July 10, 2012

Richardson ticks all the boxes

Players, former ICC CEOs and other colleagues agree Dave Richardson has what it takes to guide cricket's governing body through tough times

The meeting was held at the coffee shop of the Sandton Sun Hotel in Johannesburg. The two men were not strangers, though they hadn't met before: Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive at the time, and Dave Richardson, the former South Africa wicketkeeper who was now representing the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) and was vocal in his opposition of the ICC on player issues. Richardson thought he was there because Speed wanted to talk things over in person. In reality, the Australian wanted to make a job offer.

"In personal settings David could be quite shy and it takes a bit to get to know him," Speed says, remembering that first meeting in 2001. "I wanted to talk to him about coming to London to work for the ICC. I could see he was clearly interested but he was sceptical about moving his young family. But I thought he was the man for the job and that, with a bit of prodding and patience, he would be interested in doing it."

Speed was looking at Richardson as the ICC's general manager of cricket. He had had a word with Ali Bacher, the former managing director of the South African board, who said that despite Richardson's background as a former international cricketer, he might be better suited to the commercial side. "Because in South Africa, after he had retired he got involved with quite a few companies revolving around the commercial aspect," Bacher says.

Richardson took over as the ICC chief executive on July 1 this year, having seen off a heavyweight contender in David Collier, the highly experienced CEO of the England board. Did Speed see Richardson going on to occupy the seat he had himself once held at the ICC?

"He had the potential to do that because he was very well qualified as a cricketer, and professionally he was very well regarded throughout the cricket community," Speed says. "The most impressive thing about him is, he is a very honest, straightforward man with good values. He has worked hard during his time at the ICC to put himself in a position where he can be appointed as the chief executive."

Bacher has no doubt about Richardson's credentials. "He has never been there for the ego trip," he says. "He is a very solid individual. He will do a very good job at a time when world cricket is divided." Honesty and integrity, Bacher stresses, are qualities that the head of the ICC needs, and Richardson's character is above board. When he was in office, Speed had asked Paul Condon, the then head of the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, to vet Richardson, considering he was South Africa's vice-captain.

From kit to suit
By his own admission, Richardson feared he would never play international cricket, having grown up in the apartheid years. He made his international debut on the wrong side of 30 but eventually went on to play 42 Tests and 122 ODIs, keeping wicket for seven years. Much of his career was under the captaincy of Kepler Wessels, first at domestic level and then for South Africa; towards the end he was vice-captain to Hansie Cronje.

At 38, he decided it was time for Plan B. A trained lawyer, Richardson knew what he wanted to do after he retired from the game.

In the early 1990s, Bacher once assembled the South African squad at Kingsmead in Durban to talk about the future. Richardson, Bacher remembers, was sitting in the back row, and raised his hand towards the end of the meeting. "Dr Bacher, can I be brutally honest?" he asked, before going on to convey the message that the South African players were not being looked after properly from the professional and commercial point of view.

It was the first hint of his penchant for negotiation. Bacher took up the matter with the South African board and soon enough player contracts were issued, with monthly retainers. "They had finanicial security for the first time, and there were other financial incentives, like win bonuses," Bacher says.

"David's strengths are that he is forward-thinking and is keen to make the game even better than it is for not just the players but the spectators too. So he is prepared to look at new ideas that will make the game more attractive without losing the essence of the game"
Sunil Gavaskar

Andrew Hudson, the former South Africa opener and currently chairman of selectors, credits Richardson for nurturing SACA in its infancy. "In those years players were just happy to play, but he had the foresight to see that players had rights as well and that we would get our fair share in terms of player pools. He was instrumental during the negotiations. That was the start of profit-sharing, in terms of players getting a good deal," Hudson says.

He describes Richardson as a man serious about what he was doing, one whom players could trust. It is the sort of respect Richardson consistently evokes. But his journey to the upper echelons of the ICC has called for patience. When Speed finished his tenure and Richardson applied for the job in 2008, he didn't quite get it - he was put in charge as acting chief executive till the recruitment committee finalised their choice from the shortlist, settling on Haroon Lorgat.

"I was very impressed with his maturity at the way he accepted the board's decision and just continued with his job," Lorgat says. "After a couple of months, I recall him coming up to me and saying, 'I'm glad you got it and not me because I can see there are a few things for me to pick up and learn.' So he now believes he is far more qualified to take over the job."

Among the things Lorgat did early in his tenure was send his senior executives on professional management learning programmes. In 2009, Richardson attended an in-depth business management training course at the London Business School.

The players' CEO
Traditionally the role of the chief executive has been one subject to the balance of power among the ICC board members. Richardson, Speed says, has always remained an apolitical man in highly political situations. He has been vital to smoothing the introduction of various rule changes, especially in one-day cricket. A look at the most critical decisions involving the ICC over the last few years will reveal Richardson's involvement: amending the laws on chucking, the setting up of the Elite panel of umpires and match referees, the Oval forfeit issue involving Darrell Hair against Pakistan, the Monkeygate scandal in Sydney, and more recently the DRS. Richardson has been the first man his bosses have got on the phone with and dispatched to broker solutions.

Richardson's manner is described as not confrontational. He listens to the other side but remains firm in his own decision-making. His leadership in shepherding the DRS process, its general management and improvement, has been exceptional - to the extent that, save for the BCCI, there are very few in world cricket administration who don't now acknowledge the value of the DRS.

Sunil Gavaskar, the former Indian batting legend, who has served with Richardson on various ICC cricket and technical committees, describes the South African as earnest. "David's strengths are that he is forward-thinking and is keen to make the game even better than it is for not just the players but the spectators too," he says. "So he is quite prepared to look at new ideas and innovations that will make the game more attractive without losing the essence of the game. He is also a good listener who will accept another person's point of view if he is convinced."

Gavaskar remembers an instance of Richardson using his skills of persuasion to argue the case for one bouncer (over shoulder-height) per over in limited-overs cricket, back in 2001. "There was a former skipper who was adamant that allowing a bouncer per over meant that 50 deliveries were unscoreable, and felt that it would mean negative cricket. David gently asked him how he would like his country's pace bowlers to be hammered by tailenders who were promoted up the order as pinch-hitters. These same pinch-hitters would not dare come on the front foot in a Test match against the same bowlers for fear of the bouncer. The dissenter thought about it and agreed to one bouncer being allowed in limited-overs cricket."

Rahul Dravid is another who has seen Richardson in two avatars: from being opponents, the two now sit together on the MCC's cricket committee. "He can see both sides of the coin and has that unique advantage," Dravid says. He remembers an example from Richardson's early days as an administrator, in 2002. Back then the ICC was asking all member boards to make player contracts mandatory. The Indian players found themselves at loggerheads with the BCCI over the terms of those contracts. Dravid and Anil Kumble were leading the player-board talks and met Richardson to put their point of view across. "He understood our point of view well and willingly heard us," Dravid recalls.

That is a big advantage Richardson has over his predecessors, Speed and Lorgat: he already has the players and umpires on his side as they feel he can understand and sympathise with them.

"Be impartial, be strong"
At the ICC's executive board, things are more about politics than sport. Both Speed and Lorgat grew used to coming out of meetings with frustration written on their faces. Will Richardson, who has always worn a sunny smile so far, stand a chance in the face of the inevitable politicking? "All he can do - and he does this well - is, he needs to treat everyone fairly, to be honest in his dealings," Speed says. "He needs to be impartial, and he will need to be strong."

Both Lorgat and David Morgan, the president between 2008 and 2010, think that for the ICC to function effectively as an influential parent body, it is essential the corporate governance model be uniformly adopted top-down. Lord Woolf in his independent governance review in February this year stated the need for restricting the ICC's executive board to make it more independent and less dominated by the bigger countries, and also recommended a re-examination of the rights and benefits of the Test-playing Full Member nations, calling for measures to increase transparency in dealings by the ICC and its members. Richardson, Morgan says, needs to keep the flame of the Woolf report burning. "One does not have to implement every last detail of the review, but it is important that the review be kept as a live topic."

According to Speed, a good ICC CEO needs to be a leader, a good manager of people, an excellent listener; he needs to be prepared to make hard decisions and follow up on them, be someone with good judgement, who is prepared to work within the political confines of the game, and is respected by the people with whom he is in contact with; also, intelligent, patient and with a sense of humour. "Richardson ticks all those boxes," Speed says.

Richardson has handled adversity with patience in the past. And he will do well to listen to the man who offered him his first job at the ICC. "Don't try to become popular," Speed says. "Don't worry about what the media say, or think. Just do your job without fear or favour."

With additional reporting by Firdose Moonda
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bored on July 12, 2012, 22:18 GMT

    @correctcall: I agree with what you state in principle. But I still have the query regarding how much human intervention do u permit in the technology particularly with 50/50 cases. Also, with the snicko(are you sure about the 7mins thing? I think its down to 3.) suppose u do get a contradicting result with say the HotSpot(pt. of contact not in frame,etc), the convention is to second the on-field umpire for lack of evidence. I believe a team's review should NOT be used up if a decision is not changed for lack of evidence.

  • david on July 11, 2012, 17:32 GMT

    not sure if umpires have that rate 94% of success. were do you get that rate from.i would put the right results of DRS at that and umpires i guess 75%. has it been done to check a game using both till then we may get the right decisions on a more constant level. maybe the terms of abuse of umpires/referee.blind as a bat/get your eyes tested will no longer be heard.

  • david on July 11, 2012, 17:25 GMT

    i thought it was hotspot that took time, with snicko they can get a result within seconds. with hotspot a couple min max at most. in my other sport rugby league they use video evidence and sometimes can take a minute or 2 using the 3/4 cameras that are used, but in the end the correct result is arrived at. the importance of the correct result is the important thing. not knocking umpires but using the referal system lets you know just how many decisions umpires do get wrong

  • John on July 11, 2012, 15:26 GMT

    @bored_iam and @premclement : the ICC should be responsible for DRS and pay for it - recovering the cost from sponsorship (which will only be viable if India is onboard) and the telecasters who will pay an offset because they no longer incur the cost of the technology. The Elite Umpiring panel should be responsible for DRS and ensure its technical integrity. Snicko is irrelevant to DRS since it takes 7 mins to process. Umpires still have responsibility for the decision aided by DRS. I agree the 3rd umpire should have the right to question an onfield call after the side's review allocation is used up. The game of cricket is spoiled and results can be determined by umpiring errors. Cook was reprieved last night when Dar(one of the world's two best umpires ) believed he was out caught and gave him out. Hotspot proved he only hit his pad. It was a critical point in the game having just lost Bell & Trott. No DRS and perhaps a different result ! Cricket's integrity will be enhanced by DRS.

  • James on July 11, 2012, 13:40 GMT

    @correctcall: What is the point to have DRS when the success percentage of umpires is 94%? Still, DRS is not at all accurate. For example, there are tons of situations where the DRS sticks with umpire's call. What is the point of it? It is doing this because DRS is unsure of what to decide. Further, why spend millions of pounds on those cameras when the umpire's success rate is 94%. Who would want to waste millions of pounds just for that 6%, which is insignificant.

  • Junaid on July 11, 2012, 10:21 GMT

    ticks the box coz he won't oppose BCCI and push BCCI to do anything they dnt want

  • Bored on July 10, 2012, 20:19 GMT

    @correctcall:Amongst other things a BCCI spokesperson in a recent interview pointed out that they have a couple of issues: 1. Who bears the costs? 2. The ICC isnt setting up cameras for eg. How do u ensure that the very technology is not compromised due to an error on the part of a technician 3. U have contradicting evidence (HotSpot not agreeing with Snicko). What kind of a priority order do u set ,ie, Hawkeye>snicko>hotspot?? 4. The "100%" accuracy is a slighly misreported fact. Their stand is that in 50-50 cases u are retaining the on-field umpire's call, what then is the point of this technology if it is to be overruled? u aren't giving technology the 100% right to make a call and neither are u allowing the umpire. Figure out the %involvement of both. 5.Lastly, for outstanding bad decisions u DONT need DRS. Use conventional replays to eliminate howlers. Empower the 3rd umpire.

  • John on July 10, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    He needs to demonstrate leadership on DRS and show India that the technology works, that it can be financed by sponsorship and technically controlled by the ICC Elite Umpires Panel if they come on board and that it is in their self interest because their spinners will get more wickets and their batsmen will learn to use their bats rather than their pads. Leaving the Rusten DRS data off the ICC Board agenda was a poor start but Richardson could have raised the issue himself under the final agenda item "other business" Why not ?????? Now he needs to go and sell the benefits to Srinivasan.

  • david on July 10, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    it does not matter how good he is. he has a weight round his shoulders and its called the BCCI. they are not going to let anyone take their monopoly of the game from them. with the aussies getting closer to them than before.

  • Kapil on July 10, 2012, 9:06 GMT

    While he has been great in all other aspects, I just don't get his insistence on not including the home-away factor in ICC rankings claiming it makes them too complicated - without the home-away factor being considered, Test rankings are really just useless. India held the top position earlier when they had a decently long stint playing in India as opposed to abroad, England now has the position since they have played all the strong sides at home and only a few weak sides away - and India will soon again have that position as they have 3 big home series coming up before any away series

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