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Mani’s advice

by Barbados Today
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Against the background of Cricket West Indies’ (CWI) reluctance to support its former president Dave Cameron’s bid to be the next International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman, a former ICC chairman says it would be unhealthy if the new chairman came from either India, Australia or England.

Indications are that CWI will be supporting the candidature of former England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves, who in May okayed a BDS$6 million loan to the regional board that was subsequently the subject of an ICC ethics committee enquiry. CWI chief executive officer Johnny Grave said recently the money has since been repaid. But today Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman and a former ICC chairman, Ehsan Mani, said it would not be healthy if the next chairman came from either India, England or Australia. Mani, who served as ICC chairman between 2003 and 2006, said someone from another board should lead the ICC now because of the “politics introduced” earlier by Cricket Australia, the ECB and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Cricket’s global governing body is yet to agree on a process to choose Shashank Manohar’s successor.

Manohar stepped down as chairman more than two months ago but the ICC Board has still not agreed on whether the process to choose the new chairman should be based on a two-thirds majority vote or a simple majority. Imran Khwaja is serving as the interim chairman.

“It’s unfortunate it has taken so long,” Mani told Forbes about the delay. “The politics introduced by Australia, England and India in 2014 to protect their positions – now they are struggling to unwind it because it doesn’t suit them anymore.

Graves, whose term as ECB chairman ended on August 31, has been touted as a candidate, as has the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, whose future is uncertain in the Indian board with a hearing pending in the country’s Supreme Court. NZC chairman Greg Barclay and Cameron have also popped up as names in the running. Cameron was recommended by the United States Cricket Hall of Fame but has met resistance from CWI with vice-president Dr Kishore Shallow already publicly stating he would not support him. Barbados Cricket Association president Conde Riley has been publicly supportive of Cameron, stating that CWI should be backing its own.

A regional cricket official who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity said another international cricket board wanted to give Cameron the second recommendation which he required but was reluctant to do so if CWI did not give him its blessing.

Mani said today that as presently constituted, there was major conflict of interest within the ICC. He said there was a problem with the funding model which favoured England, India and Australia.

“There is a huge problem of conflict of interest on the board,” Mani said. “I’ve never seen that before, not in 17 years. This sort of conflict of interest is not transparent. The ICC is crying out for more independent directors.”

In 2017, the ICC Board had approved a new finance model that replaced the controversial “Big Three” arrangement chalked out by BCCI, ECB and Cricket Australia in 2014. Under the new agreement, the BCCI was to receive US$ 405 million out of the ICC’s estimated earnings of $2.7 billion for the 2016-23 rights cycle period.

“It’s not only the funding model that is wrong and skewered to India and also to some degree England,” Mani said. “They allocated ICC events to themselves, gave themselves generous hosting fees and the benefits from gate money and hospitality.

“In 2019 [World Cup, hosts] England would have made what Pakistan, West Indies or South Africa do over an eight-year period. That’s what’s wrong with the system. There are some countries who won’t be able to survive if this funding model continues.

“We survived without playing India (who refuse to play bilateral series against their arch-nemesis). Can you imagine if that happened to Cricket Australia if India didn’t come?”

Responding to Mani’s comments, Cameron, who has also called for a new financing model and has voiced his desire to formulate a more equitable arrangement, told Barbados TODAY he concurred with Mani’s sentiments. He said CWI complained constantly about finances but still was prepared to support a model that does not benefit West Indies cricket in the manner it benefits the big three nations.

“Cricket is the only professional sport that the international players dominate the professional game. Look at the football, golf, even squash, you play professionally around the world and then you get called to play for your country in one-off circumstances or world events. Cricket is still being dominated by the international game. But in the last 15, 20 years we’ve got this new product called T20 cricket where our players are making that much more money out of the game playing professionally in all these leagues. If we continue, what we are doing is butting heads with those leagues and trying still to maintain the international game.

“So now when you have 12 months, they playing ODI and Test cricket, and we now having ODI, T20 and T20 leagues being played, and so unless you get somebody who is willing to shake up the whole system and look at it differently, we are not going to move. We are going to keep butting our heads with this thing.

“India, England and Australia will not see this because at the end of the day what is going to happen is that that domestic game I am talking about, is going to grow in those three territories because of the money. So I don’t have an issue that you expand the IPL, you expand the Big Bash, you expand the England domestic cricket because that’s what people want to see. Do you know why people want to see it? It’s competitive. Nobody wants to see Afghanistan versus England in a Test match that finishes in two days. Nobody wants to see that.

“People want to see sports that is competitive. So those conversations are never going to be had by those big three because they can’t appreciate what I’m talking about because they have massive TV markets. And so that’s why they can now attract us to play cricket because it doesn’t matter whether they have viewers in the park or not. Once the TV market is so massive, the TV market funds the game. So little countries like West Indies, if we don’t change the model where when we tour we get paid. Again we’ve gone to England as a women’s team, that’s costing us. How can you go out to play cricket to benefit England and you are losing money? And you say it’s about cricket. It’s a professional sport. How can you play the sport when one side makes all the money and you lose? That doesn’t make sense. That’s not a business,” he said.

Cameron noted what he has said previously about the finance model of the ICC and the disproportionate advantages to smaller boards is what the current CWI hierarchy was also saying. Yet, the board was not supporting him. He noted it was simply a “personality thing”. Cameron said he should be judged based on performance and that leadership should not be based on “I like you or I don’t like you”. Cameron said that under his leadership, West Indies teams won multiple championships, CWI’s financial situation was steadied, and a successful platform was created to grow the Professional Cricket League and the Caribbean Premier League.

The 49-year-old Jamaican, one of the youngest to ever lead CWI, said it spoke volumes to the mentality of individuals that they have an opportunity to get one of their own into the boardroom but wanted to stick with the existing status quo.

“Look, at the same time, our cricket board is saying let’s support England and at the same time crying everyday saying they have no money. And here it is this guy who used to be president who is saying there is another model, which I support and we have other people who support it but you are not willing to let me to go into the room.” (WG/Cricinfo)

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