Notes by the Editor, 2005

The worst administrators in the world

Peter Chingoka, chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket: How can Zimbabwean cricket not be racist? The board's announced policy is racist © Getty Images
The 2004 ICC Champions Trophy deserves to be ranked alongside the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 in the list of Great Sporting Fiascos of our time.

Edinburgh and Atlanta were flawed in execution; England's Champions Trophy was a terrible idea from the start - a turkey of a tournament. This was all said here a year ago. The International Cricket Council (ICC) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) must share the blame, and we will leave it at that.

But among the dozens of tricks they missed was the idea of lining up not merely all the players at an opening ceremony (which is fundamental) but the officials of all the competing countries as well. Had they done that, it would have made the point that the ICC and ECB, despite occasional appearances to the contrary, are not the worst administrations in cricket.

Let's consider the dozen countries who took part in the Champions Trophy. It would not be difficult to argue that a majority of their governing bodies could, in varying degrees, be categorised as either incompetent, corrupt, government-controlled or racist. The Kenya Cricket Association acquired a reputation so bad even by the standards of its own country - one of the most notoriously corrupt in Africa - that it was disbanded by the government. The USA Cricket Association has been appalling for years, and by the end of 2004 the ICC felt stung into sending it a letter of such vituperative splendour (quoted in our Cricket in the United States section on page 1521) that it should stand as a classic of its kind.

The Sri Lankan board's ex-president is still listed as a member of cricket's supreme body, the ICC executive board, and has continued to attend meetings, but only after receiving special bail arrangements from the courts (he faces charges relating to his alleged involvement with a gangster, who was shot dead in court). In January 2005, the AGM of the Indian board, the most powerful in the game, was closed in 30 seconds, having been preceded by elections that were at best suspect and at worst outrageous. And so on.

In a way, this explains the ICC's complaisant attitude towards Zimbabwe, a full member with a seat at the table. Pick on them for maladministration, and where do you stop? But uniquely, there is evidence that Zimbabwean cricket is guilty on all four of the above counts.

Zimbabwe's rebel players may not be saintly victims, except in the sense that everyone suffering under Robert Mugabe's regime is a victim. And it may be that they will have been driven to submission by the time this is published, and that some kind of peace will have broken out. That might have solved the most visible of the country's cricketing problems - its inadequate team. It won't deal with what lies beneath.

The ICC managed to find a couple of judges who solemnly reported that Zimbabwean cricket is not racist, just as British governments always find some supine judge to blame someone else for a disaster. How can Zimbabwean cricket not be racist? The board's announced policy is racist. If it isn't racist, it would be the only institution in the whole damn country that isn't. That's not new: Rhodesia was a white racist country; Zimbabwe has turned that on its head. The racism might be a legitimate redress for past injustices (I think that's broadly true of UCB policies in South Africa), but non-merit selection is still racist. And in Zimbabwe, it has been executed with a peculiar mixture of malignancy and ham-fistedness. When the Mugabe regime falls, then - as with apartheid - something of the truth may come out. Those who collaborated with the regime's excesses, inside the country and out, might then feel some sense of shame. That includes cricket administrators.

© John Wisden & Co