New Zealand’s Greg Barclay became the new chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday over four months after Shashank Manohar stepped down. In the interim, ICC was headed by acting chairman Imran Khwaja.
Dispute over the election process added to the delay in getting a new chairman before Barclay, backed by India, Australia and England – the big three of cricket – beat Khwaja 11-5. To win, Barclay needed votes from two-thirds of the 16-member ICC board. The ICC board has 12 full Test nations – Barclay is the representative of New Zealand Cricket (NZC) on the board, a position he will now relinquish – three associate countries and one independent female director, Indra Nooyi, formerly CEO of PepsiCo. The 17th member, ICC CEO Manu Sawhney, does not have a vote.
Two rounds of voting were needed before Barclay, a commercial lawyer by training, was declared winner. In the first round last week, Barclay got 10 votes to Khwaja’s six necessitating a fresh round because neither candidate had won at least two-thirds or 11 votes. Khwaja, formerly of Singapore Cricket Association, would have been elevated to the chairman’s post had Barclay not found the 11th vote. That changed when embattled Cricket South Africa (CSA) pitched for Barclay.
Barclay, the second-ever head of ICC from New Zealand after Alan Isaac president from 2012-14, takes over in what is now called an independent post, but his actions could be influenced by what the boards of India, England and Australia want.
The primary agenda on the campaign trail was around identifying the right revenue sharing formula between the boards and ICC. Khwaja, backed by Pakistan Cricket Board, was pressing for an ICC event every year in the next Future Tours Program (2023-31), promising a more equitable share to all 12 Test nations and 92 associates.
The three powerful boards saw this eating into their bilateral series calendar and affecting their lucrative media rights deals. Their alternate view was: cricket continues to have more bilateral matches and away tours by India, Australia and England would help boards with less financial heft earn more than playing ICC events.
It may not be a coincidence that CSA announced a three-year media rights deal with Star India on Tuesday after being promised a 3-Test and 3 T20I tour by India in 2021-22 and 20 all-format bilateral matches during the contract period.
In an interview to ESPNCricinfo after his appointment, Barclay has said: “There is no big three to me, they’re just members of the ICC.” In the same interview, he said: “Bilateral cricket is the lifeblood of the game. If we were simply relying on world events then the game would be in dire straits.”
“I would need to say they (bilateral and global events) need to work in conjunction with each other, one can’t sit in isolation to the other. I am very conscious of the delicate ecosystem that cricket sits on,” he said in a video on ICC’s website.
NZC, of which Barclay has been a director since 2012, was one of the five member boards apart from Australia, England (ECB) and CSA to be invited to meet BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and his new team of office-bearers, last year. It was around then that Ganguly had floated idea of a four-nation Super Series to counter the new ICC event being planned. New Zealand is believed to be the fourth team apart from India, Australia and England.
It also suits the powerful BCCI to have a friendly chair at ICC to facilitate a clear window for its marquee property – IPL, which is readying for an expansion. BCCI also has issues to resolve with India’s government to provide tax-relief to ICC for staging events in India.
ECB is also set to start its own short-format league Hundred from next year. All of this would be factored in when ICC goes scouting for new broadcasters for the next rights cycle (2023-31).