June 19, 2003

Challenges remain for cricket's administrators

Increasing central power and responsibility is vital for the future of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and its ability to run cricket, according to Malcolm Gray, the retiring ICC president.

Gray said that over the past three years of his presidency the ICC had addressed the issues of effective and appropriate governance in the sport. As a result of this the ICC had developed a central and professional administration which was increasingly able to provide leadership and direction for the game.

"For me, the most satisfying achievement that I have been involved in during my time as president has been the initiative to modernise and equip the game's administration for the challenge of running an international sport," he said. "Cricket is unusual in the fact that for much of its history a strong, central administration was not present. Its history is one of bilateral agreements between nations organising and administering tours. Indeed, for much of its history, the ICC and its predecessors were nothing more than an annual talkfest that brought together the cricket-playing nations to discuss issues of common interest."

Part of the redefining of the ICC's role had been establishing a clear separation of the roles of the ICC board and management, which allowed the ICC directors to concentrate on setting policy and management to implement it without interference. Gray summarised: "The players should play, the managers should manage and the directors should direct."

However, he admitted, the process was far from complete: the biggest challenge for his successor, Ehsan Mani, and the directors would be ensuring that the ICC was equipped with the authority and resources to address the demands of the modern sporting environment. Said Gray: "It is inevitable that some people will resist this move as it will inexorably lead to an increase in central power and responsibility - yet it must occur if the game is to prosper."

It wasn't only at ICC level that change was required. It also was needed at some country board levels. "Some boards resist the need to reform their own management structures," he said, "but they must grasp the nettle on this issue if they are to keep pace with the changes in the game and its associated commercial complexities."

Gray said the progress cricket was making on its international spread was obvious from the performances of the four leading associate countries at the World Cup. Canada, The Netherlands, Namibia and especially Kenya showed the success of the work the ICC was doing in association with the countries concerned. And the increase in membership from 49 countries in 1999 to 84 this year reflected the growth in the game.

Gray said that the move of the ICC to join the General Association of International Sporting Federations would also benefit the non-Test playing countries, because that, and the resulting association with the Olympic movement, would make it easier for associate and affiliate members to get funding assistance from their governments.

He also said that while the ICC could never prevent gambling on cricket, it had to be strong enough to ensure the game would never be weakened and tainted by the scourge of corruption that had threatened to overwhelm the sport.