Former ICC CEO speaks out

Speed regrets World Cup failure

Cricinfo staff

December 5, 2008

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Empty stands at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at North Sound during the 2007 World Cup © Getty Images
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Malcolm Speed, the former ICC chief executive, has admitted the World Cup in the West Indies last year was one of the more disappointing episodes of his seven-year tenure in charge. Speed, who said the ICC's failure to act on Zimbabwe was his biggest regret - a fallout on the issue ultimately led to his premature exit - also was unhappy with Bangladesh's performance "at the top level of the game".

Speed told the Sydney Morning Herald that what should have been a "celebration of cricket" will "always be looked upon less than favourably" for many reasons. The 2007 World Cup in the West Indies failed to attract full houses at newly-built stadia for the event, with overpriced tickets largely keeping out locals. The tournament also ended in a farce; Australia secured the trophy for the third time in a row, but the match in Barbados ended in near-pitch darkness after the umpires misinterpreted the rules regarding bad light. "Cricket has a chance to make amends in the West Indies with the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010," Speed said.

Speed also highlighted the plight of Bangladesh, who have won only one of their 57 Tests since making their international bow in November 2000. "Bangladesh has the world's seventh-largest population, and its people are passionate about the game. Its team has shown few signs of improvement."

Seeing Twenty20 as a huge opportunity rather than a threat, Speed said finding "the correct balance between Tests, ODIs and Twenty20" was the biggest challenge facing the game at the time of his exit, more so in a "very unstable and dangerous period" for the world. "No other sport has been presented with the opportunity to grow a popular and contemporary third form of its game," he said. "I expect that the current concern about Twenty20 and its impact on scheduling will settle down in the next two to three years, and each form of the game will find its place."

Speed revealed it was at his insistence - with the support of the then-ICC president Ehsan Mani - that he convinced the ICC board to support the inaugural World Twenty20. The tournament in South Africa was a big success, despite scepticism "among elements of the ICC membership - particularly India and Pakistan, the ultimate finalists".

 
 
It is quite easy to forget the pain inflicted on the game in the late '90s that saw the captains of three of the nine Test-playing countries banned for life and several other high-profile players implicated. Cricket has become a role model for other sports in the area of anti-corruption
 

Looking at the positives, Speed pointed out the integration of men's and women's cricket in most countries, and was pleased with the fact that the women's game was growing rapidly. "The ICC merged with the International Women's Cricket Council in 2005, and in the three years that followed, the number of ICC members with organised girls' or women's cricket quadrupled with a first Women's World Cup under the ICC banner in Australia next March and a World Twenty20 alongside the men's event in England in June.

"Another major area of focus was the fight against corruption," he said. "It is quite easy to forget the pain inflicted on the game in the late '90s that saw the captains of three of the nine Test-playing countries banned for life and several other high-profile players implicated. Cricket has become a role model for other sports in the area of anti-corruption." Speed was also pleased to see the game develop a "social conscience", with the ICC's efforts to spread AIDS awareness and the measures undertaken for raise funds for those affected by the tsunami in December 2004.

With the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai impacting the game's biggest base - the Indian subcontinent - Speed said the sport could make a difference. "Sport has the power to bring nations together. Some of the discussions between the Indian prime minister and Pakistan's president over peace in Kashmir took place at cricket matches. It is clear these dreadful attacks will have a large impact on cricket in India. It would be great if cricket could be part of the healing process."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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