Ray Mali and Malcolm Speed preside over the fateful ICC meeting in Dubai in March © International Cricket Council

Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, has been put on paid leave until his contract runs out on July 4.

In a brief statement, David Morgan, the ICC's president-elect, said: "This ... is the result of a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the CEO and a number of board members, including the president, over a variety of issues that include Zimbabwe.

"David Richardson, the ICC general manager - cricket, will serve as interim CEO until Speed's replacement, Haroon Lorgat, assumes the role at the ICC's annual conference at the beginning of July."

Cricinfo has learnt that though Speed's ouster was largely due to serious differences he had with Ray Mali, the ICC president, and Norman Arendse, the president of Cricket South Africa, over the Zimbabwe crisis, the chief executive's recent comments on the unauthorized Indian Cricket League (ICL) had senior BCCI officials demanding that he leave the post.

BCCI started pushing for Speed's removal after he told reporters in Mumbai that the Indian board was yet to officially request ICC to ban the one-year-old ICL. Indian officials later claimed that the issue had been raised at various ICC meetings.

Apparently, the decision to remove Speed was finalized informally during a meeting of some senior ICC board members, including a senior Indian official, on the eve of the Indian Premier League (IPL) launch in Bangalore on April 18.

"There were many who were not happy with Malcolm's confrontational style of functioning," a BCCI official, who did not wish to be named, told Cricinfo.

"We have removed him so what is left to say now," said a senior official from the anti-Speed camp, who did not wish to be identified. "We were not happy with the way he handled the Zimbabwe situation, and his recent statements which implied that the ICL issue had not been raised officially within ICC."

Rumours had also been circulating for the last month that Speed had had a serious falling-out with Mali, following the ICC executive's decision not to take any major action against Zimbabwe following an independent forensic audit carried out by KPMG, which the ICC has since refused to make available.

Following the ICC's meeting in Dubai in March, at which the decision to overlook the audit was taken, Speed refused to attend the traditional post-meeting media conference, explaining privately to the executive that he was not prepared to defend in public a decision with which he fundamentally disagreed. It had been the recommendation of the audit committee that senior ZC officials should have been referred to the ethics committee.

In July last year, a confidential report by Speed and Faisal Hasnain, the ICC's chief financial officer, was leaked, much to the ICC's embarrassment and anger, in which Speed made a series of stinging attacks on Zimbabwe Cricket's finances, concluding: "It is clear that the accounts of ZC have been deliberately falsified to mask various illegal transactions from the auditors and the government of Zimbabwe. The accounts were incorrect and at no stage did ZC draw the attention of the users of these accounts to the unusual transactions. It may not be possible to rely on the authenticity of its balance sheet."

Mali, who is a staunch supporter of Zimbabwe and of its officials, has not yet commented publicly on the situation it will be Morgan who fronts up at the press conference at Lord's tomorrow.

Mali is understood to have been incensed by Speed's conduct and gained support from a number of board members as he successfully moved to have Speed sidelined for the remainder of his tenure. Although Zimbabwe has emerged as the key reason for the falling-out, it is understood that Speed's recent statement that the rebel Indian Cricket League had approached the ICC seeking official recognition had also been used as an excuse to get rid of him.

"At this point I am not in a position to respond to your question," Mali told the Age when asked for the reasons the action against Speed had been taken . "But I will definitely do so in the near future."

Haroon Lorgat, South Africa's former convenor of selectors, is lined up to succeed Speed as CEO, but said that it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the development as he is not involved with the ICC yet. "This is something I don't want to get into right now," Lorgat told Cricinfo.