Cricket has undergone many changes in the last decade; you could even say in the last 20 years. Some of the changes include the emergence of Asian teams as a major force at the international level, the introduction of Twenty20 as the shortest format of cricket, as well as the shifting of the ICC Headquarters from the home of cricket in London to Dubai.
If you consider these changes related, you can see how cricket has started to get influenced by money and commercialization. Not that commercialization of the game is bad. More money invested in cricket is always great, both for players, who earn their living from it, as well as the spectators and fans who watch the game on HD channels or cozy, comfortable seats in the stadium. But when the money starts to dictate where the game is heading and how it's being played, surely cricket administrators and fans alike need to shake their heads and think about it.
The ICC shifted its headquarters to tax-free Dubai in August 2005 from London, a symbolic change indicating that the game's headquarters were now moving towards the commercial capital of the game, away from its home-ground. Twenty20 cricket too, started in the same period. A three-hour game, full of twists and action, aimed to attract young fans to the game.
As far as the influence of money was concerned till then, it was hardly being felt. Taking an expansionist policy in order to make the game global, it was announced that the 2007 World Cup would be contested by 16 teams, the largest for a Cricket World Cup. However, it turned out to be a nightmare for the ICC. India and Pakistan were knocked out in the group stages itself. Despite the emergence of developing teams such as Ireland and Bangladesh, the World Cup was a commercial loss for the ICC. This was the first time cricket started to feel the effect of money on the game.
The ICC was desperately in need of money. A World T20 was organised in haste the same year. The format (Twenty20) and the teams in the final (India and Pakistan) ensured the tournament was a commercial hit. The ICC was happy, partners were happy, fans were happy. That was the start of the period when cricket started to follow a commercial approach.
The great heads at the top levels of cricket started to discuss how to make World Cups a financial success. The idea of expansion was dropped. A format was devised where money generating teams such as India, Australia, Pakistan or England would not be eliminated at an early stage. 14 teams next World Cup, 2 groups. 6 games minimum for each team, enough to ensure money wasn't a problem. Yeah, good enough, money needs to be taken care of.
More announcements: 10 teams for 2015 World Cup. A tournament reserved for the full-members. A normal house party for the insiders, perhaps? The cricket world underwent a storm. 10 teams for a "World Cup"? What was the ICC thinking? Ireland launched a worldwide campaign against the decision, seeking help from their government as well as from International courts. The fight had a happy ending: the ICC was taken aback with such opposition and the 2011 format was restored for the 2015 World Cup.
Everything isn't over yet. The 2019 World Cup still remains a 10 team event, where 2 non-full members may get a chance to participate. Maybe.
The changes in 2014 at the top level of cricket have been more concerning. India, Australia and England have taken charge of a larger share of world cricket. The so called Big Three were initially opposed by some of the full members, including South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Anyway, the opposition already knew where the money comes from, so going against the Big Three was difficult. No one would risk being cut off from the money, would they? As of now, most of the incoming money in the ICC is directed towards these three countries, and other full members and associate members get a far smaller share of the pie.
According to ICC's new policy, teams like Bangladesh could earn next to nothing as "Contribution" fees from the current revenue levels of $1.5 billion. If the revenue during the next cycle increases, the BCCI, the ECB and the CA stand to gain a much larger share from now (If revenue levels rise to $3.5 billion, the BCCI could earn more than $766 million). And there is no one to oppose them.
Other major changes effected by the game's commercialization include the scrapping of innovative and meaningful tournaments such as the ICC World Test Championship and the Champions League Twenty20. CLT20 was an innovative tournament where the top domestic teams from various countries competed. It was a perfect platform for cricketers to attract eyeballs and prove their mettle. However, the BCCI scrapped it, citing a "commercial failure".
Similarly, the ICC World Test Championship, which was to take place for the first time in 2017, was scrapped even before it could show its potential as a commercial product. Rather than promoting Test cricket and investing in cricket's future, the ICC chose to get better pay from the broadcasters and replaced the World Test Championship with yet another meaningless ODI thrash, another wanna-be World Cup which no-one really cares about. Maybe a single World Cup wasn't enough to fill their coffers.
As fans of cricket, is this the type of administration we really want? For how long will commercialization of the game hinder the game's development and global reach? Corruption and selfishness are increasing every day, and the time isn't far when a dark disillusionment will spread among the devotees of the game.
Maybe some fine day, a young man will come to lead the ICC top table and change the way this game is being controlled. Maybe the format of the World Cup will change. Maybe the new policies start to reflect a change in the ICC's attitude. Maybe expansion of the game takes the center stage.