Saudi Arabia makes significant inroads into the packed schedule of cricket

The International Cricket Council (ICC) moved its headquarters from Lords to this location in 2005. The choice of location and timing to coincide with a franchise league may serve as a metaphor for the game’s development over the past two decades.

It might essentially have been a mark of comfort, given the geological dispersal of the board. The chair and two other members are British. There are two Sri Lankans, one from each of the West Indies, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, and South Africa. The committee, which includes eight former successful international cricketers who have all captained their nation, has two women and two umpires. The committee’s mission is to discuss and offer advice on current game-related issues.

It is understood that the majority of the meeting in Dubai was devoted to discussing the game’s future. The ICC’s Future Visits Program (FTP) for two-sided cricket is right now on a four-year cycle somewhere in the range of 2023 and 2027. The committee’s efforts to consider what the game’s landscape might be like in ten years if it continued to develop naturally are welcome. Publicly at least, there appears to be a lack of game analysis and blue sky thinking. At the same time, there is a lot of room for error when making predictions.

Therefore, the committee relied on an analysis of the obvious, namely that the men’s game is “saturated with franchise competitions” beginning in 2023. None of them will vanish in a hurry because of the large amounts of money invested in them, particularly by Indian corporate funds. Going against the norm, others might arise. The current FTP has been seamlessly integrated with the previous ones. They also consider potential dates for ICC T20 and ODI World Cup competitions up to and including 2031, as well as known host nations.

Five of the nine years have a gap in October/November, with the exception of 2023, 2027, 2028, and 2031, according to these dates and locations. As long as a workaround was possible for the years of exception, there would be room for another franchise competition in those months in a country with the necessary infrastructure and climate. A few conflicts with Test cricket series would be inescapable, however an underlying investigation demonstrates restricted cross-over.

The World Cricket Committee expressed concern regarding how to safeguard international cricket in the face of short-form franchise cricket. It came to the same conclusion: the game is at a crossroads. As a result, it suggested that “various leaders intervene to ensure that international and franchise cricket could thrive harmoniously” This sounds like a heartfelt scream.

Which “leaders” are being cited as examples? The ICC, where the meeting took place and to which the WCC contributes as a complement? Who is funding the individual national cricket boards or franchises? It is unclear whether the International Cricket Council (ICC) has the authority to prevent a nation from establishing its own franchise league if it so chooses.

However, there are significant barriers to entry in terms of funding, facilities, the capacity to attract media coverage, and players, who, if centrally contracted, must obtain the approval of their national boards.

In the past, cricket has demonstrated its capacity as a vehicle for renegade breakaway action, as demonstrated by Kerry Packer’s World Series in 1977. Franchise cricket, which is played within existing structures and is largely and increasingly funded by Indian interests, is the current revolution, at least in India, South Africa, the UAE, the Caribbean, and the United States. This is a dominant regime that wants to grow even more.

Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and, up until this point, Britain/Ribs have their different subsidizing plans, yet not even close to the degrees of Indian speculation.

Is it possible that this dominance will be challenged by another force? A number of print media outlets reported last week that the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) had held discussions with the Indian Premier League (IPL) and its franchise owners and was actively planning a T20 franchise tournament. Arab News reported on Saturday that the chairman of the SACF is clear that the Kingdom’s cricket development will be open, transparent, and measured. Particularly, additional facilities and infrastructure are required.

The issue of players and their availability follows. The contracted players of the Indian cricket team are prohibited from participating in franchise tournaments held in other nations by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Pakistani players in all actuality do take part in the IPL or, up until this point, in Indian establishment groups. Competitions without these high-profile cricketers will battle to draw in the consideration of their particular diaspora. These restrictions need to be relaxed in franchise cricket.

Through the Saudi Tourist Authority’s partnership with the Tata IPL 2023 and one of Pakistan’s most famous former cricketers, Wasim Akram, cricket links have been established between Saudi Arabia and India. After his visit in February and conversations with the administrator of the SACF, Akram said that he was anticipating the evolvement of cricket associations in the country.

In the interim, the Saudi men’s group is gaining ground. It will play Malaysia in its first Asia Premier Cup match on April 20. Malaysia lost to Nepal in the opening match with ease. In the first two days, Hong Kong defeated Singapore easily, the United Arab Emirates defeated Kuwait, and Oman defeated Qatar more difficultly. The Saudi team’s performance against Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, and Qatar in the group stage will be the next metric used to evaluate its progress.

Saudi Arabia’s influence and presence in the cricket world are already being felt and are expected to grow regardless of the outcome. Some individuals may have found the unknown growth rate to be unsettling.

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