No. 42 May 15, 2011

The ICC becomes democratic

Mihir Bose
How cricket's governing body grew from an insular club to a commercial entity


The story of the International Cricket Council is convoluted: it has had two changes of name, and the present ICC is vastly different from the organisation whose initials it has continued to carry. The first ICC was formed in 1909, and financed by South African money. Its original three members were England, Australia and South Africa, all white countries. The letters stood for Imperial Cricket Conference, and membership was open only to nations belonging to the British Empire.

This only changed on July 15, 1965, when the name was changed to International Cricket Conference and countries from all over the world could be admitted. However, as in the past, it was run as an exclusive club by English cricket: the MCC president was the ICC president and the MCC secretary the ICC secretary.

It was the growth and power of Asian cricket that began to force the pace of change, and on July 7, 1993 the International Cricket Council was formed. England and Australia, known as foundation members, lost their power of veto. The veto had been much resented by the Asian countries, and England using the veto to stop Zimbabwe from becoming a Test-playing country was its death knell.

The ICC began to look like a professionally run international sports organization. It now had only two classes: full members and associates; Sir Clyde Walcott became its first non-English, non-white chairman; and instead of the MCC, it acquired its own chief executive and a staff, albeit based at Lord's. But it lacked the money it needed to widen the game's horizons.

That piece of the puzzle was sorted when Jagmoham Dalmiya came into the picture. During the 1996 World Cup held in the subcontinent, Australia and West Indies refused to play their matches in Sri Lanka, citing security fears. The ICC could do nothing to force them to play. With days to go before the opening ceremony in Calcutta the organisers were worried the Cup would be ruined. It was at one such crisis meeting that Anna Punchi, then president of the Sri Lankan board, turned to Dalmiya and said, "We should have an Asian as the next president of the ICC."

Dalmiya was at that time not even president of the Indian board (IS Bindra was) but as convenor of PILCOM, the body that ran the World Cup, he had masterminded its terrific commercial success. So it was in 1997, after some protracted electoral wrangles, that an Indian became president of the ICC for the first time.

Dalmiya's election could not have come at a more crucial moment. The ICC's only income was the subscriptions that the members paid. David Richards, the chief executive working with Disney World, had been trying to get cricket going in America in the hope of organising one-day international matches and raising money. But this had failed and Dalmiya conceived the idea of organising a knockout tournament, now called the Champions Trophy, that would be played every two years by Test-playing countries.

When he sold the television rights for the first such tournament, held in Bangladesh in 1998, the ICC had funds for the first time and could operate as a proper international body. Dalmiya began an unprecedented quest to globalise the game; during his time, cricket tournaments began to be held at venues as far apart as Singapore and Nairobi, Morocco and Toronto, and at the same time the Asian subcontinent became the new centre of world cricket.

Mihir Bose is the author of A History of Indian Cricket and other books. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2003

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vikram on May 17, 2011, 1:50 GMT

    It would have been a gesture of great magnitude if the other host countries - Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka had fielded a joint team against Pakistan in Pakistan.

  • Richard on May 16, 2011, 19:34 GMT

    @SRT_GENIUS-I think that's a particularly good post. Well said mate.

  • al on May 16, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    @Patrick Clarke: "alphabet soup of organisations which run boxing" - awesome!!!! Asian bloc needs to be more inclusive of the "white" countries. White countries shouldn't look at the inclusion as "return to power". There is a new world order for sure, but we don't want new idiots making the same mistakes.

  • Bheem on May 16, 2011, 18:35 GMT

    The title makes it sound like a faiytale, but it needs to be remembered that this piece relates to 1993-1999, and highlights what changed compared to the system that pre-existed... wherein AUS and ENG had veto powers. The current state (2011) is upsetting for sure... but don't kid yourself into thinking as if there were "halcyon days of yore" before 1993! (PS: the 1996 SL situation was different from Pak in 2009... an Indo-Pak XI played SL just before the WC to prove the safety levels, and all the WC matches in SL went off really well... but I agree that players have the right to choose if they wish to visit a region or not)

  • Dre on May 16, 2011, 1:39 GMT

    I agree totally with Patrick Clarke. The simple solution would be to spread the game further and progress top associate teams but we all know the ICC think about that.

  • Dummy4 on May 16, 2011, 1:39 GMT

    Democratic? Seriously? My foot! Oh, but look whom the author represents. The ICC seems to be solely influenced by BCCI now as we can see with all the fuss about UDRS! Racial segregation has indeed been abolished but the influence of money from some certain cricket boards has taken the game even backward!

  • Terry on May 15, 2011, 15:32 GMT

    I think its a joke that 10% of countries represent all of the countries and this is called Democracy. Do we consider South Africa during the 70s and 80s to be democratic?

    I think that the "World Game" has it right. Each country belongs to a region and each region gets a number of votes on the council based upon the number of countries that they have. Thus a 15 member ICC board would mean that a region with 21 countries would have 3 seats on the ICC board.

    True democracy means that there are no 2nd class citizens. Bring in equal voting rights for those countries who's shirts arent the right colour and we can again call cricket a gentemens game, and not a greedymens game!

  • Richard on May 15, 2011, 11:13 GMT

    What a fairy tale. The only bit missing is, "And they all lived happily ever after."

  • Dummy4 on May 15, 2011, 11:11 GMT

    abhi, look at the world around you, times do change, so "During the 1996 World Cup held in the subcontinent, Australia and West Indies refused to play their matches in Sri Lanka, citing security fears." For many of the same reasons games were abondoned in 1999 on the African continenet, and this year Pakistan was excluded completely from hosting the World Cup, again, because of security concerns. Mate, if you were a top class cricketer, would you want to go through what the Sri Lankans were a few years ago????

  • John on May 15, 2011, 10:30 GMT

    Using the words "ICC" and "democratic" in the same sentence is pure irony. Read Malcolm Speed's book.

    Will be interesting to see ICC democracy in action at their HongKong Executive Board meeting re full implementation of UDRS as recommended by the ICC Cricket Committee. Srinivasan has said it will not happen . What "democratic" inducements will he force on other members to support India's untenable position.

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