Howard lost support in last week - Morgan
Support for John Howard's appointment to the vice-presidency of the ICC fell away "significantly" in the last week with at least a couple of the boards, which eventually opposed the move, changing their stance in that time. What brought about the change, however, is not yet clear.
Howard's appointment was rejected on Wednesday by six of the ICC's ten Full Members, thought to consist of the subcontinent boards of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well as South Africa and the West Indies. Zimbabwe is said to have provided the most vocal opposition privately and led the movement and, though they didn't sign the letter that brought matters to such a head, they are believed to have played a prominent part in the decision.
At least two boards are said to have given assurances to David Morgan, the outgoing ICC president in the last week, that they would support Howard only to change their minds eventually. "There had been a significant shift downwards in the level of support - that is a shift of support away from John Howard in the last week," Morgan told Cricinfo, though he didn't identify where the support fell away, or why it did.
Ehsan Mani, the former ICC head who remains close to senior figures within the ICC, said the PCB and BCB - who had said they would seek government advice over the issue - had assured Morgan recently of their support, but backed down. "Both Bangladesh and Pakistan had assured David Morgan recently that they would support John Howard and I find it strange that they eventually opposed the move," Mani told Cricinfo. "Were their arms twisted over the course of the last week? What made them change their stance?"
None of the opposing members or the ICC has spoken publicly about the objections and under ICC rules they are not required to. Sri Lanka's concern arose from Howard being a figure from outside cricket's administrative fraternity. Others such as Zimbabwe and South Africa are believed to have based their disapproval on Howard's past political leanings, particularly with the government of the former.
The anger within the Australia and New Zealand boards, however, stems from not being given any concrete objections privately either. "There's been no clear indication of what objections there were and that is disappointing in many ways to Australia and New Zealand," said Morgan, who stepped down from his post on Thursday.
"They went through a rigorous process to choose between two excellent candidates and I am disappointed that I was unable to push that nomination through. The new president [Sharad Pawar] and I had supported the nomination [the ICC press release of the time had expressed support to the process rather than the nomination] but unfortunately I was unable to see it through," Morgan said.
The issue doesn't show signs of being resolved any time soon. CA, it is understood, will continue backing Howard, though the ICC again urged the two boards to reconsider their nomination by August 31. Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, refused to be drawn into speculating what would happen if Howard's name was put up again. "I think that's speculative and we must wait for August 31 and see what comes forward," he said at a press conference in Singapore.
Morgan believes one casualty of this conflict may be the system of putting forward a candidate for the post, which has already been through a number of guises since the mid 1990s. Currently nominations are put forward by a pair of regionally-aligned countries on a rotational basis: Howard was Australia and New Zealand's choice. Pakistan and Bangladesh are next in line to put forward a nomination; one candidate will emerge from India and Sri Lanka; England and West Indies, and South Africa and Zimbabwe are the remaining regional pairings. In the past more general systems have been used, as well as variants of a regional policy.
"The rotational system was used for the first time this time," Morgan said. "There is a commitment to retain it but I have my doubts that it will stand."
There are broader concerns from yesterday's development, in particular the apparent realigning of loyalties along lines that were thought to have mattered less in the last decade, those of race. The power of the Asian bloc was said to have weakened as the BCCI and CA drew closer in recent years to benefit from a profitable and exciting rivalry.
But CA chairman Jack Clarke said yesterday that his board would be "cautious" in their dealings with the BCCI in future. "I think the lessons to be learnt for CA would be big ones after this incident," Mani said. "Australia threw all their eggs into one basket over the last few years and it's come back to bite them because they lost support from other boards while pursuing the BCCI.
"But I think it is important for cricket to do some serious soul-searching and for the administration to draw a line somewhere about how one board can effectively have so much strength to be able to run the entire game. There needs to be a counter-balance."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo