India, England and Australia would have near complete control over international cricket in major changes being considered by the game's governing body to possibly come into play next year.
A 21-page document from the International Cricket Council's influential financial and commercial affairs committee proposes that a new four-member executive committee be set up, with three of the places taken by the rich and powerful India, England and Australia boards. They will decide on the fourth member.
The "Position Paper" also recommends the troubled Test Championship which was set for introduction in 2017 be scrapped and the limited-overs Champions Trophy be retained in its place.
A promotion-relegation system to establish a reduced eight-country top tier for test cricket from 2015 is suggested instead, but with India, England and Australia, the so-called big three, immune from relegation because of "the importance of those markets and teams to prospective ICC media rights buyers."
The paper sets out a business model where India would receive the largest portion of ICC revenue, followed by England and Australia, and says that cricket should be run more as a "meritocracy" — effectively where those who raise the most money control the finances, irrelevant to how the big three perform on the field.
"As part of the process, the leading countries of India, England and Australia have agreed that they will provide greater leadership at and of the ICC," the proposal document said, although it's uncertain if the ICC itself or the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia are leading the reforms.
Officials from the BCCI, ECB and CA reportedly first presented the document to other countries at a meeting this month, with ICC officials even having limited knowledge of the proposals.
The ICC said it would not comment on the proposals until they are discussed by its board at the end of this month. They will be considered and could be put to a vote at the ICC meeting on Jan. 27-29 in Dubai.
While the paper recognizes some realities, including that India is by far the dominant country because of the money it raises from its billion-strong cricket-mad population, and is followed distantly by England and Australia, the changes also threaten to undermine smaller cricket countries.
South Africa, which has the top-ranked test team but not the financial clout of the other three, was the first country to express public opposition to the proposals because they hadn't followed the correct procedure of consultation within the ICC.
Cricket South Africa said on Monday the proposals were therefore "fundamentally flawed."
The Pakistan Cricket Board said it was seeking guidance from the country's prime minister over the proposals, which it called "important matters of national interest." Sri Lanka sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage reportedly described the report as "a serious challenge to the Sri Lanka cricket setup."
Zimbabwe Cricket head Peter Chingoka declined detailed comment but said "It's just a proposal."
The overall angle of the document is that cricket, especially test cricket, is often not financially viable outside of the big three countries.
Instead of the Test Championship, the two lowest-ranked of the 10 test-playing nations — currently Bangladesh and Zimbabwe — would be relegated from the format next year and have to fight their way back up to the top division through the four-day Intercontinental Cup and then a playoff. If a relegated nation doesn't win back its place in the top tier on the first attempt, it would lose money from the ICC.
The proposals do offer associate members Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands and Scotland a chance to play tests through promotion, and a test cricket fund would give money to Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies.
Along with conceding that the Test Championship is likely doomed, the "working group" which put together the proposals also recognized that limited-overs cricket continues to pay for the five-day game, which is struggling to make money outside major contests like the Ashes series.
In future, test series would be bilateral agreements between two countries, the paper proposed, moving away from the ICC-controlled Future Tours Program. It gives India, England and Australia greater scope to avoid unprofitable series against smaller teams.
New Zealand Cricket partially backed the new proposals if the current test calendar, which is planned to 2020, is kept.
"We must have a test-playing program which sees New Zealand playing all of the major countries in the same sort of cyclical way as we have been doing," NZC director Martin Snedden said. "That is a fundamental outcome for us and just about every other country."
Yet the proposals require India, England and Australia to play only a minimum of three tests and five limited-overs matches — effectively one series — against each of the other teams in an eight-year cycle.
Ali reported from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP . Rizwan Ali can be followed at www.twitter.com/joji_39