Speed 'vigorously opposed' ICC inaction on Zimbabwe
In his first public comments since his exit, Speed told the Sydney Morning Herald that his premature departure from cricket's governing body stemmed from an "angry and bitter exchange" with Ray Mali, the then ICC president, over the body's policy on Zimbabwe. That, he said, caused their "previously friendly relationship to break down irretrievably" and the matter came to a head six months later in April 2008, when Speed was asked to go on gardening leave with eight weeks remaining on his contract.
Speed said he "cannot see" the ICC stripping Zimbabwe of its Full Member status on the grounds of financial mismanagement and links with the ruling Zanu-PF. He detailed the sequence of events leading to his exit from the ICC, beginning with the ICC board's review in March this year of the KPMG report into the finances of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC). The report, Speed said, showed that there had been irregularities in ZC's finances but the ICC resolved to take no further action on the basis that the report did not prove any individual within ZC had profited.
"Sir John Anderson [chairman of New Zealand cricket] and I had vigorously opposed this decision at the board meeting," Speed said. "As a director of ICC, I was bound by the decision. I elected not to attend a press conference with Mr Mali on the evening of the board meeting, as had been previously arranged, where this decision was to be announced."
He was aware, he said, that by failing to attend he ran the risk of being sacked. Six weeks later, after an informal gathering of some directors in Bangalore for the launch of the IPL, he was requested to go on gardening leave.
Calling his departure "an unfortunate and sticky end" - though the circumstances hadn't diminished his passion for cricket and sport - he said international cricket was a "very political landscape" and managing it was an "ever-changing jigsaw puzzle" with many stakeholders. Added to the mix was a "less than perfect" governance structure and "aggressive media interest in the machinations of the game", ensuring crises, controversies and excitement were never far from the surface - sometimes all at once.
The other major issue towards the end of Speed's tenure was the emergence of India as cricket's power centre. While asserting that India should act responsibly, he said there was "too much fear" of an Indian takeover and the power of the Indian administrators. Instead, he said the game needs to tap into the passion for cricket in India - "cricket is the most popular sport by a factor of about 30 in the second-most populous country in the world".
India's emergence has coincided with a decline in the power of the ICC and Speed put it down to its structure. "I think it is common ground that the board is too large. Sixteen directors is a large gathering. All countries have agreed to this structure and it is very unlikely that it will be changed.
"In recent years, Australia has been a very close ally of India in major strategic decisions - perhaps its closest ally. There is a lot of speculation about the 'Asian bloc' in cricket. This occurs rarely. In the past few years, Australia has been more likely to vote with India than some of the Asian countries.
"India's vote has the same value as Australia's and the other Full Member countries. If there is concern about irresponsible use of power, there are processes in place to deal with this and the other countries should take firm positions and make them clear."
There were not enough former top players on the ICC board, he said, calling Arjuna Ranatunga a welcome addition and hoping Mark Taylor would join at some stage. His blueprint for a stronger board would see some genuinely independent directors (including women), some former players and three or four directors elected by the ICC members to represent their interests. "I do not expect to see it happen."