'It's an exciting prospect' - The trailblazing MCC event bidding to shape the future of cricket

The forum will be hosted at Lord's next month
-Credit: (Image: WilkinsonEyre)

Cricket finds itself in a constantly evolving landscape and current MCC president Mark Nicholas believes the upcoming World Cricket Connects event can be transformative in shaping the future of the game. At Lord’s next month, 110 of the world’s leading cricketing minds will come together for a groundbreaking event, hosted by the MCC.

Among them are some of the world’s leading administrators, including BCCI secretary Jay Shah, the game’s most powerful figure, as well as current players, coaches, broadcasters and many more. The forum will be split into four panels on Friday 5 July, and Nicholas, who was instrumental in the conception of the idea, is excited about the results.

Explaining the idea behind the event, he said: “I thought it was time for a neutral body to try to knit things together a bit. And how would you do that? I thought if you could get everybody here for an open discussion about the game’s present situation and potential future, that would be quite an exciting prospect.

“I tested it with four or five people in confidence, from different walks of the game, from CEOs of major nation boards, from television, playing, ex-players, and there was unanimous ‘go for it’.

“I understand a lot of cricket is in very good shape, there is lots of money swirling around in the pot, players have got a golden opportunity to make good their talent. But the game is at this stage changing to the point where it may be running so fast before it’s properly walking and thinking through things to secure a future that is a, clearer, b, better and in terms of scheduling, collegiate thinking, spread of income so that the have-nots can live in the same arena as the haves. That is how it happened.

“What does success look like? I think the answer probably is for people to be in the same place at the same time, it’s incredibly rare in cricket. You might go to a final and the big, influential names might all be in the ground, but they will all be in different places, some in the press boxes, some in the commentary box, some in the committee box, some in the main sponsor’s box, some playing.

“You are still disparate, whereas this has people together. That is important, allowing people who need more attention, more money and clearer thinking around bilateral cricket, to be able to talk to each other. We can hear all the arguments from many different sources. We have put together a list of very different views and people.”

Among those people invited are IPL franchise owners and CEOs, an acknowledgement of their influence in the current landscape of the game.

The four topics up for discussion will be the future, economics, the players’ world and then growth, with Nicholas moderating two of the panels, while former England captain Michael Atherton will oversee another and ex-Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, the other.

For Nicholas, who is positive about the outlook of the sport, there are nevertheless key challenges to face: notably scheduling, the difference between the haves and the have-nots, the battle between club and country and the future of bilateral cricket.

And specifically on the attendance of IPL big hitters, it was a no-brainer for Nicholas.

He said: “I thought some of them were some of the most important people to have here. I think it’s important to listen to them, there are a lot of good minds there. You might not necessarily agree, you might see the power they hold as being prohibitive to blue sky thinking. But I think they love the game, and if you fill the room with people who love the game, it’s interesting to see what comes of it. If they are the best minds, they have to be here.

“Playing at a level isn’t relevant, they have dominated at a level by owning teams, driving a new financial model, developing it extraordinarily.

“If you think the IPL teams didn’t make any money for the first ten years and now make a lot of money, how have they done that? How can that benefit the game better? Can we share the knowledge, can we share the outcome?

“The list of 110 attendees is a very wide range of people. That is the advantage of the event, they would never come together otherwise.”

While World Cricket Connects is being hosted by the MCC, the game’s former governing body founded more than 200 years ago, Nicholas is keen to stress that the event is a global one.

And with so many moving parts in the game, he is urging all those attending to come in with an open mind.

He added: “This isn’t meant to be an event that specifically satisfies membership of one club. It’s a global cricketing event. It’s a global cricket conversation that we are lucky enough to host and people trust that.

“This is the chance for everybody just to let go. I think there will be a constant set of corollaries for each point that make for conversation and stimulate thinking. That is what I hope.”