ICC in no mood to see

The governing body is only worried about the bottomline, says the former Australian captain

Ian Chappell has never believed in pulling his punches. He took over as Australia’s captain from Bill Lawry in 1971 when Australian cricket was on a downswing, and made sure that in four years, the side didn’t lose a single series.

forthright The proliferation of T20 leagues could spell doom for Test cricket, says Chappell.

He played a key role in the fructification of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, and has since graduated into a wonderfully insightful commentator and columnist who always speaks his mind, and doesn’t sit on the fence.

In this chat with Deccan Herald, the 68-year-old, who is on the jury for the Espncricinfo awards, makes his disdain for the International Cricket Council all too clear even as he suggests that Test cricket should be restricted, for now, to just eight nations. Excerpts:

How do you see the state of world cricket as it exists?

 As far as Test cricket is concerned, we are getting to see more competitive games. The top four teams — make it the top five, you will have to add Pakistan to that list — are all pretty even, there is not much to choose between them. But the concern that I have got is with the people who are running cricket. The ICC are only half running the game, international cricket is on the verge of becoming a runaway train. I don’t see any grand plan to take the three forms of the game ahead so that they work hand in hand. The primary focus has to be Test cricket, but I don’t see that happening. You need to fix up the ICC for the game to be strong. I don’t think the world body is constituted to run the game in the 21st century. To me, the ICC is like a 19th century body running into the 20th. How it can then administer the game in the 21st century, I don’t know. It just can’t work the way it is. Until they fix this, I not sure things will improve dramatically.

Does the proliferation of Twenty20 leagues across the world worry you?

 That’s the issue – these T20 leagues are popping up everywhere. Eventually, it all impinges on the scheduling. The scheduling is another thing that is a big mess. I don’t see how we can fit it all in. The success of all these leagues depends on the presence of star players, but there are only so many star players, there aren’t many of them around. Do we want a situation where all the major players are retiring from Test cricket to play only T20 cricket? I don’t think so. The problem is that we don’t have one body running the whole game. We have the ICC, and then there are all the major nations who are pulling their weight, which again is not conducive to having a sensible scheduling. Cricket administrators seem to be only interested in one thing, that’s what the bottom line is and I don’t need to spell out exactly what that interest is. There doesn’t seem to be much thought given to running the game.

Would you advocate a two-tier Test structure with promotion and relegation?

 I think there should only be eight major nations playing Test cricket. Bangladesh should never have been brought in, they are just not good enough. Having them playing Test cricket is diluting Test cricket. I think the eight main teams should play Test matches, and other nations should play the longer format without the label of Test cricket. Once they play each other for a period of time, it gives you a better idea of when and whether they are ready to play the major eight in Test matches. But I am convinced that having Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in the Test match frame is not good for the game.

India went to England as number one and lost 0-4. England, the current number one, were beaten 3-0 by Pakistan in the UAE. Are teams struggling to perform out of their comfort zones?

I guess that’s something we will get to find out in due course. At least now, Test cricket is competitive. It was not good for cricket when the West Indies dominated for nearly 15 years from the 80s, and when Australia dominated the game for nearly as long after that. It’s always nice if the teams are reasonably tightly bunched. There are a whole lot of reasons why India failed in England and Australia. Part of it, in my opinion, is short-sighted selection. There is a tendency among the teams — I think with the teams being flawed, they are not so good out of their comfort zones. If you have flaws, then there is every chance that sooner rather than later, those flaws will be found out and you will stand exposed.

Given the structure of the DRS, is it fair to say that the benefit of the doubt is now going to the umpires?

 I don’t like the DRS as it is today. To start with, the decision to review a decision must be in the hands of the umpires and not the players. And yes, it is correct to say that with the DRS as it is constituted today, the benefit of the doubt that the batsman used to enjoy has certainly lessened. But I don’t think the DRS is doing what the ICC thought it was going to do when it envisioned the Decision Review System. There have been so many problems with the system, as we have all seen. I think it needs to be addressed.

What are the chances, do you think, of corruption being weeded out of cricket?

 Not much, not the way they (the ICC) are going about it. There is not a chance in hell of tidying it up! To me, it is the most important thing. Why would anyone come and watch a game of cricket if he is not sure? We have to make sure that the fans don’t get disillusioned.

As a juror, if you had to pick between Sehwag’s 219 (the highest one-day score) and Dhoni’s 91 not out in the World Cup final…

 Generally, when I am looking at it, I try to favour performances that have played a part in winning a game. That is the most important thing. Obviously, there is a bit of judgement involved. In some cases I have seen the performances, some others I haven’t seen.

You generally tend to come down on the ones that you have seen as opposed to the ones you have just read about. As for Sehwag versus Dhoni, I would think the captain, because his knock came in the World Cup final, in a winning cause. Saying that, I don’t think players set out to win awards. The main focus when you are playing is on trying to win games for the team. Once they retire and sit back, then they can reflect on the awards and enjoy them.

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