Who can take the ICC seriously if it’s unwilling to stick with its own protocols when choosing cricket’s leaders?

2010-07-03 00:00

CRICKET has been plunged into crisis by the unwillingness of the game’s governing body to abide by its own protocols. All the rest is a distraction. John Howard’s merits are irrelevant. The balance of power in the game is irrelevant. Simply, the ICC countries unanimously adopted a policy for the nomination of future leaders and then ditched it at the first sign of trouble. Evidently the ICC is incapable of abiding by its own decisions.

Who now can take it seriously?

Some Indians have taken the outrage about Howard’s rejection personally. Emotion, not reason, sustains their argument. For a hundred years India and many other coloured nations were patronised by Western powers blithely running the game. Happily those days are long gone. India’s rise is to be welcomed. It is a secular and vast land with a booming economy and a deep love of the game whose main weakness lies in its refusal to recognise the evil rife in Zimbabwe. Their blindness is as bad as Howard’s refusal to support boycotts of apartheid South Africa. Both tyrannies have been condemned with equal rage in this column. How many can say the same?

India is not the issue. Cricket teaches us to play the ball and not the bowler. In any case, Sharad ­Pawar, the new president of the ICC and a union minister no less, himself urged all parties to accept the established protocol. In a trice cricket has managed to offend a senior Indian minister, a former prime minister and the people who elected them.

Howard is not the issue either. People have allowed their hatred of him to cloud their judgment. He is not standing for parliament. He has offered his skills to cricket, and was even prepared to serve as a deputy for two years. The idea that a politician can know nothing about the game is stupid. Was Robert Menzies ignorant? Michael Manley, once the Prime Minster of Jamaica, wrote a superb history of West Indian cricket. Did he know nothing? Howard knows the game and might know something about administration too. Except that he has left politics, he has much in common with Pawar.

Nor is democracy relevant. If the ICC had decided to choose its presidents by simple vote, then they could elect anyone they liked — Howard, Pinocchio, anyone. Instead, the board decided to avoid confrontation by taking it in turns. It was agreed that nominations would be rubber-stamped by the rest.

After a rigorous process, Australia and New Zealand named Howard as their man.

The reasons for objecting to him are a sham. It has nothing to do with politics, or past statements or Iraq. It’s about oversight. Zimbabwe, especially, is alarmed at the prospect of having an influential, well-informed man with a beady eye at the helm.

In any case, the presidency has hardly been reserved for Plato, Tagore and Mother Teresa. Among previous occupants, Percy Sonn oversaw the rigged election in Zimbabwe in 2002 and pronounced it free and fair. Now local newspapers are demanding the release of a report into those elections made by South African generals. Of course, the ANC is resisting. They know the contents. So did Sonn.

Ray Mali, his successor, was named at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a collaborator and was also arrested for dubious dealings in the 1980s. He was accepted. Perhaps that was right. A French thinker once observed that “even the best among us, were every deed to emerge, could not escape hanging 10 times over”.

The ICC is the issue. Howard was a provocative nomination, but he was legitimate and, by rejecting him, the majority displayed scorn for due process. It is not a governing body but an unscrupulous mob.

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