Saturday, April 26, 2008

Speed Away

Early morning drives around the M25 are surprisingly fast, and for that reason all the more pleasurable.

The sun is shining, the cows strut proudly across the lush fields and all the grotty ABSO children gravitate into the Vortex of large shopping centres leaving me free to enjoy the breaking Spring unbottled.

Not just me, though. I have a new companion. He used to work. He used to be a busy man. He used to be the, oh god I hate even typing this, the Chief Executive Officer of the IC-bloody-C

Now he’s not.

A man of energy and self-belief, who once charged across the world arguing for his ideas on cricket. Of course, those ideas were fundamentally corrupt, but the man was decent and his management was generally competent.

But it would be naïve to suppose that these alone were sufficient qualities to ensure survival in a complex, multi-national organisation. Speed was undone by the politics.

I received a lot of stick from Indians when I criticised the IPL. They felt slighted. It seemed as though I was attacking India. If not Indian directly, I was offending their property, which somehow becomes the same thing.

Although facts are short at the moment, we can detect a similar dynamic in the ICC. Speed seems to be ousted because of a severe rift between himself and senior South Africans on the Board and Executive Committee.

We are, I suppose, all products of our countries, and to an extent, we reflect the received wisdom of cultures when looking abroad. Malcolm Speed, an Australian (a country prominent in the condemnation of Robert Mugabe’s regime) has been hawkish when dealing with Zimbabwe.

Indeed, after a forensic audit carried out by KPMG uncovered wide-spread financial mismanagement and evidence of money laundering, Speed condemned the Zimbabwean cricket board, in a leaked memo, stating that they had "deliberately falsified" their accounts.

The ICC decided to sweep this negative audit opinion under the carpet, against the protests of Speed. Whereas Ray Mali, the ICC president and a South Africa, has called for a more softly-softly approach, eerily reflecting his own country’s foreign policy.

Of course, there were other conflicts with the BCCI and what not, but it was the total deterioration between the CEO and president that hastened Speed’s departure.

It is sad, if understandable, that the important committees and managements are divided by shoddy and irreverent geopolitical positions outside the world of cricket. But its susceptibility to this sort of unknowing malleability it’s indicative of the ICC’s weakness as an institution which is not capable of standing up for itself, let alone representing cricket.

Perhaps it would be a little nationalistic of me to suggest a return to the MCC days…

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