Cricket's global governors risk increasing the rate of player drain from internationals to the domestic Twenty20 league circuit should they push ahead with an ICC proposal to pack the cricket calendar with at least one major men's event every year from 2023 to 2031, according to the global players' body FICA.
After the boards of India, England and Australia all expressed varying degrees of reservation about the proposal, details of which were revealed by ESPNcricinfo last week, FICA's chief executive Tom Moffat has questioned how discussions about the future schedule of the game "appear to be taking place purely through the commercial lens".
Ahead of a critical round of meetings for the game's governing body next month where a host of scheduling and governance issues are to be thrashed out, Moffat also queried whether the proposed creation of a new Twenty20 "Champions Cup" to be played over 48 matches by 10 teams would detract from the World Cup as the game's foremost international white-ball event.
"We question the way that this is being done. Simply adding events to the calendar without looking at the global playing schedule in a holistic way isn't going to solve many of the existing incoherencies and imbalances," Moffat told ESPNcricinfo. "That requires looking at ICC events, but also at the rest of the game, including the leagues landscape, bilateral cricket, and how they balance with one another. We are supportive of measures that are taken with a view to protecting and growing the global game in a holistic way.
"The game desperately needs an easier to follow global structure. At the moment it's difficult to see how it's all going to fit, particularly when all of these discussions appear to be taking place purely through the commercial lens, and without the proper engagement of the players collectively. We question why the ICC and Boards aren't sitting down with us/the players and developing some fundamental principles, agreed with all key stakeholders, which should underpin the global cricketing calendar, before proceeding to fill it up.
"Decisions made by players, especially in regard to club v country, are a key factor in driving the future direction of the game, and yet the players aren't included in the discussion. FICA also won't be supporting proposals, which only look after the interests of a few of the bigger countries."
As for the Champions Cup, which alongside a smaller, 50-over equivalent of similar dimensions to the defunct Champions Trophy, is geared at creating a more stable flow of ICC events revenue to member nations in each year of the broadcast rights cycle, Moffat said that specific player feedback was being sought.
"We will be getting player views on that specific issue," Moffat said. "The devil is in the detail and we need to understand what these may look like in order to have informed discussions with them on this. We know that players want events that mean something, have relevance and importance, so if additional events don't do that, or detract from events that do, that needs to be looked at.
"We have been engaged in a pretty token way. We have had some surface level discussions but haven't been provided with the detail of proposals. The players should be properly engaged and a critical part of these discussions. They are ultimately the ones who put on the performances that make the game great. Their views should be taken seriously. We will be continuing to get player views, including on how they want us to approach these issues in light of the way the ICC continues to approach them."
While numerous key administrators have cited player workload as among their thoughts during this round of discussions - which have also featured debate over whether or not to move to mandatory four-day Test matches to clear additional room in the calendar - Moffat said that the game needed a more rigorous approach to the matter. He also stated that the ICC and its members needed to look closely at stronger measures to retain players in international cricket, including the possibility of revenue pooling for more equitable player pay from country to country.
"We have seen some comments around player workload as a potential reason not to have additional ICC events," he said. "We question whether that is in fact a genuine concern of either the boards or the ICC. If it is a genuine concern for them, they would proactively work with us/players to develop enforceable global minimum standards around player health, safety, and security, which would include player workload.
"One of the key risks for the global game, which we have identified over a number of years, is flight of talent away from the international game, now that there is an alternative domestic leagues market for players to play in. There are numerous ways to address that, including looking at more coherent scheduling, and scheduling windows to prevent scheduling overlay, as well as ensuring an economic ability for more countries to retain their best talent, and keep international cricket strong and growing. There is scope to introduce many more collective global measures that benefit both the players and the game."
There is some sympathy among the players for the complexity of the task facing administrators over the next month and beyond. David Warner, the Australia opening batsman, pondered the challenges during his side's current limited-overs tour of South Africa.
"I've got no idea how we're going to fit that in every year," he said. "You've got to find time to play all the other stuff around the World Cup in a World Cup year let alone trying to fit something else in. That's obviously for the ICC to think about that and then the boards all have to agree. That's going to be a challenge and one where I'm glad just being a player."