Former ICC CEO speaks out December 5, 2008

Speed 'vigorously opposed' ICC inaction on Zimbabwe

Cricinfo staff

Malcolm Speed: "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" © Getty Images
Malcolm Speed, who was controversially ousted as ICC chief executive earlier in the year, has said he had "vigorously opposed" the decision not to take any action on the irregularities in Zimbabwe Cricket's finances, a stance that culminated in him being sacked.

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."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tatenda on December 5, 2008, 9:31 GMT

    I agree with all who shame the state of the game is Zimbabwe, it is unfortunate that this is an exact circumstance where the game suffers from the political impotence of a system and sad that as usual it is the players and the fans who suffer the most.

    Asia has never been a politically stable place or a secure one to say th least but teams have been willing to tour and maintain bilateral ties with the likes of Sri Lanka and Pakistan where war and dictatorship is a constant threat alas for Zim.

    Zim cricket is in shamble and the only way forward should be one for the good of the game, set targets to ZC on infrastructure and coaching before allowing them back in the limelite, chasing them away won't aid much. We wanna watch more cricket in Zim! Lest we think you are racists behinding a political screen.

  • Matthew on December 5, 2008, 7:34 GMT

    What amazes me about this whole situation is the complete and utter hypocrisy of the ICC and other international governing sports bodies.

    On the one hand, South Africa was banned for decades because of a political system, which although unfair, still maintained a higher standard of living for the majority of its citizens than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Not only that, but seriously brilliant players were denied the opportunity to play as a result.

    On the other hand, Zimbabwe is ruled by a despotic maniac, who has committed genocide against native Ndebele, has driven his economy into the ground where the Zim dollar, once more valuable than the US dollar, now stands at quadrillions to the US dollar (no jokes) and inflation is at 89.7 sextillion percent. People are flooding over the border to SA, looking for work and treatment for the cholera epidemic and more recently anthrax infections caused by the water utilities collapsing.

  • Neil on December 5, 2008, 4:02 GMT

    I'm not a huge fan of Malcolm Speed but I have to say that the revelations of financial mismanagement of Zimbabwe Cricket is not as telling as the ICC's response to it. Zimbabwe, suffering under the stupidity of Mugabe, was always going to have problems distributing ICC funds properly. But instead of acting on the clear evidence of mismanagement the ICC sat on its hands and blamed the messenger. Why? What possible advantage does international cricket and the board of the ICC have in keeping Zimbabwe as a full member when monies are being siphoned off into the personal bank accounts of those who "run" Zimbabwe Cricket? As time goes by, the mass resignation of Zimbabwe's best players so many years ago now seems so much more courageous and correct. The ICC should remove Zimbabwe from full member status immediately and divert development funds to a more stable associate member country.

  • roger on December 5, 2008, 0:30 GMT

    Among various issues going on incl. terror attacks in India, this article is a welcome sight for many cricket fans. It came directly from Speed, until now considered many as an enemy to India (not in reality by this article) and surprisingly "Asian bloc" support and/or " Aus" support to BCCI is a surprising one.

  • Samuel on December 5, 2008, 0:00 GMT

    Speed is not someone upon whom any real cricket fan should pile any credit. He oversaw the destruction of test cricket and I hope he sliced that golf shot into a lake.

  • Shane on December 4, 2008, 22:59 GMT

    I really doubt that anyone barring the ICC themselves take the ICC seriously. It is horrifyingly obvious that it is simply a vessel for political maneuvering within the cricket world and is not there for the good of the game. Zimbabwe cricket is a joke, yet they will remain as a test playing nation so long as they continue to vote alongside India. The last world cup tournament ended in farce. There is too much bowing to India now that they provide the cash. It is not a governing body, it is a self-obsessed tangle of greedy individuals doing back room deals and trying to tell Joe Public that it is for the good of the game. The thing is that nobody swallows that garbage. However, I see no way it will ever change. 15 degree bend in the arm anyone? Another classic. They must sit in their meetings and laugh at the very public that fills their coffers. How they make ridiculous decisions and we still turn up to watch games, get our pay TV channels, etc, because we love to watch cricket.

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