Waiting on chairman Srinivasan
All week, the major question hovering over the ICC annual conference was not whether N Srinivasan would become chairman. That result had been signed, sealed and delivered the moment the BCCI mailed its confirmation of his position as the Indian board's chosen representative. Pre-meetings with the game's Associate and Affiliate nations were less about consultation than confirmation: the gist being "we're going with or without you, but we're offering you the chance to come with us." A unanimous vote, by lions and lambs alike, duly followed.
Instead, the greatest mystery surrounded whether or not Srinivasan would deign to speak publicly following his coronation. While his acceptance of accountability to the full council of the ICC was clear, no one seemed entirely sure if he would follow that up by conveying his sense of duty, vision and lack of guilt about the concurrent Indian Supreme Court investigation to the world. The opaqueness of the BCCI stands as a reminder that Srinivasan has not always felt the need to explain himself.
Consequently, ICC media releases about events on Thursday remained artfully vague, only confirming the fact of a press conference a handful of hours before the 3.45pm assembly time. Even then there was the line that "the time of the media conference cannot be confirmed because it will directly follow the Annual Conference". Two rooms at the MCG had initially been set aside - the Olympic Room for an electronic media conference, and the Jim Stynes for print. Television would be seen to first, before a lengthier dialogue away from the cameras. But uncertainty about whether or not two separate events would be held at all brought reporters together in a state of considerable curiosity about what would happen next.
Conference delegates had been streaming out of the Members Dining Room for some time, and around 3.40pm Srinivasan appeared, accompanied by the BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel. Stories vary as to why - including the rumour that this so sparsely covered conference might actually be benefiting from a live television link with India - but it was soon apparent that earlier plans would be set aside. Srinivasan spoke briefly first to print and radio at a table beside the television cameras, and once more even more fleetingly to the TV networks. And then it was over, before so much as a single decent follow-up question could be asked.
Dressed in his tweed, country club-styled jacket and the only non-ICC tie among executive board members in the room (he has seldom donned the blue and green striped marker of the organisation he now chairs), Srinivasan batted away queries about his fitness for the role. He enlarged a little on how he came to bestride world cricket, what his vision for it might be, and on how he had little time for those who believed corruption was a major problem in the game, as match-fixing investigations and allegations tainted not only those involved but all those around them.
Most of all, though, Srinivasan spoke of his rightness, and his record. He had done "nothing wrong" to bar him from taking up the post, even if the Supreme Court had asked him to step aside from his BCCI work, a fact he massaged into the expression that he had "voluntarily" stood aside, without mentioning subsequent court appeals against that volunteered action. He needed to be judged on his record, whether it be the growth of the game's commercial value in India under his watch, or whatever progress is made at the international level over the next two years. A critical question Srinivasan was asked surrounded whether he would now act as the game's global overseer rather than simply as the BCCI's man. His response was indirect.
"Cricket is a very old game," Srinivasan said. "It has evolved over time, from Test cricket we went to ODI cricket, on to T20 cricket. One of the issues that is facing cricket is we are, in many countries, not seeing the kind of attendances at grounds that we are used to in the past. Some forms of cricket are more popular and see more spectator attention. Having said that, I think the most important thing we must look at is how to make cricket more interesting by making it more competitive. You will find in this new structure there is a lot of emphasis on meritocracy. The glass ceiling has been broken, the Associates and Affiliates, up and coming teams, they can come up and play the longer version.
"As the public sees there is greater competition, I think cricket will also improve. That is something we will drive."
Signing off with a declaration that India would never "have even dreamed" of leaving the ICC, Srinivasan left plenty of other queries hanging in the air. What is his attitude to cricket at the Olympics? Why had other nations, and indeed his own board secretary, stated that India's threat of leaving the game was very real? Would he comply with the ICC's new ethics code if he were to be implicated by the Supreme Court investigation? Does his view that smaller cricket nations should concentrate more on indigenous game development mean that he prefers tournaments played by fewer nations? When will the BCCI respond to requests by Afghanistan and Nepal to use playing facilities in India?
But these questions had to be left for another time and another place, as Srinivasan went about the work he has been in such a hurry to do that he insisted he be allowed to begin acting as chairman from the moment the conference concluded. Previous convention had the ICC president handing over to his successor not when the change was announced at annual conference but several months later. This time, Srinivasan moved straight from his press conference into meetings, and after appearing briefly at evening drinks eschewed the showpiece annual conference dinner in favour of a commercial rights tender meeting.
The engagement of Srinivasan and other chairmen of major nations with the Associates and Affiliates was a major selling point of the week. ICC management figures were encouraged by how they witnessed more face-to-face contact between all countries great and small this week than at any time in the past. Srinivasan has offered to show his own brand of leadership on growing the game by chairing the ICC's development sub-committee - and actually turning up to meetings. But as one Associate member pointed out, the glad-handing and flesh-pressing may simply have been a matter of smoothing the changes that are now gospel. It is all a question of taking the powerful on good faith that they will do what is right. Checks and balances have been replaced by cheques and balance sheets.
Much as it was for the journalists who waited outside MCG meeting rooms all week to discover what was transpiring at the annual conference, cricket must now wait for, and wait on, Srinivasan. There are sure to be times when no one will know what is happening until it has already happened, and when the decisions of the few will be imposed upon the wills of the many. The world will now have to judge Srinivasan on his actions. Not because he has suggested we do so, but because we are left with no other choice.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig