Australia, New Zealand angered by Howard rejection
The Australian and New Zealand chairmen are united in their anger at not being given a reason for John Howard's scratching as ICC vice-president and embarrassed that such a decorated candidate has been refused. New Zealand Cricket's Alan Isaac and Cricket Australia's Jack Clarke were "gutted" after being asked by the board to nominate another option by August.
"It's incredibly disappointing that a man of John Howard's stature has been knocked off from this job," Clarke said from Singapore. "A person who has been such an eminent person and who has been through the most exhaustive process ever to get this job."
The opposition to Howard, who needed seven votes from the 10 major nations, began formally with a letter signed by six board members on Tuesday night. Resistance to the idea was so strong there was no point in having a ballot.
"There were no reasons given and that's part of the frustration Jack and I have in this whole process," Isaac said. "[There has been] lots of discussion but we're unable to ascertain a reason for the lack of support for our nomination. It's just not acceptable."
Howard, who was pursued by Cricket Australia to nominate for the position, was "extremely upset" when told of the veto. "When you put up someone through a process, someone as eminent as John, I don't think embarrassed is strong enough [to describe the way you feel]," Clarke said. "Just gutted that the ICC has ignored the chance."
A disappointed Howard admitted his political past could have been the problem. "Even in private discussions they are very reluctant to give a particular reason," Howard told Australia's Sky News. "It's a very unusual situation... I'm disappointed at the outcome. I wanted to do this job. I thought I could do it well and I would have devoted my full time to it."
Both Isaac and Clarke addressed the executive board during meetings over the past two days, with Clarke telling the members that Howard could not have been prime minister of Australia for 11 years without having ability. The pleas were ignored and the decision has exposed the reopening of a gulf between the Australia-New Zealand-England group and the Asia-Africa alliance.
Opposition to Howard's appointment began with his recommendation in March, with supporters of Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka early critics of the move before South Africa and India provided their influential support. Howard was a critic of Robert Mugabe's regime and refused to let Australia go there in 2007, while in 2004 he called Muttiah Muralitharan a chucker.
There was also a backlash in New Zealand after their candidate Sir John Anderson was overlooked for "a non-cricket person". An independent committee had been required to break the deadlock between Howard and Anderson, the two boards' preferred options.
Anderson has not been spoken to about replacing Howard and Isaac had no idea whether he would be interested. Despite the failure to advance Howard, Isaac remained comfortable with the selection.
"Both of the candidates were very able," Isaac said. "The recommendation for Howard was on his experience," he said. "John Howard also had the time [to do the job], which was one of the issues the nomination committee had with John Anderson."
Isaac and Clarke are adamant the appointment process, which is under its fourth design since 1992, followed the ICC constitution. A region-based, rotational method was introduced to avoid these types of issues.
"If you keep having processes that don't work or aren't allowed to work, I'm not sure how they go from there," Clarke said. "I'll have to go back to my board who will be pretty angry, very angry. Alan will need to go back to his board and then we'll need to get together and work out where we go from there."
There are no threats of boycotting meetings, holding grudges through Future Tour Programme planning or refusing to re-nominate a candidate. But when asked if anything had occurred at ICC board level that was more insulting to Australia and New Zealand, Clarke replied: "This has got to be in the grand final."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo