Cricket’s first World Cup in the U.S. is just three years away, as an ambitious International Cricket Council (ICC) delivered a major statement on Tuesday in an effort to energize its $3 million Olympic bid for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
The sport’s worst kept secret was officially unveiled at the board’s meeting in Dubai with the U.S. confirmed to co-host the 2024 T20 World Cup with the West Indies. Fourteen host countries were selected in the eight showpiece events in the 2024-31 cycle – a welcome change from the much derided hogging in the current cycle of the ‘big three’ countries of Australia, England and India after their infamous power grab in 2014.
“At least it’s evenly spread now as opposed to the ‘big three’ setup when they got everything,” a board director told me.
Still, mighty India got their share with three events despite there being a feeling from insiders that the undisputed power would only host two. England and Australia, however, only received one event each.
Spreading these lucrative tournaments around – and to several new destinations – was a welcome sight for those advocating for greater equality and seemingly indicates India’s all-powerful governing body has become somewhat receptive under chiefs Jay Shah and Sourav Ganguly.
There had been fears India would smother the sport after gaining a stranglehold of the board 12 months ago after a controversial chair election.
Pakistan has seemingly benefited after nabbing the 2025 Champions Trophy – the first time it will host an ICC event since 1996. There is a lot of water to go under the bridge, namely whether India’s government will allow its national team to play in Pakistan, but right now the right intention seems there – something not always associated with this renowned bickering board.
Rising Associate nation Namibia has been rewarded after being named co-host along with South Africa and Zimbabwe for the 2027 ODI World Cup, which I first reported.
But some Associate nations missed out, including recently concluded T20 World Cup hosts Oman and UAE – who according to sources had a joint T20 Cup bid with Pakistan – and Singapore and Malaysia.
With the powers needing to be satisfied, inevitably some countries were left disappointed but that was never going to be the U.S. – the long-viewed sleeping giant of cricket.
However, the fast-tracking – USA Cricket officials had told me last year that they were hoping to grab the 2026 or 2030 T20 World Cup – has put pressure on the U.S. to get the necessary infrastructure in place as the clock ticks.
Things have been made harder with the resignation of chief executive Iain Higgins, the ex ICC chief operating officer who has been instrumental in turning cricket in the U.S. from a laughingstock to being on the cusp of hosting two gigantic cricket events this decade.
As I reported in July after ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney was fired, the highly-regarded Higgins had been deemed by insiders as a front runner to return to the ICC and replace Sawhney. That appears inevitable now and Higgins’ departure undoubtedly leaves a massive hole within USA Cricket.
But the plum role – which attracts scorn from some Associate chiefs – is set to attract no shortage of high-profile contenders as the U.S. ascends in world cricket amid its much-hyped Olympic bid.
As I first reported last December, the ICC formed a working group tasked with providing a detailed analysis on how cricket can be an Olympic sport.
It hit the ground running after only formally meeting for the first time in August, according to sources, but any momentum has stalled with the departure of the working group’s chair Ian Watmore, who suddenly resigned from the England and Wales Cricket Board last month.
According to sources, chairman Greg Barclay has taken the reins of the working group, which consists of independent director Indra Nooyi, Tavengwa Mukuhlani (Zimbabwe), Mahinda Vallipurum (Associate) and USA Cricket chair Paraag Marathe.
Meanwhile, as I forecast a few days ago, Afghanistan’s cricket future still remains under a cloud with the board merely receiving an update from a task force led by veteran board director Imran Khwaja.
The swift return of the hardline Islamist group a few months ago heightened fears the fledgling women’s game is over in Afghanistan. Opinion is divided amongst pundits and even board directors over whether Afghanistan should be stripped of coveted Full Member status awarded to just 12 cricket nations.
The task force provided an insight into the continual upheaval on the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), where there has been a revolving door in leadership. Former all-rounder Mirwais Ashraf was recently appointed as acting chairman after replacing Azizullah Fazli, who was in charge for just two months.
There is a concern over a power struggle between two factions on the ACB, each side claiming to be in charge.
A decision on Afghanistan is expected at the ICC board’s next meeting in March.