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Ehsan Mani talks to Cricinfo's Osman Samiuddin about the work done in the ICC and the organisation's future
July 3, 2006
Ehsan Mani ends his three-year stint as ICC president on July 7. Having taken over shortly after the last World Cup and all the controversies over player contracts, Mani's reign has seen cricket in crisis in Zimbabwe, and increased questions being asked about ICC-sponsored white elephants like the ill-fated Super Series. In this exclusive interview, he talks to Cricinfo's Osman Samiuddin about the work done and the organisation's future. Click here to read the first part of the interview.
Is there a worry that the ICC has become too financially-driven, giving way to concepts such as the ICC Super Series?
That is actually two things. The ICC does raise money from its events and it's very important to do so. I don't know whether people realise but when they hear that we have done a deal for US$ 500-600 million from sponsors, every penny of that is invested back into the game. The ICC doesn't hang onto any of it. We distribute it either back to our members directly or through our development programmes.
Since I've been involved in the ICC, we've spent over US$ 100 million on the development of the game in associate and affiliated member countries. There is no way that we could do that outside the ICC events and it sounds like a lot of money but when you see that there are 86 countries non-Test playing countries whose main source of financial support is through the ICC, divide 100 million by 86 and then by the 8-year cycle we run, it's not much. So I make no apologies for trying to make ICC commercial. What is important is that we make it efficient not only in raising money properly but also directing it properly.
On the way we'll make mistakes, we'll try new things. The Super Series concept was great; the best team in the world taking on the best players in the world. The one thing we found, interesting and unique in our game, is the team spirit. People not playing for their country just lacked that edge. Having learnt from that mistake we said `fine, it was a great experiment, it didn't work, let's move on.'
Similarly, over the next 8-year cycle we are looking at Twenty20 as an experiment. If it works, terrific, because it will be a great development tool, but if it doesn't we still have the Champions Trophy, we've got the World Cup which do work and we've got to strengthen those.
|No game can sustain itself in the long-term if it is only played by ten countries|
What's your take on technology and umpiring? Will it not eventually be the case where all decisions are referred to technology and umpires become almost redundant?
I don't believe umpires will ever get redundant if you look at the use of technology as a way of assisting umpires rather than working against them or undermining them in any way. It would help a great deal, for me personally, if players walk when they know they are out. That doesn't happen anymore which is sad because it is one of the unique spirits of our game. I would urge any player around the world to walk, if they know they are out. They don't do that and it creates a lot of pressure on the umpire.
But when you and I sit at home and watch the game on TV, if the broadcaster is able to use technology to show whether the umpire's decision was right or wrong, I believe that undermines the umpire more. It's far better that we try and use the same technology and see if we can assist the umpire.
Match referees - their role has evolved over time and become better defined than only now. But there is still a lot of uncertainty with the consistency with which match referees are working. Do you feel this is a problem with interpretation or something more than that?
Referees are human and they all see things differently. When you see the guidelines to referees it's very clear. For each offence, there is a stipulated penalty. Within the band of penalties there is discretion depending on how severe the penalty is. What happens is that when a referee is asked to determine whether an offence has taken place or not, different referees will take different yardsticks. To a large extent that is understandable as people view things differently but players don't like it because it does create from time to time inconsistency. And that is something that the ICC does discuss with the referees.
|If the broadcaster is able to use technology to show whether the umpire's decision was right or wrong, I believe that undermines the umpire more|
What are the greatest challenges facing the game over the next 5-10 years?
One is player workloads. That will be terribly important: the game has become very competitive and there is a lot of money coming into it. There is a lot of pressure on the board and the players. Players do benefit from money coming into the game but it is getting that balance right.
The other is improving playing standards of the top six associates. We are going to be spending a huge amount of money in trying to do this and we need to make sure it works. No game can sustain itself in the long-term if it is only played by ten countries. We're all watching the football World Cup and you can see how football is in more than double the number of countries than the ICC. They have over 240 countries who are part of FIFA. That is what we are up against so we have to make sure not only that the game continues to spread and get stronger in the non-traditional countries but also that the standard of playing is good enough for these countries to challenge the ten countries.
Zimbabwe will be another challenge. The good thing about Zimbabwe is that cricket is being played today by more people than ever before within the country. In a society where there is very little relief from political and economic pressures that is a wonderful thing. The challenge there is that Zimbabwe comes back to Test cricket in a structured way.
From an ICC perspective, another challenge we'll be facing is the sale of our next round of commercial rights which will be put into place early next year. A lot of world cricket outside the ten Test-playing countries - and even some of the ten countries - depend on the money that the ICC generates so that will be a big challenge to get that right to sustain the game till 2015.
When I took over there were a number of issues. We've touched on the relationship between ICC and its members. It wasn't only India, there was England and their security concerns with Zimbabwe during the World Cup. But it was to get these relationships back on track and I believe today we have an excellent relationship between the ICC and its members. We all pull in the same direction. Obviously countries have their own interest and will promote them understandably but not at the expense of cricket as a whole.
Security concerns about Pakistan were a big issue when I took over. Within weeks of taking over, South Africa almost pulled out of a tour and I had to get them back. We received tremendous support from the PCB and General Tauqir Zia. He handled that very well. I went out on a limb giving assurances to South Africa about the level of security that would be provided. I think if that tour had not taken place, international tours to Pakistan would have been out for many years. Before that, if you look at the build up, New Zealand had twice pulled out, once while they were in the country, West Indies and Australia refused to play in Pakistan, both playing in neutral venues and that was no good for Pakistan. That was a huge challenge and the turning point of it was the South Africa tour.
Once we were able to get that back on track, it also gave the Indians the confidence to tour Pakistan. I think Pakistan had always been willing to play India but there were huge reservations in India, huge perceptions about what they would find if they came to Pakistan. Fortunately, as I always expected, once the crowds turned up they would find that reality was totally different to what they were led to believe. That has done a huge amount, far beyond the game, in putting the relationship between the two countries back on track. That is a great example of where sport can cut across borders and society, over religion and race and other hang-ups that we have for the overall good of the country. . Cricket also played a very active social role - a role we believe the sport has - in the communities that we play the game through our partnership with UNAIDS. We use cricket to bring awareness and to be able to talk about AIDS, especially in Asia where we don't talk about these things and there is a huge stigma involved. And I think when you get our players or players from India standing with a young boy who has AIDS tossing the coin before play and shaking hands with him it sends a pretty powerful message across the subcontinent and the world.
|When a referee is asked to determine whether an offence has taken place or not, different referees will take different yardsticks|
The Tsunami was another incredible performance by the ICC and its members and raised huge amounts of money for people who suffered in affected countries. The earthquake in Pakistan, the ICC played a leading role in that as well. Within 24 hours of the event happening, the ICC donated US$500,000. We also ran appeals during the matches in Sydney, on TV and on the ground.
Women's cricket has always been a big issue for me. I always felt that if we can get women playing it is healthy for society, it secures the future of the game because if young girls are playing, they are the mothers of tomorrow. We merged with the IWCC last year, and they had 15 members. Within the year we have 45 members and they are all actively playing cricket. I am really pleased when I see countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh playing women's cricket. I think it is great for society. Women in our part of the world certainly don't get as much exposure to sport. So these are all positives that I am taking with me.
Any regrets, disappointments?
Obviously one doesn't ever achieve 100% of what you set out to do. I do not have regrets. I believe today the relationship between the members and generally the game of cricket is in better shape than it was three years ago. I think if one can leave sport in better shape than when you found it, that's great.
Any advice for your successor?
None, actually. He is a very experienced administrator and has been involved in cricket for a long time. He's been president of the United Cricket Board of South Africa for three years. He was there when the World Cup took place and he's been part of the ICC board for the last five years. He knows the issues, he understands the issues and I wish him the very best.
How would you like your tenure to be remembered?
That is for you guys to decide. I can only count my failures and hope I had done better. I think it is for the stakeholders to say how I have done.