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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Explained: What do expanded World Cups and an ICC event every year mean for cricket?

The downside is that cricket boards, especially smaller nations will struggle to eke out windows for bilateral series, which can negatively affect their internal revenue stream. Smaller nations will be more dependent on the ICC’s revenue share.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: June 3, 2021 7:34:57 am
Starting from 2024, the ICC T20 World Cup has been expanded to 20 teams, an addition of four extra sides. (File Photo)

On Tuesday, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the schedule of its events for the next rights cycle from 2024-2031, confirming the re-introduction of the Champions Trophy.

Eight men’s limited-overs tournaments would be played during this period, along with four World Test Championship (WTC) finals. Eight women’s events and as many tournaments in the U-19 category, men and women, too, have been lined up. The expansion ostensibly has an eye to new broadcast rights deals.

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What are the changes?

The 50-over World Cups in 2027 and 2031 will become a 14-team affair instead of 10. Also, starting from 2024, the ICC T20 World Cup has been expanded to 20 teams, an addition of four extra sides.

The ICC actually has stuck to its plan of having at least one premier limited-overs tournament every year during the next rights cycle. Also, re-introduction of the Champions Trophy with eight top teams plugs the gap in 2025 and 2029, when the ICC otherwise wouldn’t have any global event apart from the WTC finals. In the men’s category, the 2024-2031 cycle will have four T20 World Cups, two 50-over World Cups, two Champions Trophy tournaments and four WTC finals.

How is this related to the broadcast rights deal?

Star spent $1.98 billion to win the ICC broadcast rights for the ongoing cycle. It had forked out 80 per cent more than the previous cycle’s $1.1 billion. The current rights cycle comes to an end in 2023 and the global body will invite expression of interest for a new deal for the next eight-year cycle. The ongoing cycle has had 18 ICC tournaments plus a WTC final. The next cycle will have 24 tournaments – men, women and U-19 combined – plus four WTC finals. Obviously an increase in the number of matches and two extra elite 50-over events in the Champions Trophy will be the ICC’s currency, when it goes for a new broadcast rights deal. The global body has already launched a digital collectables expression of interest process to develop and launch “a digital collectables platform for cricket fans across the world”.

Why has the Champions Trophy been re-introduced?

The ICC disbanded the 2021 Champions Trophy and replaced it with a T20 World Cup. The thought process behind it was to showcase T20 cricket as the commercial driving-engine of the game. Also, the game’s governing body decided to do away with a tournament that has been pretty similar to the 50-over World Cup. The Champions Trophy’s re-introduction not only serves the ICC’s purpose of organising one premier limited-overs tournament every year, it also gives the global body extra negotiation muscle for the new broadcast rights deal, given the tournament’s blue-chip status. However, asked about the Champions Trophy’s re-introduction, an ICC spokesperson told this paper: “It worked as part of the event cycle.”

The BCCI has sentimental value attached to this tournament. Its former president, the late Jagmohan Dalmiya was the mastermind behind its introduction in 1998, as the ICC Knockout tournament. It is learnt that the BCCI under its present dispensation has agreed to the Champions Trophy’s re-introduction.

Why has the T20 World Cup been expanded to 20 teams?

Taking cricket to the Olympics is a priority for the ICC, with its Strategic Working Group (SWG) focussed on the globalisation of the game. At the moment, the ICC is targeting the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics and the T20 is the preferred format for the Games. The MCC’s World Cricket Committee has thrown its weight behind the ICC in this regard and the BCCI, too, is ready to back the initiative subject to “certain clarifications from the ICC”.
The expansion of the T20 World Cup has been done ostensibly with an eye to the 2028 Olympics.

What are the upside and downside of the changes?

Ahead of an apparently inconsequential three-match home ODI series against England in March, India captain Virat Kohli had spoken about the need for consulting players before finalising the cricket calendar.

“Scheduling and workload, everyone will have to be very aware of and keep an eye out for. You never know when restrictions can come in place. In future, we might have to play in bubbles so it’s very important to consider how much cricket we are playing,” he had said.

Through the qualification process for the global events, the changes will help offer context to bilateral limited-overs series. More teams in the 50-over World Cup and T20 World Cup will provide an opportunity to more Associate nations to compete at the highest level. A fatter broadcast rights deal for the next rights cycle will add more revenue to the ICC coffer and the Member boards in turn will get a larger slice of the pie. Also, a multi-nation ICC event every year will be a viewing bonanza for cricket fans all over the world.

The downside is that cricket boards, especially smaller nations will struggle to eke out windows for bilateral series, which can negatively affect their internal revenue stream. Smaller nations will be more dependent on the ICC’s revenue share. There will hardly be an off-season and every cricket board will have to create a larger pool of players to remain competitive. The Big Three – India, England and Australia – are expected to benefit from this, for they have more money and the leeway to delve into a larger talent pool.

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Will more ICC events help cut down corruption in cricket?

“The corrupters like T20s. They like the explosion of T20 tournaments,” the ICC’s General Manager-Anti-Corruption Alex Marshall had said during a media day event at the global body’s headquarters in Dubai back in 2018. Recently, as the ICC banned former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak for eight years for corruption, it revealed how a bookmaker, Mr X, targeted the Indian Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the Afghanistan Premier League by allegedly making Streak as an intermediary.

More ICC events on top of bilateral international series will cramp lesser T20 leagues for room. The IPL has a specific window. Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s upcoming The Hundred are likely to be unaffected. But the lesser T20 leagues, which according to Marshall, the corrupters like, might struggle to stay relevant.

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