ICC include the formation of a new five-man executive committee, with three seats reserved for representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia.
Meanwhile, the ICC board agreed to discontinue the centralised Future Tours Programme, designed to ensure the 10 leading countries hosted and toured one another during an eight-year span.
Instead there will be a return to bilateral agreements between test-playing nations. These will run from 2015 to 2023 in common with the ICC's next commercial rights cycle.
And in a change to the leaked plan, South Africa were included as recipients in a "Test Cricket fund", which will now be distributed by the "Big Three" to all the other seven leading nations, where the five-day game often struggles for support.