The history of the ICC (International Cricket Council)
The trouble with cricket is that it requires such a specialised surface on which to play. A football pitch can double up as a rugby pitch, athletes can perform virtually anywhere and baseball can be played wherever there is room to put down four sacks, without needing to worry unduly about the quality of the surface.
It was for that very reason that baseball took over from cricket as the major sport of North America. Up until the Civil War, which broke out in 1861, cricket held sway while baseball was considered to be a children’s game. Then came the war and for four years it was difficult to get equipment and impossible to get properly prepared pitches on which to play. The troops needed athletic entertainment, and so the four sacks were thrown down, a bat and a ball produced, and the soldiers went back from the conflict hooked into baseball.
It should also be remembered that the first international match to be played took place in 1844. It was not Australia versus England ( that first appeared on the fixture list in 1877) but Canada against the United States. If it seems strange that such nations should feature so prominently in cricket’s past, the International Cricket Council has a policy of spreading the great game so that such nations might well feature prominently in the future.
The ICC is the game’s governing body as far as international cricket is concerned. It began life as the Imperial Cricket Conference on June 15th 1909 when representatives from England, Australia and South Africa met at Lord’s. India, New Zealand and the West Indies joined in 1926 and, by 1953, Pakistan were elected to join and membership of the ‘dub’ rose to seven.
It was not until 1981 that Sri Lanka achieved membership, but by then South Africa had left the Commonwealth (in 1961) and was not re-admitted to the ICC fold until 1991. A year later, Zimbabwe were admitted, as were Bangladesh in 2000. As full members, these countries could play Test cricket.
The organisation changed its name in 1965 to become the International Cricket Conference, reflecting a change in political attitudes that found the word “imperial” unacceptable, and passed a resolution that allowed membership from outside the Commonwealth. It was 1989 that saw the most recent name change to International Cricket Council rather than Conference, as it was now to be less of a forum for discussion and more a proper governing body in every sense.
Once the Commonwealth restriction was lifted, other categories of membership were introduced. Associate Members, of which there are currently 27, come just below Full Members in the pecking order. They are the cricket playing countries where the game is well established and organised in a way that meets certain ICC criteria.
Affiliate Members come a little further down the order. The criteria for membership are not as rigorous as for Associates, but these 55 nations still have to comply with regulations covering the governance of the game within their territories. Those that do not fall into yet another category of Prospective Members. Here, in what might appear some pretty unlikely places, there is some sort of organised cricket, but not yet with the degree of sophistication or reach to justify the ‘Affiliate’ tag.
With the amount of development work going in such countries, it might not be long before they too will be pressing for elevation. It is in this way that the ICC is pursuing one of the objectives contained in its mission statement, whereby its aims include: “promoting the game as a global sport, protecting the spirit of cricket and optimising commercial opportunities for the benefit of the game”.
It might be relatively easy to achieve all of those objectives in isolation; to deliver all three at the same time presents problems of a major magnitude. As the commercial opportunities expand and the ICC finds itself at the head of an international business operation, so too does the greed and political manoeuvring. The spirit of cricket can sometimes take second place to commercial ambitions, while the promotion of the game as a global sport can increase the possibilities of it all going horribly wrong and spiralling out of control.
The ICC is itself at a critical stage of development. It is large enough to be the object of power struggles but small enough to be vulnerable to those who might want to use it for their own ends. It is, however, making rapid strides to get to a position where it can defeat its enemies and establish itself as the governing body of a global sport. Cricket might not yet have that universal appeal of association football, but its five development regions work with a missionary zeal to spread the word. ICC is trying to ensure that countries from Argentina to Zambia appreciate what the game has to offer, and why it is being played so widely.
In the early days, it was often spread by the Army and Royal Navy as they campaigned around the globe. As British rule was established, cricket took root at the same time. Now there is a reverse colonisation. Visit any emerging cricket nation and you will find that the heartbeat of cricket is maintained by expatriots from major cricketing countries, and very often a majority of players come from the Asian community.
The game was taken to them, and their passion for it is helping the ICC to spread it into new areas. So successfully are they doing it that local government officers in some very unlikely places are suddenly faced with demands for cricket pitches. In Norway the demand for the game is such that national television has agreed to show live cricket and highlights packages.
In places like that, with a harsh climate preventing the development of turf pitches, modern technology has come to the game’s aid. Artificial pitches that play like turf ca~ be installed or, in even more remote venues, plastic pitches can be laid on virtually any surface to provide facilities for cricket. If only they had been available in North America in the 1860s.