Board games show cricket's true powerplay
The ICC press release on the new members of the cricket committee said: "Kumar Sangakkara and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan were recently elected by a vote of the 10 Test captains, and will serve on the cricket committee for a three-year term from 2013-15."
Sangakkara's name was written in the text of the entire email - Helvetica, size 13. Sivaramakrishnan's name was written in Georgia, size 16. It looked out of place and was very hard to miss.
May is the CEO of FICA, the players' union. He is more than its CEO: he was its very impetus for existing in the first place. Since 1997, he has fought for player rights with cricket boards. He has pushed for better security. He has been involved with care programmes for cricketers with emotional problems. And he has fought for better pay conditions, and even upfront pay, in haphazardly organised T20 tournaments.
Laxman Sivaramakrishnan is a BCCI-contracted commentator.
So ten Test captains had the choice of who to vote for. They chose the commentator.
Perhaps the players who voted against May were sick of having an independent voice on the committee. Maybe what they really wanted was an inside man who had the ear of the king. I doubt Tim May can chat with N Srinivasan anytime he wants to. Sivaramakrishnan can.
That is democracy at work. When given two choices, the players voted with their conscience and picked the person they wanted to represent them. Of course the basic problem with democracy is that people can be stupid, selfish and easily manipulated. Not that this is a democratic situation anyway. The international players of the world don't vote on their Test captain; their Test captains are appointed by the boards themselves.
As ESPNcricinfo understands, the four votes for May were from his home country of Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand. All have strong unions and are part of FICA.
But what of the rest of the world?
The BCCI is always cast as the ogre in situations like this. But MS Dhoni was the only person who would have possibly voted for Sivaramakrishnan regardless of May's history. The Indian players have no union and are not involved with FICA, and with Sivaramakrishnan being so heavily involved with Chennai - the city, at the very least - you would assume he and Dhoni have a relationship.
Misbah-ul-Haq may have been swayed and may have also responded badly to May suggesting international players boycott the yet-to-actually-exist Pakistan Premier League.
The Bangladesh Premier League was given an almighty smacking by May for the fact that it regularly didn't pay its players, or paid them really late. That might have concerned the Bangladesh captain.
And Angelo Mathews might not have taken well to May also making a big deal out of the fact that players in the Sri Lankan Premier League were not paid on time.
Of course, it is more likely that these three votes were not by aggrieved players, but from their boards. Boards that have been embarrassed by May regularly (as he has the nerve to point out that there may be financial or security concerns) and who probably don't want him on an ICC committee.
Zimbabwe's is always a swing vote, and talking about it in any real sense would be a waste of time. With all the other votes being fairly obvious and predictable, the casting decision ultimately came down to Darren Sammy's West Indies vote, which went to Sivaramakrishnan.
That said, if cricket boards are involved, this is not a player vote. And the entire position should be scrapped immediately. It's not even like there are no other players on the committee. The entire committee is made up of former players, apart from Sangakkara. Anil Kumble, Dave Richardson, Andrew Strauss, Mark Taylor, Ravi Shastri, Trent Johnston, Clare Connor, Gary Kirsten, Ranjan Madugalle and John Stephenson are all there. They may have many different masters these days, but they are all players.
The ICC did instruct the boards not to interfere with the process, which is similar to when the ICC wanted politics out of cricket. It's a nice idea but spectacularly unpractical.
Perhaps these players voted on conscience. Perhaps their boards pushed them that way. But why would you want to twist any arms? What is the benefit you get from replacing May with Sivaramakrishnan?
There is talk, of course, that the BCCI is trying to stack the votes of the ICC cricket committee and that is why all these votes dramatically left May. It seems odd that the BCCI would stack this committee, given that they have full control of the two committees above it; giving Sivaramakrishnan a vote hardly changes the power dynamic of the committee. And even if it did, the vote would hardly matter.
The cricket committee unanimously recommended the use of the DRS in all Tests in 2011. In 2013, we still don't have that. We may not have it for years. So why stack a board that you ignore quite easily? That already has, as its chairman, a BCCI official in Anil Kumble and another paid BCCI commentator in Ravi Shastri, as a media representative?
If it's not about votes on this fairly unimportant and easily ignored committee, what is it about?
Perhaps it is a play for power by some to control the message. May is independent of all boards. In his role at FICA, there is probably no board he has not annoyed. His job is to get the best deal for the players.
May speaks his mind at all times. His job is to call out these boards. His job is to do what is best for the players. He is no board lackey or stooge but his own man who believed so much in players having a unified voice that he created one for them.
What better way to embarrass this man, and FICA itself, than to have him ousted from his ICC role as the player's representative by the same players he works for.
With that in mind, I wonder if all international players of 2012 would have picked Sivaramakrishnan over May if they were allowed to vote in a completely anonymous fashion. Not that a vote like that would ever be allowed to happen, it's nothing more than a naïve utopian dream.
In cricket, the power is never with the people who play or pay, but always with the boards. It's not a democracy, it's a decadarchy.