A potential time-bomb landed on the desk of Ian Watmore last week. And how the ECB chairman, who has made a good impression in cricket since he replaced the error-prone Colin Graves, dealt with it could help define his reign at Lord’s.
For the ECB appear to have resisted attempts by their Indian counterparts to either move or even cancel the fifth Test of this summer’s marquee series at Emirates Old Trafford to create room in September to finish the curtailed IPL.
And that has averted the threat of Watmore, along with ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, facing a furious spectator base and an angry staging county in Lancashire that a late change to the schedule would have created.
Ian Watmore, chairman of the ECB, appears to have made a small but important stand
England’s top players, like Jos Buttler (above), will not be allowed to return for the IPL resumption should it clash with tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan this autumn
Not to mention having to launch their Hundred competition in July without England players who would have been needed earlier than expected for international duty.
It may not seem such a big deal to hold firm when the schedule has been set in stone for months and thousands of Test tickets have been sold. But it would represent a quiet but firm show of strength by Watmore because what India want, India usually get. Even though the BCCI insist no official approach has yet been made — only informal talks with the ECB to try to create more space for their IPL cash cow.
And it follows another significant stance to protect the primacy of the international game when Ashley Giles insisted England’s top players will not be allowed to return for the IPL resumption should it clash with tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan this autumn.
There is no doubt this matters. Yes, the IPL has long become the most lucrative and financially important competition in world cricket. And, yes, the rest of the game, whether we like it or not, invariably has to bow to its demands. Particularly at a time when cricket has to try to recoup the millions lost because of the pandemic.
The BCCI, for instance, would lose at least another £500million if they were unable to play the remaining 31 IPL games that were postponed when bio-secure bubbles were breached in Covid-ravaged India.
And that money does seep through to the world game. But Watmore and Harrison knew for once they held the aces and barring a late compromise the international show will go on this summer without those ticket holders for an Old Trafford Test which sold out for the first three days being forced to change their plans.
Ashley Giles and Watmore are holding back the IPL tide for a while longer and must be praised
The IPL, meanwhile, will cram those remaining games into a 21-day schedule in the United Arab Emirates after the final Test ends on September 15 and before October’s Twenty20 World Cup. And they will have to do it without their England players, too.
It may seem a minor ‘victory’ but it is one that will enhance the reputation of Watmore in world cricket. And it just might hold back the IPL tide for a little while longer before it washes over and eventually erodes the international game.
MOORES THE MERRIER AS NOTTS FINALLY GET ON A ROLL
It was one of the great anomalies of the county game. Nottinghamshire, a big white-ball force and packed full of quality players, had gone nearly three years without a win in first-class cricket.
That was until the run of three successive victories that has taken them to the top of Group One in the new conference County Championship and makes them well placed for a first division spot in September.
It is a much fairer reflection of the qualities of Peter Moores who, despite two unsuccessful stints with England, remains one of the best coaches in the country.
Peter Moores has taken Notts to top of Group One in new conference County Championship
BRISTOL’S GAIN IS SURREY’S LOSS
It could easily have been Richard Gould rather than Tom Harrison faced with solving the ECB’s India dilemma this week. The Surrey chief executive was very much a contender for the governing body’s top job ahead of Harrison’s appointment in 2015.
Instead, Gould has helped turn Surrey into not only the richest but also one of the best-run and most forward-thinking of the counties. Last week the son of former Wimbledon FA Cup winning manager Bobby Gould announced he would be leaving the Oval to take over as CEO of Bristol City.
Cricket’s loss is very much the gain of his father’s game. Gould and his ambitious ideas will be sorely missed by cricket but at least he will still be seen in the Oval crowd this year. He has bought Surrey membership, a nice farewell touch.
Richard Gould has turned Surrey into one of the best-run counties and he will be missed
‘SPITE’ BEHIND NEW LORD’S STANDS
The new Compton and Edrich Stands at Lord’s were built ‘out of spite’, according to Charles Rifkind, the property developer whose purchase of a strip of land at the ground’s Nursery End from under MCC’s noses in 1999 has turned him into the club’s bête noire. The £52million construction — due to be completed soon — now extends an extra few yards on to the Nursery Ground enclosure, which hosts minor matches.
That in turn will force the boundary all the way back to the wall that separates club property from Wellington Road, potentially scuppering Rifkind’s plans to build residential property above the two defunct railway tunnels that run underneath.
In The Covers Are Off: Civil War at Lord’s, a revealing book published on Wednesday about the long-running saga by legendary former Sportsmail columnist Charles Sale, several MCC grandees make no secret of their motivation.
The new Compton and Edrich Stands were built out of ‘spite’, according to Charles Rifkind
‘Of course it stymies further development if you want to retain cricket at the Nursery Ground,’ says Oliver Stocken, former MCC chairman and a long-time opponent of Rifkind’s plans. ‘It was a tactical move by the club.’
Robert Leigh, a long-serving MCC committee member and club trustee, also describes the decision as ‘tactical’, adding: ‘It means the Nursery End boundary rope has to go right to the wall.’
Rifkind says: ‘What MCC have done is out of spite.’
Sale describes MCC’s failure to secure the strip of land more than 20 years ago as ‘the worst call in the history of Marylebone Cricket Club’.