April 12, 2014

The ICC's reply to Wisden's frowny face

Decentralisation of wasteful expenditures should go a long way in improving the governing body's image

"Clone me so we can have an ICC mascot at every Test ground in the world? Hell yeah!" © Getty Images

Like Test cricket, the Wisden Almanack is a relic of a bygone age that makes no concession to modernity. It weighs the same as an armadillo or a large turtle, and is just as difficult to get through a letterbox; it costs £50, for which sum you could purchase the collected works of Shakespeare, Byron, Keats and Katie Price, and it is printed in a tiny, illegible script by a team of specially trained house spiders.

Yet the year is not complete without this slice of lemon-flavoured, metatarsal shattering, statistic-packed loveliness, and every spring, the world cricket congregation await the annual sermon from the vicar of Wisden, hanging on his every word, before filing out of the church complaining that the last vicar had a much kinder face and that things haven't been the same since they started printing the bible on recycled paper.

This year, the Reverend Booth gave us a thundering condemnation of greed and avarice that had the wicked shaking in their well-polished shoes. But to show that the modern church of cricket is capable of tolerating dissenting views, he invited a representative of the opposition to exercise their right of reply, and a Mr Giles Faust took up the offer.

His argument was a simple one. Under the old system, every few years an enormous pile of money from the sale of commercial rights was dumped outside ICC Towers, which the ICC then squandered on executive lavatories, lunar golfing weekends and luxury chocolate biscuits; you know, the really big expensive ones with the extra chocolate chips that you usually get to eat only on special occasions.

Giles knows all this because since 2012 he has been employed by the ICC to go through their bin bags and he was shocked by what he found. For instance, he recently came across a shopping list, in Dave Richardson's hand-writing, dating back to early 2013, a sample of which he reproduced in full in his Wisden piece:

1 crate tea bags
17,000 gallons milk (the nice stuff, not that semi-skimmed rubbish)
20,000 rolls of "Rough and Ready" value toilet roll (for general use)
4 rolls of "Plush and Pamper" luxury posterior polishing paper
1 space rocket (see if you can get one with "DR" on the number plate)
1 bucket diamonds (but only if you can get the big ones)
A goose that lays golden eggs if they have one or a silver-egg laying chicken
17 tiaras for next ICC board meeting
1kg apples from the Garden of the Hesperides…

Since the ICC is clearly a top-heavy, inefficient bureaucracy, incapable of managing large sums of money in an ethical and effective way for the good of the game, it makes sense to let the BCCI have a go.

Henceforth, instead of all the money being pooled for the ICC to waste centrally, the three largest cricket boards will be able to waste it locally, perhaps on erecting a golden statue of Mr Srinivasan or propping up the finances of Bankruptshire and Nofundschester in the annual summer Inter-Parish Charity Liquidation Championship.

Mr Faust also took the opportunity to defend his own record of financial competence, refusing to apologise for his notorious 2008 deal with a Mr Allen Mephistopheles. He reiterated his belief that the deal had been a good one for English cricket, and that, aside from the horns and the brimstone aftershave, he had no grounds at the time for doubting the bona fides of Mr Mephistopheles, who, after all, could put his hands on an awful lot of money at short notice and owned a very shiny helicopter.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here