Imtiaz Patel named new ICC chief executive March 17, 2008

The middle man

Ken Borland

Imtiaz Patel has been offered the job of ICC chief executive © ICC

Imtiaz Patel, the South African of Indian extraction who has been chosen as the new CEO of the ICC, is the type of man to see things from both sides. He exudes a calmness and a phlegmatic air, but all that disappears when things aren't done right.

Patel is the chief executive of SuperSport International, who own the television rights to practically all South African sport of any consequence, and have stakes in professional franchises in cricket, rugby and football. He joined SuperSport in 1999 having risen steadily through the ranks of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) to become the director of professional cricket. Patel looked a shoo-in to succeed Ali Bacher as the CEO of the cricketing body, but fled the coop when Gerald Majola succeeded Bacher instead.

While he always exudes polite charm in public, Patel is known to have a scathing tongue in the privacy of the boardroom and even hardened former cricketers who work as commentators for SuperSport are known to slink into the corners when he lets fly.

Patel showed his hard, no-nonsense style last year when he hooked the television rights for South Africa's Premier Soccer League from under the noses of the state broadcaster, the SABC, which caused much anguish in government. A five-year contract for over £70 million puts the PSL into the top 15 in terms of worldwide broadcast deals.

Surprisingly, Patel began his professional career as a teacher, in Soweto, but he was also a more than handy club cricketer for Lenasia. His passion for cricket extends not only to making multimillion dollar deals, but also to the grass roots development of the game.

Before his angry departure from the UCBSA, he had worked initially as the development director and had also been on the transformation monitoring committee. "He is steeped in cricket, and he is passionate about the game," Bacher himself said on Monday. "He has energy and enthusiasm for cricket, and he comes with no cricket baggage. He comes in fresh."

A forthright man, Patel has never been afraid to express his frank viewpoints on where cricket should be heading. Coming from a television background, he has intimate knowledge of how cricket's paymasters work.

And being a South African of Indian heritage means he satisfies both the sub-continental and western camps that currently characterise world cricket. Which is no doubt why the ICC want him.

But his capabilities also mean SuperSport are not keen on letting him go.

Ken Borland works for the MWP agency in South Africa