Cricket Australia ready for next step on Howard
Cricket Australia's board will select its replacement for John Howard as the candidate for the ICC's vice-presidency on Friday afternoon - but don't expect a quick resolution. The already protracted negotiations are complicated by the fact the ultimate decision must be made with New Zealand Cricket, whose board will not meet for another two weeks.
While the passionate attachment to Howard has decreased and the likelihood of a repeat recommendation is slim, Cricket Australia's senior figures remain angry that their preferred nomination was denied without a vote by the ICC board in Singapore last week. Australia and New Zealand were given until August 31 to find another candidate and Cricket Australia's special meeting is the first formal step.
Cricket Australia's chairman Jack Clarke was "gutted" by Howard's veto in Singapore following opposition from a group of six Asian, African and West Indian officials. Clarke, who is in London, will lead the teleconference and is the most likely Australian nomination for the post, which includes an automatic promotion to ICC president in 2012.
"Technically John Howard is still the candidate and it's up to Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket to work out if they want to continue to support him," a Cricket Australia spokesman told Cricinfo. "Technically there is a chance he could still be the candidate until New Zealand Cricket's board meeting." Howard will stand by Cricket Australia's decision, which could involve giving New Zealand its choice.
The New Zealand board will discuss the issue on July 23 and a spokesman said the situation had not changed since the meetings in Singapore. Originally, New Zealand pushed for its former chairman Sir John Anderson to fill the position, but an independent panel eventually ruled in favour of the 70-year-old Howard. Last week's setback, which included six board members signing a letter opposing Howard's appointment, further complicated an already difficult process.
Cricket Australia's spokesman said he did not expect a public announcement from Friday's meeting at least until after Clarke had talked to his New Zealand counterpart Alan Isaac. Clarke, an Adelaide solicitor, did not seek the role the first time and would find juggling the extra commitments as difficult as being the diplomat required for such a delicate post.
If Clarke agrees to take on the job he would also have to make peace with the men who denied his preferred candidate. "You hope it doesn't affect your relationship but it obviously puts a block there for a while and makes you wary, I suppose," Clarke said after the Singapore meeting. "But we have to deal with all the member countries of the ICC."
Other Australian contenders include Mark Taylor, the former captain, while the deputy chairman is Wally Edwards, a batsman who played three Tests against England in 1974-75. Taylor would be reluctant given his expansive commentary and commercial duties and he also has long-standing links to Howard, who presented him with the Australian of the Year award in 1999.
It was Howard who called Taylor before he declared on 334 in Pakistan in 1998, the same score as Don Bradman's Australian record, and the then prime minister delayed a cabinet meeting so he could meet the players on their return home. South Australia's Ian McLachlan is another senior figure on the board with close ties to Howard after being his defence minister for two years in the mid-1990s.
Geoff Tamblyn, from Victoria, and the India-born Harry Harinath, the New South Wales squad doctor since 1990, also have significant experience but were overlooked the first time around. Six of the 13 members have been appointed since 2007, including Matthew Hayden.
The ICC position did not receive a batch of enthusiastic candidates in the first place and there is a general feeling that the job has become even less attractive over the past week. There have even been calls from Australians, including the former ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, to pass the selection on to Pakistan and Bangladesh and then refuse to vote.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo