ICC chief reacts after Modi's comments November 1, 2006

Money alone can't buy success, says Speed



'We're not interested in debates through the media or in litigating matters in the media' © Getty Images

The war of words between the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India has intensified further with Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, suggesting that India could not aspire to become a cricketing force without putting its own house in order.

While refusing to be drawn into the specifics of the criticism leveled at ICC by Lalit Modi, the vocal vice-president of the BCCI, on several occasions, most recently in a comprehensive discussion on Cricinfo's Round Table, Speed said money power alone could not make India a formidable force in world cricket.

"I have an old-fashioned view," said Speed when asked if the BCCI were using their superior monetary position to flex their muscle. "I judge sports organisations on the basis of three things: 1. How the team performs. 2. How the board looks after its stake-holders in terms of facilities on the grounds, and 3. How well they use resources like population to produce great cricketers."

The population aspect had been highlighted by Modi in his Round Table discussion to explain how it both brought in huge revenues, in terms of a captive audience, and also spurred the Indian board to greater efforts. Speed, however, chose to focus on a different aspect of the same issue.

"Let us look at New Zealand. They are in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy with a population of four million. They don't have a lot of money, but they are consistent. India last won a [ICC] cricketing event in 1983. I am very sure in 2007 it will be great if India win. It would mean that the power that India has, the population and booming economy, is being reflected in the performance of India. It helps to have money to do that, but it is not always necessary."

Both Speed's and Modi's comments were the latest in the BCCI's long-running skirmish with the ICC on several issues revolving around marketing rights, including the Members Participation Agreement (MPA), which deals with advertising during ICC events. The BCCI has refused to sign the MPA, saying it impinged on the rights of the players and the board in its present form.

Speed refused to react to Modi's recent allegations against the ICC and clearly stated that their silence on the matter was a deliberate move. "The ICC has said very little," he continued. "We see long articles, long letters to newspapers. We're accused of being the East India Company and lots of suggestions of inappropriate behaviour. We've deliberately not said anything. We're not interested in debates through the media or not interested in litigating matters in the media."

He reiterated his thoughts on Modi, the same ones he'd outlined a few weeks back, asserting that he hadn't been to a single ICC meeting and was just shooting off opinions instead of sticking to facts.

Modi, however, had asserted that there was an underlying 'attitude' problem to the whole standoff. "I will tell you what the problem is," he had said on Round Table. "The ICC wants a 'Yes' man. That is the actual problem. They want somebody that they can deal with and who is going to listen to them. In our case he has to deal with the whole committee - the decision-making process which was one person is not there anymore."

On his part, Percy Sonn, the president of the ICC, echoed his views but added that he was optimistic about the future. "I've had discussions with Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, and even had a half an hour discussion with the prime minister [Sonn met the prime minister two days back] of the country," he stated. "Whatever has happened in the past, the future is rosy. We cannot respond to allegations in newspapers. We cannot stoop to the level to involve 96 other countries to get involved in comments of an official who doesn't represent his country in ICC."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo