August 2, 2012

Meet Geoff Allardice

The ICC's new general manager of cricket may not have as impressive a playing resume as his predecessor, Dave Richardson, but if his work with Cricket Australia is anything to go by, he's the right man for the job
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Twenty-odd years ago, a trio of young Victorian cricketers - Damien Fleming, Ian Harvey and Geoff Allardice - moved in together in a share-house in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Richmond.

Immediately, they had a problem.

The house had three bedrooms. One was enormous and had an en suite, one was medium-sized and perfectly comfortable, and one, in Fleming's words, was "a dog box that you could swing a cat in and it'd be hitting its head".

Negotiations were required.

"Straightaway me and Harvey want the biggest room," Fleming says. "Joffa [Allardice], the analytical one, sums up the situation and decides that yes, he's a one-in-three chance of getting the big room, but he's also a one-in-three chance of getting the little dog box. So what does the methodical, play-the-percentage, process-minded individual do? He puts his hand up and takes the middle room, because he can't lose then.

"For me, that just showed what Joffa is like. He played the percentages well, and for his ability to take both arguments, thoroughly research all the options and make a pretty cool and clinical decision, there have been no better in my time than Joffa."

Two decades later the stakes have risen for Allardice but he will take the same analytical, balanced approach into his new role as the ICC's general manager, cricket. It is a position that his predecessor, Dave Richardson, handled so well that he was in May named the organisation's new chief executive officer.

Like Richardson, Allardice is a former cricketer. Unlike Richardson, he did not reach international level. A batsman who piled up runs for Melbourne University in club cricket, Allardice played 18 matches for Victoria in the early 1990s. He was not an extravagant strokeplayer but could dig in for a fight.

Whatever he did, it impressed his long-time Melbourne University team-mate James Sutherland. They played school against each other and made their first-grade debut together in 1985-86, and later Allardice was captain of the club at the same time that Sutherland was the playing coach. By the early 2000s, Sutherland had become Cricket Australia's chief executive and he brought in Allardice, who had a chemical engineering degree, as umpires' manager.

"It was probably a little bit of a left-field one at the time, to recruit a sales engineer into a job as umpiring manager," Sutherland said. "I got some pretty quizzical looks from the umpires, as you can imagine, when I did that. But it took very little time for him to be understood and appreciated by the umpires. He has taken on more responsibilities since then and has grown to where he is now."

Allardice expanded from supervising Australia's umpires to become CA's cricket operations general manager, a wide-ranging role that has required him to take charge of scheduling the summer's various competitions, undertake pre-tour visits ahead of Australia's overseas trips and work on negotiations with the player association, among other things.

"There's no one in Australian cricket who knows more about the technical aspects of the game in terms of playing conditions and codes of conduct and all of those things," Sutherland says. "To be honest, I can't think of anyone in the world that is - given what he has done at Cricket Australia over the last few years - better equipped to do this job that he's just been appointed [to do].

"What he has achieved is added some real intellectual rigour to the way we go about our cricket operations. I guess more than ever before it's not just playing cricket but it's also running a business, and they're inextricably intertwined. In all of the programming aspects he's a genuine strategic thinker but at the same time balancing that with the operational responsibilities that he ultimately has."

"To be honest, I can't think of anyone in the world that is better equipped to do this job that he's just been appointed to"
James Sutherland on Geoff Allardice

Tony Dodemaide, the chief executive of Cricket Victoria, is another former state team-mate of Allardice who has also dealt with him in administration circles. Allardice's dealings with the state associations covered a range of fields, from scheduling to player movements to the standards at first-class venues, and Dodemaide said he was professional in his approach to issues that weren't always straightforward.

"He's a good people person," Dodemaide says. "His ability to strike up a rapport and have a conversation and perhaps address an issue which might be a bit tricky but [to] always come across as being very genuine - I think that will stand him in good stead for the big job that he's got now, because he's obviously dealing in a situation where there's a lot of cultural differences and perhaps political differences.

"I think if you asked around Australia, he's consistently won the confidence of people around Australian cricket, and I'm sure he'll do the same in his ICC role. You wouldn't last ten years [in the CA job] if you didn't work well with people. If you asked around the states he was very well respected and could always be relied upon to get back to you and have a reasonable answer, or work through an issue with good reason."

Not all negotiations are simple. Since moving further into the cricket operations side of his role, Allardice has had plenty to do with the Australian Cricketers' Association and its chief executive, Paul Marsh, on issues ranging from Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) talks to player safety and security and pre-tour visits to other countries. Despite often finding themselves on opposite sides of the debate, Marsh says he respects Allardice as a cricket administrator.

"Geoff and I haven't always seen eye to eye on issues but that's no different to anyone else [at Cricket Australia]," Marsh says. "When we've had difficult issues to deal with and challenging times, we've always got through the issues. I'd certainly like to think that we've worked well together over the years. I certainly respect him and wish him well for the new job.

"I think that it's a good thing for the players that he comes from a country with a player association that is well established and he understands that relationship, understands the importance and value of working with the players rather than against them. And as a former player himself I think he has a good understanding of that."

And while an international career eluded Allardice during his playing days, he now has the chance to have a real influence on the future of the game at a global level.

"I'm not surprised to see where he is today because he's always been a diligent worker and a well-thought-out individual with a real passion for the game," Fleming says. "People with those attributes are exactly the type of people you want involved in the game and running it at the top level."

If it was Fleming and Harvey running the ICC, it would be rock-paper-scissors around the boardroom tables, just as it was to claim bedroom real estate two decades ago. For the record, Harvey got stuck with the dog box.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Behind_the_bowlers_arm on | August 2, 2012, 21:06 GMT

    Seems a cosy arrangement of old mates looking out for each other.

  • POSTED BY Smithie on | August 2, 2012, 6:32 GMT

    Will his intellectual rigour win over Mr Srinivasan on DRS?

  • POSTED BY Behind_the_bowlers_arm on | August 2, 2012, 21:06 GMT

    Seems a cosy arrangement of old mates looking out for each other.

  • POSTED BY Smithie on | August 2, 2012, 6:32 GMT

    Will his intellectual rigour win over Mr Srinivasan on DRS?

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY Smithie on | August 2, 2012, 6:32 GMT

    Will his intellectual rigour win over Mr Srinivasan on DRS?

  • POSTED BY Behind_the_bowlers_arm on | August 2, 2012, 21:06 GMT

    Seems a cosy arrangement of old mates looking out for each other.