Covid crisis gives Big Three a reason to shrink game, hints Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith was rarely a man to take a backward step with bat in hand when facing Australia, England or India. Now he is taking aim at the Big Three again. And it’s pretty clear what he thinks.

After Cricket Australia (CA) backed out of their three-Test tour commitment to Cricket South Africa (CSA), Smith clearly feels that the Big Three are using the Covid pandemic to widen the gulf between them and the rest of the cricketing world.

Even after England took their premature leave in December, citing bubble security concerns, Sri Lanka fulfilled their obligations to tour. Not so Australia though.

“The game needs leadership right now,” Smith, the CSA director of cricket, said. “It needs to understand the complexities. I don’t think world cricket wants three nations competing against each other in 10 years’ time. How does that benefit the game? It doesn’t.

“I think that will then amplify the [T20] leagues, and the leagues will just get bigger and bigger and bigger. And probably the rest of the member nations will have little to no content. The challenges have been fast-tracked because of Covid. These issues are becoming more and more relevant. The ICC was caught a little off guard.”

Smith’s CSA board are backing him by lodging a formal complaint with the ICC over CA’s decision. Cricinfo reports that CSA is invoking both the World Test Championship (WTC) and the FTP agreement terms in search of points on the WTC table, as well as financial compensation from CA.

“There’s an effort, certainly from our side, to engage and to set up a meeting at board level now. I believe that Covid is even amplifying the [discrepancy between the] haves and the have-nots, the relationships across the board and how cricket’s future landscape is going to be handled,” he said.

“The relationship [between CSA and CA] is definitely strained at this stage.”

Will this have any success? You can expect CA to mount a strong defence. The final result though, has implications for the cricket world beyond a local southern hemisphere dispute. It tests whether the ICC have interest in or intent to support those outside of the Big Three. You can be sure Smith will have his game face on and won’t take a backward step in the fight.

Jingle by James Sherwood