Cricket once again undermined by self-interest

Retired judge Chris Nicholson releases findings for Cricket South Africa during a news conference in Pretoria. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Retired judge Chris Nicholson releases findings for Cricket South Africa during a news conference in Pretoria. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Having suffered the pain and travails of a regime change recently (though nothing as traumatic as South Africa’s), they experienced the utterly miserable disdain with which minor nations can be treated by the bigger ones as they approached their biggest day of the year.

Determined to raise the profile of the game in the country by building on the huge and enthusiastic support of a large Asian population in Toronto, Cricket Canada eagerly embraced the backing of a local sponsor five months ago and set about organising a high-profile, one-off T20 match between a worldwide “Asian XI” and a “Rest of the World XI”.

Planning and player recruitment began five months ago — necessary, given the constraints of the ongoing Indian Premier League and the delicate balance to be struck between hiring “big names” to attract an audience and those who might ensure a competitive game. With respect to the veteran captains of the respective sides, Sanath Jayasuriya and Brian Lara, only a few could provide both. Mark Boucher is a happy exception.

Cricket South Africa was happy to sign a contract “release” for their soon-to-retire Test gloveman, as were New Zealand Cricket for their trio of all-rounders: Jake Oram, Tim Southee and Kyle Mills.
Cricket Australia and Zimbabwe Cricket did so gladly for Stuart MacGill and Brendan Taylor and the Bangladesh Cricket Board were eager for their rapidly rising young allrounder, Nasir Hossain, to get as much experience as possible.

But the star players — and those central to attracting the greatest attention in Toronto — were the Pakistanis, led by Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq. Protracted negotiations with voracious agents were concluded finally a month before this Saturday’s match.

Own interests
All was in order — finally. A $1-million dollar outlay had been largely secured. The Pakistani community thought nothing of paying between R500 and R2 000 a ticket. Cricket Canada’s new leaders were beaming at the thought of a new dawn. Then, seven days before the match, the Pakistan Cricket Board objected to the participation of their players and refused to release them from their contracts. The International Cricket Council (ICC) was powerless.

It is merely the latest example of how polarised each of the major nations is in looking after its own interests and how fanciful and ambitious notions such as the Test championship are. England and Australia are fixated by the Ashes, India’s cricket board is content to maximise its vast revenue by playing as many one-day international matches as possible and the rest of the world’s major (and minor) nations are left fighting for scraps.

The Woolf report suggested an overhaul to the way the game is structured and outgoing ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said things were changing — despite the dubious probability that the executive committee comprising representatives from the 10 Test-playing nations and a smattering of others would adopt the proposal that independent directors had to join the board and therefore limit their ability to seek what was in their own best interests.

“The ICC now has an independent financial operation, so that is the key to greater change,” Lorgat said this week. “The structure of our income and expenditure is not governed by one country any longer — and if the ICC can achieve that, then there must be hope that independent directors on the board is a reality.”

Dave Richardson’s name on the four-man list of interviewees for Lorgat’s replacement this week is both heartening and gloomy. The rest of the world may cheer and would benefit from his appointment, but South Africa would mourn the potential loss of his services as chief executive of Cricket South Africa in the wake of Gerald Majola.

The former long-serving national wicketkeeper would jump at the chance to return to his homeland  after six years in Dubai, but the years of experience in the country make him the frontrunner to take Lorgat’s position when his term ends in June. Lorgat, ironically, would be happy to step from one high-profile position into another in taking the Cricket South Africa job (and it has been offered) — on one condition.

Just as the Woolf report recommended a radical restructuring of the ICC’s board of directors, the Nicholson report strongly suggested similar remedial measures to the board of Cricket South Africa. Although neither Lorgat nor Richardson would confirm it, it is blatantly obvious than neither man would accept the job unless radical changes are implemented. They are the best two candidates for the job  and change must happen to ensure one of them is appointed.

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