July 6, 2008

ICC out of control

The game's governing body has surpassed itself with its moves over Zimbabwe and the Oval Test forfeiture



United they politick: the ICC board at the Dubai conference © AFP

The ICC must believe it's possible to fool all of the people all of the time judging by their outlandish performance at the latest executive board meeting.

When Zimbabwe arrived for the ICC meeting, their two priorities would have been to retain their elite status vote and keep their full share of the ICC monies. Amazingly for a cricket body that has been under a cloud for the way it has administered the game and handled finances, Zimbabwe Cricket extracted exactly those promises from the meeting, and in addition they don't have to perform to get paid.

The ICC, or at least the Zimbabwe apologists among the board members, said before the meeting the objective was to keep the game alive in a country that has been raped and pillaged by a rogue president (though those last were not the words they used). The ICC's sentiment is laudable, but for some time now the problem has been the serious question mark over the way ZC has been distributing the funds allocated to it.

A recent independent audit indicated possible shady dealings by ZC, and reports filed by visiting journalists suggest the game's infrastructure has been neglected by local officials. Consequently, the statement by the ZC chairman, Peter Chingoka, "We have decided to pull out [of the Twenty20 World Cup] in the larger interests of the game," rings pretty hollow. More like they pulled out of the tournament to keep everyone happy on a board renowned for its politicking and power-broking, and in return ZC retained all its perks.

Ironically, the best way for Zimbabwe to recover its cricketing credibility is via the Twenty20 game. There is no way their standard of play is good enough for either Test or 50-over international cricket, but in last year's World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa they had a meritorious victory over Australia.

Still, it appears Zimbabwe won't go short of cricket in the future. Following the meeting Chingoka flaunted ZC's windfall when, after explaining the ICC decision only pertained to the tournament in England, he said, "We are now looking forward to more tours and international cricket with our Asian friends, especially India." And it sounds like he won't have any trouble gaining "official" status for those matches in return for his extremely tainted vote at the ICC.

As if the Zimbabwe charade wasn't enough for one meeting, the ICC excelled itself by also declaring the England victory over Pakistan at The Oval in 2006 has now been deemed a draw instead of a forfeit. After almost two years of acrimonious debate and legal posturing, the ICC executives declared that "in light of the unique set of circumstances the original result was felt to be inappropriate".

 
 
No matter how Pakistan feels they were wronged at The Oval - and there is some sympathy for them regarding the way the on-field matter was handled - there is no more appropriate punishment for a team that refuses to play on than to have the match awarded to their opponents
 

No matter in what way Pakistan feels they were wronged at The Oval - and there is some sympathy for them regarding the way the on-field matter was handled - there is no more appropriate punishment for a team that refuses to play on than to have the match awarded to their opponents.

Throughout the 129 years of Test cricket prior to the Oval, many teams have been wronged. And many more were angered over the way matters conspired to harm their chances of victory, but none ever refused to play on. In the end common sense always prevailed - until all sanity flew out of the Pakistan dressing room window at The Oval and they refused to play on. A forfeit was the only conclusion to be drawn from Pakistan's actions that day and only the ICC could come to any other decision.

The ICC's structure means it often doesn't react quickly to issues, and smouldering embers regularly turn into raging bushfires. The structure also encourages board executives to think of their country first and the game last and consequently the ICC has had a number of ignominious days in its chequered history. However, this latest meeting surpassed all their previous efforts and it now seems as though the only ones they are fooling is themselves.

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