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We're overcoming challenges, making progress

Cricket Australia CEO James SutherlandBy James Sutherland

Winter seemed long and cold from a cricket point of view.
Australia and New Zealand were involved in global controversy over our nomination of former Prime Minister John Howard AC as head of the International Cricket Council, there was alleged match fixing, including possibly at Sydney last summer, and Cricket Australia's decision to test a new one-day format at state level did not win acclaim with all players.
On field, we had a Test series in India which we lost 2-0, resulting in some ill-informed calls for Ricky Ponting to stand down as captain - and a letter or two from the public suggesting that I should do the same!
But with summer looming, I am optimistic about our great game.
Allegations about corruption, while disturbing, offer us an excuse to review how we manage anti-corruption and maybe, through that, find better and more effective processes and controls than those which we have.
Globally, eminent New Zealand business leader Alan Isaac, who shares Howard’s zeal for good governance, was confirmed as Australia-New Zealand nominee for the role of ICC vice-president, to succeed India's Sharad Pawar as president in 2012.
The ICC has 10 full member nations, 35 associate member nations and 60 affiliate nations and has ambitions for the game to gain a toehold in places such as North America and China.
There are enough expatriate Indians, Pakistanis, West Indians, Britons, Australians and the like in North America for it to be our third most valuable offshore television viewing market.

And in China, cricket is part of the official curriculum in hundreds of schools, and officials responsible for sport talk about their women winning an ICC World Cup in the foreseeable future.
Elsewhere, ICC funds that flow from major events such as the ICC World Cup and the new ICC World Twenty20 Championships are resulting in more participants taking up the game and more cricket pitches being installed around the world than ever before. Some optimists even talk about Twenty20, or T20, eventually becoming an Olympic sport.
Administering cricket globally involves different traditions, cultures and national histories. Sitting at the ICC table involves working with cricket administrators with differing assumptions and who see the world through a range of different lenses.
The ICC attracts its share of criticism about all sorts of issues such as the volume of cricket, context or lack thereof for many of the international games, and the claim that India exercises too much influence in the world game.
My view on India is simple. It is a nation of a billion or more people who are passionate about the game, following it with a fervour that makes Collingwood fans look like shrinking violets. The size of that nation, combined with the extraordinary popularity of cricket there, is a huge strength and has increasingly funded the game globally over the last couple of decades. 

If not for India, world cricket would be far less healthy than it is today.
That doesn't mean there are not challenges, just as there were challenges for many in world cricket when Australia and England ran the world game and basically exercised the power of veto over anything that they didn't like or want.
There are plenty of challenges, but world cricket is making progress.
In particular, I am pleased with recent ICC decisions to work on a Test championship, and to look at creating better context for one-day cricket. At a more tactical level, I am confident that we will find support throughout the ICC family for the Umpire Decision Referral System which has resulted, when used, in the accuracy of ICC umpires increasing from 92 per cent to 97 per cent.
Above all, the ICC's global work is seeing a steady increase in the number of people who play and follow cricket around the world.  That is the ultimate measure of success.
Locally, state cricket is now underway and I am particularly excited about the new Ryobi One-Day competition in which we are testing a new format which we hope will help one-day cricket maintain its popularity.
Cricket is unusual in that we have three popular formats in Test, one-day and T20 cricket.
One-day cricket has made an extraordinary contribution to the game’s overall popularity since the first ever ODI match was played at the MCG 40 years ago, and was then re-invented during Kerry Packer's cricket revolution. 

While Test cricket, particularly Ashes cricket, is very strong in Australia, cricket is only strong globally because of one-day international cricket's success.
However, while CA's research shows that ODI cricket continues to be popular, the arrival of T20 cricket has also resulted in messages from fans that ODI cricket needs refreshing and needs to be positioned more clearly in terms of where it sits between Test and T20 cricket.
Our research started well before the start of last summer and was, in the end, the most comprehensive study of its type that anyone in cricket has undertaken.
The message was that we should refresh one-day cricket as an action-packed but strategic format - in a sense, a one-day version of Test cricket - while T20 should be retained as a very short format which packages athleticism into an entertaining cricket package.
The outcome is the trial of a 45-over split innings format with 10 wickets per side and innovations such as allowing bowlers up to 12 overs.  The best batsmen can bat for as long as their skills allow, so why shouldn't the best bowlers be allowed a greater influence?
It is fair to say that the players were at first cautious about the new format and I think that is understandable - major change in any workplace creates uncertainty.
It is early days, but I am optimistic that feedback from players and coaches, the broadcaster and above all, from the fans, will be very positive by the time the Ryobi One-Day Cup concludes on February 27.
Cricket Australia believes that it has a responsibility to bring new ideas and innovation to our game – if it all goes as well as we hope, then it is likely that we will see some of these new regulations introduced at international level, perhaps in time for the 2015 World Cup here in Australasia.

It is only by trialing these ideas at state level in televised matches can we get a clear gauge of what they bring to the game.

James Sutherland is CEO of Cricket Australia.

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