Australia and England should be willing to play Ashes series of less than five tests and every three years instead of every two.
This is the view of FICA (Federation of International Cricketers Associations) Executive Chairman Heath Mills, who is lobbying the world games powers for a streamlined and fair future tour schedule from April 2023.
Mills, speaking from his home in Auckland on the latest Fox Cricket podcast, explained that all countries must make sacrifices for the good of the global game.
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The current future tour program will end in March 2023 and after that, the World Test Championship will be just one of many priorities the International Cricket Council (ICC) is trying to juggle.
T20 and T10 competitions loom for the money they generate through TV rights, as do traditional and lucrative test matches with Australia, India and England.
And even the oldest international series of The Ashes crickets should not be safe from change, according to the boss of the global players.
The biggest barrier to more structure in a program is those big five-game test runs and maybe we can compromise there, Mills said on the Fox Crickets Follow-On podcast.
We all know how important that is and we love The Ashes, but maybe that needs to be compromised and how often The Ashes is played. Maybe it might make it more attractive. They seem to have played it a lot over the past 20 years.
The idea that Australia could face England for the coveted urn in a series of three tests every three years would make traditionalists and administrators shudder. But Mills said it would streamline a broken system.
In addition, England will play a five-Test series at home against India later this year, confirming Mills’ concern that the three richest cricket nations above all take care of each other.
Everyone will have to give a little, he said.
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The peculiarities of the current World Test Championship have meant that some series simply don’t count towards the table.
The English tour of New Zealand at the end of 2019, which the tourists won 1-0, did not contribute to the global ladder, where the Kiwis are now at the top.
When asked if The Ashes could be played outside the realm of the World Test Championship to keep it at five Tests, Mills shook his head.
When boards can freely add cricket whenever they want, it gets confusing for everyone and doesn’t have the same meaning, he said.
I don’t think it’s good enough if the players involved don’t understand how the system works. What chance do the fans have? It needs work and it can get better. But it has shown more interest in the Test game over the past 12-18 months.
Mills urged the ICC to get all member boards in a room and lock the doors to solve the problems of the global game.
Scheduling issues, which he admits have been amplified by Covid-19, have been at the forefront of FICA’s work and have been there since the players’ union was founded in 1998.
Frankly, I think the ICC and the member boards should act and do something about it, he continued.
I don’t think we can continue to accept this idea that everyone is acting in their best interest and thinks this is a good outcome for the game. Because it is not so.
It might mean that the bigger boards can’t play each other as often as they would like, but there is a wider set of principles we can apply so that they play against everyone a certain number of times in a certain period, be that an eight or ten is -years?
It’s up to the ICC to show some leadership. A good starting point would be to get the key people in the room locked for maybe three or four days and see what they can come up with.
At the moment it seems that everyone is acting in isolation and protecting their own interests. If we’re really interested in the global game, that’s not the right approach.
In a revealing piece for The Australian, Gideon Haigh recently wrote that Australia is thin and not hitchhikers on the international stage.
Pressed on the idea of selfishness, Mills stopped picking Cricket Australia, although the men’s national team has not hosted a test tour for Bangladesh since 2003, has not toured the West Indies since 2015 (and has not planned a trip) and has recent series against Afghanistan, Bangladesh and South Africa have been postponed.
Instead, he focused his criticism on the ICC, which has new chairman Greg Barclay, who lives about 12 miles from Mills in Auckland and is on record admitting the World Test Championship should go back to the drawing board.
The reality is that the ICC is a toothless tiger, Mills said.
We’ve had periods when we could go back to taking over the big three a few years ago and it was made very clear to everyone that the ICC was there to host one event a year, the umpires and the match referees.
I think we’ve gotten past that a little bit now. I would like to think that the ICC actually mandates the boards, which is basically the ICC mandating itself and the money around the ICC board table.
Cricket is much bigger than its commercials. They are important, but we need to take care of each other in the first place. That is a very important point.
Also on the Follow-On podcastMills discussed:
– Why should Indians be allowed to play in other T20 leagues around the world
– How the IPL can fit into global tournaments
– Gender inequality
– ICC events and how to format the World Test Championship
– The future of pink ball cricket and four-day tests
– An update on FICA’s battle with the ICC over players’ commercial rights