Melbourne: Cricket Australia has defended the structural overhaul of the ICC which will cede executive decision-making to India, Australia and England in the face of sharp criticism from some other Boards and Federation of International Cricketers' Associations.
CA Chairman Wally Edwards, a key figure in the drafting of a proposal to centralise power at the hands of the 'Big Three', has broken his silence to defend the plan after FICA Executive Chairman Paul Marsh termed it as unconstitutional and detrimental to the interest of other countries.
Edwards, who normally prefers to work the back channels of cricket administration, said he felt compelled to respond to FICA's contention that the nations involved in drafting the proposal had defied their commitment to work in the best interests of the ICC by doing so.
"Traditionally, CA does not comment on ICC discussions it is about to have - we talk to other ICC nations across the table rather than via the media," Edwards said in a statement.
"But we were today disappointed to see the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations question whether CA and others have met their fiduciary duties as ICC members," he said.
"Setting aside the fact that we are yet to discuss and vote, CA's approach internationally is consistent with its approach at home where we have made significant strides improving the governance of Australian cricket. There will be a discussion in the next few days among the ICC's full member nations about possible changes to how the ICC works.
"CA's view going into that discussion is that we need to continue to promote international cricket competitions including the primacy of Test cricket, we need to improve global cricket leadership and we support that members should be working to promote the interest of the game as their priority."
Edwards is the first chairman of the three nations tabling the proposal to speak out publicly about it. Neither BCCI chief N Srinivasan nor ECB's Giles Clarke have talked about the proposal or its implications, preferring to wait until the raft of changes are voted on by the ICC executive board at their next meeting on January 28 and 29.
Interestingly, a media report here claimed that fears that India could break away from the ICC were behind CA's support for a controversial plan to shake up the world governing body.
"Australia are acting in a bid to keep India 'in the tent'. They say there is a genuine threat that India, which through its broadcast deals generates at least 70 per cent of the game's revenue, could quit the ICC if the present distribution model is not changed - a development that could bring the international game to its knees," a report in the Sydney Morning Herald said, citing sources.
As it stands, 75 per cent of ICC earnings are divided between the 10 full member countries equally and the remainder goes to associate members.
In the lead-up to negotiations for the next ICC commercial rights cycle - covering the period from 2015 to 2023 - India apparently wants to receive a share of the global game's money that reflects the proportion of revenue they generate.
Cricket South Africa has spoken out against the plan, calling for an immediate withdrawal of the "fundamentally flawed" proposal.
Meanwhile, FICA Executive Chairman Paul Marsh condemned the proposal, terming it unconstitutional and calling on the seven full members of the ICC not involved to vote down the proposals at the next ICC meeting.
The proposals would see a new executive committee formed by India, England and Australia that would decide most of the key issues in cricket, and a relegation system, from which they would be protected.
"The FICA board and our members are extremely concerned about the future of international cricket," Marsh said.
"This proposal is designed to vest control of the game in the three boards of India, Australia and England. It is not in the best interests of the global game and we have real fears that it will only serve to strengthen the 'big three' countries while the rest are left to wither on the vine."
A redistribution of ICC finances is central to the proposed reforms. A key element of the plan is for a new four-man executive committee in which CA, the BCCI and the ECB would all be guaranteed a place with the other position selected by them each year.
Those three bodies stand to receive a far greater portion of ICC revenue than they do under the present model, at the expense of other member and associate nations.
Other changes would include a two-tiered system for Test cricket in which Australia, India and England would be exempt from relegation and removal of control over scheduling from the ICC to allow countries to essentially pick and choose who they play.
"The proposals relating to scheduling are disturbing," Marsh said.
"The reassurance to the boards outside the 'big three' that they are guaranteed to earn more in the next rights cycle than they have in the current one ignores the fact they are almost certain to lose more money from a reshaped Future Tours Program than they will gain from ICC distributions, when the 'big three' inevitably pick and choose who, when and where they will play," he said.
"Of significance is the section that offers a guarantee from CA and ECB to play three Tests and five ODIs per cycle to each of the top eight members, yet there is no mention of any such guarantee from the BCCI. Each of the member countries, including Australia and England, rely heavily on Indian tours for sustainability of the game in their country," said Marsh.
"What chance do the majority of members have of survival if the BCCI decides not to tour their countries on at least a semi-regular basis?"
Marsh called on the other ICC members to reject the proposals. "The game deserves far better than this and all within FICA call on the other seven ICC board members to reject this proposal at next week's board meeting. The future of the game depends on them doing so," he said.
New Zealand Board member Martin Snedden reacted cautiously to the development. "Do we have power at the ICC table? Not a hell of a lot. Do we have an ability to influence and persuade? A little bit," he said.
"The critical thing we have to do is identify those things in the report that are most critical to us and try and ensure we secure the stability of a playing program and the stability of revenue that we need."
The proposals must have the support of seven of the 10 full member nations to get them passed.