JOHN HOWARD LIKELY TO CLINCH ICC'S HELM.
Under the ICC constitution a person elected as vice president is automatically elevated as president when the incumbent president completes his tenure. Former Australian prime minister John Howard a nominee of Australian and New Zealand for the post of vice president if elected would automatically become the president of the ICC once the incumbent president Sharad Pawar of India completes his tenure in 2012. Sharad Pawar would take over the top job of the ICC next month from outgoing president David Morgan.
However, the clinching the post which once looked just like a walk in the park for John Howard has become tough like climbing a slippery cliff to reach the top of the ICC.
Under the rota system it was the turn of Australia and New Zealand to nominate a candidate for the vice president office. They preferred to go for the Australian politician who currently is heading Bradman Foundation after leaving politics.
Nomination of John Howard was just a routine matter which was expected to get the nod of the Test playing countries to make the Australian the vice president.
However, things suddenly moved in other direction at the ICC Board meeting which last year met in Dubai to discuss the matter. There was opposition to John Howard and countries like India, Australia and New Zealand who had expected acceptance of their nominee, decided to defer the matter to the next meeting in order to avoid confrontation which may split the ICC in two camps.
South Africa and Zimbabwe initially opposed John Howard who played a role in denying Zimbabwe international cricket on political grounds when the Zimbabwean government decided to nationalise agriculture land and farm houses mostly held by white people. Australia, England and New Zealand all ganged up to politically punish Zimbabwe. They even did not spare cricket and suddenly Zimbabwean cricket team found itself isolated because of the political moves of these countries.
John Howard who was then prime minister in Australia also joined England and other white commonwealth countries to punish Zimbabwean cricket.
Sri Lanka also joined South Africa and Zimbabwe in opposing John Howard. John Howard as a cricket fan and as prime minister had used the world chucker for Lanka's all time great bowler off spinner Muralitharan when a controversy broke out about his alleged suspect style of bowling. The Australian has called the action as suspect. Sri Lanka had not forgotten the stand taken by John Howard and when the time came to settle score, Lanka decided to go against John Howard's nomination.
Minimum of four against vote out of ten Test playing countries would block the way of a person getting elected as vice president. The Australian/New Zealand nominee faces a dilemma. Already three against votes of full Test member countries are staked against John Howard and one more vote would deny him the coveted post that Australia and New Zealand cricket board had planned when they picked him as their candidate.
Pakistan may be that fourth vote that may go against John Hoeard.
Though Pakistan has not officially declared its position on the issue but even in Pakistan a move is gaining momentum to oppose the Australian candidate.
Former CEO PCB Arif Ali Khan Abbasi became the first Pakistani to openly oppose former Australian prime minister John Howard's ICC candidacy as vice president when he spoke on the issue.
Arif Ali Khan Abbasi who played crucial role in introducing rota system which helped all test playing countries getting chance to get their candidate elected as the head of the ICC, said he did no know what was official position of the PCB on the issue but if assessed on cricketing principles former Australian prime minister's candidacy as vice president of the ICC was totally wrong because he was not a cricket administrator or holding position in Cricket Australia but merely an outsider.
These offices were for those individuals who hold positions in test cricket boards and not for any outsiders like John Howard, he added.
He said John Howard's thrusts to the ICC reminded him of a similar situation when a former British prime minister John Major tried to clinch the presidency of the MCC some years ago. But as the Britons were traditionalists they would not deviate from principles and they blocked the way of John Major to reach the top slot of the MCC. They however accommodated him as a member of the MCC which was normal and acceptable. Thus, they held high the old principles which had served the game and them well in the past.
He said no doubt John Howard held top political job in Australia but he had nothing to do with cricket except for the love and liking for the sport. Mere loving and taking interest should not be taken as enough qualification for some one occupying a top slot in the ICC, he added.
He said Pakistan cricket had suffered immensely from these kind of people who managed to clinch the top slot of the PCB only because they loved the game or had liking for its but no knowledge of cricket administration. They maneuvered their way to the top positions. These kind of persons contributed nothing but destruction to the sport from the grass root to top level.
There were a number of examples in Pakistan when people with connection at the top got the coveted cricket slot but all records were broken in 1999 when under a democratic government an individual with love and liking of cricket managed to clinch the nominations of the president of the PCB.
Since then, Pakistan cricket had seen nothing but a freefall. One after another individuals with liking and love of the sport sat on the cricket throne and the result was before every one to see.
Pakistan cricket had never been in such a poor state. The freefall was continuing only because the ad hocism which triggered it eleven years ago was still in place and the real owners of the sports the cricket associations had been sidelined and denied any role in the running of the PCB.
He said he did not want to see ICC slumping to new lows with outsiders calling the shots. Though there was mechanism of check and balances in the ICC for controlling a wayward administration but its better to avoid poor administration by denying outsiders chance to run the cricket body than to a go for damage control.
He said as far he knew through news papers the African block South Africa and Zimbabwe were against John Howard and Sri Lanka may join them because it was John Howard who as prime minister had called Muttiah Muralitharan a chucker.
John Howard's role for keeping Zimbabwe away from cricket for political reason was well recorded. He hoped Sri Lanka would avoid taking political decision when the issue came up in near future.
John Howard he said would be needing seven out of the ten votes of the test playing country and if Pakistan joins with the above-mentioned three countries John Howard entry would be blocked.
He advised the PCB to vote against John Howard when the time came because otherwise it would set a bad precedent that may open doors for any one entering the top slot of the ICC.
Under the rota system, he said it was the chance of Australia/New Zealand to select a candidate for the Vice president who would automatically be elevated to the presidential office once the incumbent had served his two year term. Australia could have brought forward a better cricket administrator than to stick with John Howard.
Australia was a great cricketing nation and he said he was sure there were a number of reputed cricketers around who could have earned the Australian nomination.
He said he did not know the reasons behind India's support to the John Howard. Sharad Pawar was forcefully backing his candidature. India currently can make its weight felt in the ICC and other test playing countries with few exceptions would do whatever dictated to them. But test playing countries had to show some maturity in taking important decisions in the interest of international cricket, he said.
Howard, an Australia-New Zealand candidate under ICC's region-based nomination system, is in fact one negative vote away from losing his bid to become the ICC vice-president.
Sri Lanka had recently said SLC would not support anyone without a cricket back ground. Lanka would support any of the directors from Australia and New Zealand who are representatives of the ICC but not anyone from outside.
Anyone coming forward for ICC posts should be currently involved in cricket and not be a total outsider. In that respect we would not be supporting the candidature of Howard for the vice-presidency, a Lankan cricket administrator argued.
Sri Lank's opposition to Howard stems from the former Prime Minister's "chucker" jibe at Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who was so enraged that he skipped his side's 2004 tour of Australia.
Howard's cause was not helped either by the fact that he was a staunch critic of Zimbabwe during his Prime Ministerial days and Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) is now out to settle score with him.
Cricket South Africa is also opposing Howard's nomination, claiming an overwhelming numbers of ICC directors don't want Howard. CSA has, in fact, criticised Morgan for allegedly ignoring the sentiment of the majority and making it a personal matter. Independent voices from within Australia have emerged opposing official stand on the nomination. People running the game in Australia have openly spoken that there were better candidates available and that Cricket Australia should have gone for them instead of politicising the issue.
The Board of the ICC had debated and approved the current nomination process for the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency. The unanimous decision of the Board at the time was that the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency should be decided on a rotational basis.
The ICC had decided that the next Vice-President would be nominated by Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket. Those two boards have been through a very thorough and robust selection process to suggest a candidate and now the ICC Board has to consider and decide on this nomination,
A source in Dubai recently said that Howard's candidature was not acceptable to ten of the 13 directors on the grounds that he lacked the experience of cricket administration. Howard's name was proposed after a long drawn-out search for the nominee outside the Australian board of directors, though New Zealand Cricket wanted its former chairman John Anderson to be the candidate.
"Cricket has been one of my lifelong passions and if the ICC accepts my nomination, it will be a privilege to serve this great game,' said 70-year-old Howard after accepting the nomination.
The ICC presidency goes to countries by rotation and the incumbent David Morgan of the England and Wales Cricket Board will hand over the reins to Pawar in June and the new incumbent will act as vice-president before taking over in 2012.