April 3, 2015

Mustafa Kamal's own goal

The former ICC president ignored the fact that for a holder of a high-profile public office there is no separation of public and personal identities
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In an episode of his popular satirical weekly show Last Week Tonight on American network HBO, John Oliver tears into FIFA for splurging $27 million to produce a film on itself. "Who makes a sports film where the heroes are the executives?" he asks.

Well, from what we have seen emerge from the ICC over the last few days, Oliver may have his answer. They may not have found a "hero" in Mustafa Kamal, but the ICC certainly has discovered an inadvertent comic suited perfectly for the lead role if they choose to go down the same path as their footballing counterparts.

Kamal resigned as ICC president after being denied what he described as his "constitutional right" to present the trophy to the winners after the World Cup final. On that argument alone, there is no counter. That the president is entitled to hand over the trophy is part of the ICC constitution.

But amid the outrage, fuelled by Kamal's vociferous and righteous outbursts, it must be asked if he forfeited that right by his extraordinary attack on the integrity of the match officials appointed by the very organisation he presided over. And he did so without a shred of evidence, and in the middle of the tournament.

Already under intense pressure in a high-profile World Cup game with an intrusive media waiting to pounce on the slightest error, the last thing umpires need is for their integrity to be questioned by means of innuendo and baseless suspicion. As ICC president, Kamal sits above them on the food chain, and his task is to protect not target them.

Mustafa Kamal didn't realise that it's his job to speak in favour of cricket, not his own country © Raton Gomes

If they erred, he must explain and empathise, not inflame and provoke. If the umpiring standards troubled him, he should have raised his concerns behind closed doors. If a particular umpire's decisions were suspicious to him, his job was to bring it to the attention of fellow members in a formal meeting, not in public.

Kamal did no such thing. And despite the benefit of hindsight, he felt no need to apologise, yet he expected to be granted the limelight and privilege of handing over the World Cup trophy. In essence, Kamal demanded he be allowed to exercise what he saw to be his right as president despite having spectacularly failed to perform what was his duty in the job.

Kamal should have seen the writing on the wall in the immediate aftermath of his comments. In an unprecedented move, the ICC issued a strongly worded statement the day after the controversy. "The spirit of the game dictates that the umpire's decision is final and must be respected," the ICC said. "Any suggestion that the match officials had 'an agenda' or did anything other than perform to the best of their ability are baseless and are refuted in the strongest possible terms."

Having been chastised publicly by the organisation he leads should have made Kamal recognise the rage among the rank and file - in this case the umpires. To offer an "explanation" in response and no apology was a gross miscalculation on his part.

Amusingly, in its official communication, the ICC claims Kamal resigned for "personal reasons" and that he had no "complaints to make against anyone". At his press conference on landing in Dhaka, Kamal was a lot less subtle and also made another bizarre remark. "The ICC asked me why I spoke in favour of Bangladesh," he said. "For me, country comes first, before I am the ICC president. That's why I spoke in favour of Bangladesh."

Kamal claimed that his observations were made in a "personal capacity". In doing so he ignored, wilfully or otherwise, one of the fundamental principles of holding public office: there is no separation of public and personal identities

Kamal clearly has a coloured understanding of what a senior administrative role in a sporting body such as the ICC entails. He is not in the position of ICC president to speak in "favour" of his country; he is in the job to speak in "favour" of cricket.

Kamal also claimed that his observations were made in a "personal capacity". In doing so he ignored, wilfully or otherwise, one of the fundamental principles of holding public office: there is no separation of public and personal identities when you assume a position of high profile.

Even if he held that opinion privately, his position demanded restraint rather than fuelling the fire. Or was Kamal, a professional politician, playing to a constituency? Seizing the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of a "nationalistic" cause is certain to attract a significant number of eyeballs.

The larger point is simply this: Mustafa Kamal remained unrepentant despite undermining the organisation he worked for in a leadership position. He made himself an object of ridicule and worse still, maligned men who draw their strength from their integrity. He did not deserve a space on that podium.

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Fhuck on April 8, 2015, 12:48 GMT

    As an Indian I am ashamed of what was done to Mr Kamal, what a shame for cricket, the BCCI should apologise to Mr Kamal but more importantly to the cricketing world. Why do we need to go to these methods to win games.......? I fail to understand.

  • Sayeed on April 8, 2015, 5:19 GMT

    Oh yes, whenever someone spits the truth out...we do not have guts to admit it... We must not forget that, we are talking about the GOD of cricket INDIA...

  • Arpito on April 7, 2015, 10:43 GMT

    Mustafa Kamal has made this into a joke. He has little or no idea of what is it that is needed to be the President of the sports premier organisation. This article perfectly nailed down the farce that was played out due to his staggering stupidity. Must be taking lessons from Sepp Blatter !!

  • NASIM on April 7, 2015, 8:52 GMT

    One thing disturbs me. Omissions of ON FIELD UMPIRES on further matches. Was it on purpose? Were they penalized? . If yes, WHAT MESSAGE ICC wanted to give to CRICKET? If no, (which is more unlikely), why they were not considered?

  • NASIM on April 7, 2015, 8:05 GMT

    He definitely had his own goals. HE WAS NOT FIT FOR THIS JOB as he wanted to be nationalistic in the eyes of his countrymen where he wants benefits with this action. He was not working for CRICKET as rightly pointed out in the article. Well written article.

  • Sudhakar on April 6, 2015, 19:52 GMT

    Mustafa Kamal's statements & the outcry that followed the India/Bangladesh clash clearly reflected the cricketing immaturity of Bangaldesh. True that Bangladesh cricketers gave a good account of their skills, and competed well for 35-40% of the game. But then, at this level, this is the least that is expected of a cricketing outfit that's been playing international cricket since 1986. To compete well at an international level, that's just not good enough. Bangladesh's wins have been few and far, and they've never really competed well for a long time. Victories have always been a flash in the pan, and their wins are still "upsets". If Bangladesh has any ambition to be "consistent", they need to accept reality and work hard in improving their skills - instead of making such statements.

  • Javed on April 6, 2015, 12:58 GMT

    @SYED MAHMUDUL HASAN - I am sorry but you are overly dramatizing. Chris Jordan's decision was referred same as all the run out decisions in the modern cricket get referred, but it was still given wrong in the end. Where as Sharma's was really marginal. Yes the commentators disagreed with the decision but they all had access to slow motion replay that the poor on-field umpires do not. Umpires could have referred it to the 3rd umpire? Sure, they made a mistake by not doing so. And I guess the on-field umpires should refer every decision to the 3rd umpire and make an ODI a two or three days game. But the bottom line is that what that one wrong decision gotta do with the outcome of that match? Umpires make mistake even though there is a referral system and they have made many in this tournament, but why single out Sharma's decision and make such a big fuss about it?

  • ultra on April 6, 2015, 11:56 GMT

    I can't think of a better headline

  • N on April 6, 2015, 8:58 GMT

    SHAHADAT HOSSAIN, how naive or ignorant can you get ? Mustafa Kamal heads the ICC which conducts a tournament, recruits umpires & officials, lays down the rules & processes. Bang in the middle of this tournament, he gets emotional and accuses the umpires of bias/ incompetence/ fraud (call it whatever). As the head of the organisation, does he not understand that such a statement reflects back on him ? If he does understand, then he clearly is incapable in his job, If he does not, then he is acting like a free lancer shooting off his mouth. In either case, he does not deserve to be in that job. Good that he quit the ICC on his own, instead of getting sacked.

  • Dummy4 on April 6, 2015, 8:33 GMT

    @SHAHADAT HUSSAIN.. he would have already then known that the top 3 would get the max benefits, in that case he should never have accepted the responsibilities of being the President of ICC. At that position you need to be diplomatic and not hyper-sensitive.

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