Have we sold our souls for thirty pieces of silver?

HARARE - The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Saturday passed a wide-ranging and controversial shake-up of its structure despite dissenting voices protesting that the revamp gives too much power to the "Big Three" of India, England and Australia.

Zimbabwe, despite widespread local objection, backed the proposal, despite it potentially threatening the country’s Test position in the next few years.

Critics of the radical reforms say they hamper globalisation of the game and hinder the growth of the game beyond the non-traditional playing nations.

The powerful and cash-rich Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), the biggest proponent of the reforms, however, believe the sweeping reforms will bring greater transparency and accountability to world cricket’s governing body.

Despite disapproval from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa, the controversial proposal was passed at the Executive Board meeting in Singapore after gaining the support of eight of the ICC's 10 full members, including Zimbabwe.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan, who opposed the plan, abstained from the meeting.

The key elements of the resolution are the establishment of an Executive Committee (ExCo) and Financial and Commercial Affairs Committee (F&CA) to provide leadership at an operational level, with five members, including BCCI, Cricket Australia and England and Wales Cricket Board representatives.

It is widely believed that Zimbabwe’s support for the proposal was for financial reasons. But there could be a downside to it. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh risk dropping into the second-tier of international cricket.

Under the new setup, ICC will introduce a new promotion and relegation system for Test cricket, which will result in Associate nations Afghanistan, the Netherlands play in play-offs with Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the lowly ranked Test nations.

Former Zimbabwe Sports minister David Coltart slammed the new structure in a blog before Saturday’s decision.

“I am very concerned about what is happening in the ICC and the vote which will take place tomorrow in Singapore which may affect the future of Zimbabwe Cricket. The Big Three (finance wise that is) in world cricket India, Australia and England have proposed a new system of governance of the ICC which will give those Boards immense power,” wrote Coltart.

“Is Zimbabwe going to side with India out of fear? Has perhaps India offered to help our Board with money to pay its players – ie short term gain for long term subservience to India? In the interests of transparency our Board has a duty to state its position. Are we going to allow 30 pieces of silver to betray our cricketing future simply because this administration has got into such a financial mess? It may be that my fears for Zimbabwe Cricket are entirely misplaced. If that is the case then the Zimbabwe Cricket Board have a duty to explain to the cricket loving public of Zimbabwe what their stance is and why that stance is in the long term best interests of Zimbabwe Cricket.”

Former England captain Geoff Boycott, the outspoken commentator, said Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have “hasten their own death knells” by backing the reforms.

“How ridiculous and arrogant it is,” Boycott said in a recent interview.

“It reminds me of George Orwell’s book Animal Farm. He said, ‘everybody is equal, but some are more equal than the others’, and that’s what it’s going to be at this meeting. You’ve got Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, who’ll be totally dependent on India for television. They may vote to support India out of fear that India won’t tour their countries, so denying them huge television revenue, and there will be other countries with no money as well, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, they may be frightened too that India won’t tour their countries or they’ll just pull out like they did with South Africa recently. If these countries are weak and side with India out of fear, then they’re misguided and hastening their own death knell.”

Zimbabwe Cricket have not issued an official statement on why they supported the reforms.

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