BETWEEN WICKETS Suresh Menon

Manohar’s chance to restore dignity to the ICC

Two years ago, India, Australia and England hijacked cricket. There is a real possibility now that they might return the sport to its constituency, having enjoyed the ransom since. Much of the credit should go to Shashank Manohar, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and chairman of the International Cricket Council.

The ICC meeting in Dubai this week may rescind some of the decisions that made it a plaything of the ‘Big Three’. Manohar had said when he became BCCI president that he didn’t approve of the three major countries “bullying the ICC”.

The Big Three had presented to the other nations a new way of distributing the financial pie which involved keeping much of it for themselves. It meant that the ICC had been rendered virtually irrelevant.

Former England captain Michael Atherton summed it up: “Dave Richardson finds himself as chief executive without a shred of executive power, and chief executive of a body with no function.”

The ICC had become a body that echoed the words of Kerry Packer, who in the 1970s had paid a bunch of cricketers to break away from the mainstream and play in his private tournament in Australia. “From now on,” he had said, “it’s every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.”

This had become the motto of the national cricket boards after the carve-up in 2014. Martin Snedden, New Zealand Cricket president, was quoted as saying, “The critical thing is to identify the things most important to us. That means ensuring the stability of our playing programme and revenue generation.” Self-interest begets self-interest.

Those with a sense of history which went beyond last week’s T20 clash had warned that the cycle would turn and when that happened, there would be a backlash. By undoing some of his predecessor’s work, Manohar might help avert that.

Always in spin

In sport, the wheel is always in spin. So, too, in sports administration. Till 1992, England and Australia ran the game armed with the veto power. After that India ran it armed with the largest television audience in the world and hence the financial muscle.

Amazingly “if all goes well” it would have taken just two years for sanity to be restored. Of the three men who orchestrated the carve-up, Australia’s Wally Edwards has retired, India’s N. Srinivasan has been forcibly retired, leaving only England’s Giles Clark still active, and nursing the ambition to take over as the next ICC chairman.

But neither Australia nor South Africa are in the mood to support him, and in all likelihood India, led by Manohar, are unlikely to take a backward step. But India haven’t spoken yet on the issue. There is, however, much to recommend a clean break from the tainted trio.

The new chairman will also have to sever connections with his home board as Manohar seeks to apply the ‘Conflict of Interest’ rule he has brought into the BCCI to the international body, too. This was also a recommendation of the Woolf Report, the ICC’s governance review of 2012 which said that “an ICC director should not concurrently hold any leadership or executive post with his home board,” in its recommended changes. The report was trashed by India, and remained trashed.

When England and Australia gave up their veto power, they were bowing to the inevitable at the time. The balance of power had shifted towards Asia, and they had been slow in recognising that. If India voluntary gives up the power and money they had managed for themselves, that might be a rare instance of a national body looking beyond its own bottom line.

It is nice to think thus, but perhaps here too there is an element of inevitability. Ruled by the oligarchy, the ICC has, in a very short time, presided over the rapid decline of cricket in the West Indies, garnered much resentment over the manner in which the non-Test countries are treated, allowed the future tours programme to be manipulated and ignored the Olympic Games and what it might mean to cricket. Bottom lines can take you only that far.

India’s argument for the carve-up was that most of the money in the game was being generated here anyway and they were merely formalising what was unofficially accepted — that they ran the world game. There was also a school of thought which believed that the veto countries had had a long run and now it was India’s turn.

But the problem with a unipolar world is that the greatest good for the greatest number is replaced by the greatest good for number one.

Manohar’s term as chairman ends in a few months. If he pushes through some of the reforms the ICC is crying out for, he would have left a greater impact on the sport than if he allowed greed and a misplaced sense of patriotism to decide.


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