Over the last few weeks we’ve all been distracted worrying about various rugby issues; lack of form, and debating how seriously concussion should be taken. We’ve been, contemplating a post Sir Alex Ferguson world, is the Americas Cup still a thing, and even the build-up to the NZ cricket tour of England.
But while these events have been grabbing the headlines, one of the most arrogantly corrupt pieces of vote fixing has just occurred at the International Cricket Council.
The ICC’s Cricket Committee is probably the most influential of all its various committees. It is there to guide the direction of the game itself and address various playing issues. It is made up from one member appointed by each country’s board and two representatives voted in by the 10 test captains. For example, this was the committee that unanimously recommended the use of the DRS in all Tests in 2011.
An initial vote a month ago returned Kumar Sangakkara; a fantastic choice following his Lords’ Spirit of Cricket speech, and Tim May the long-time advocate and watchdog for player rights.
All was well; the obvious pair to bring sense and some progressive thinking to the table. But no; despite the 9-1 margin, a second vote was called for. And look at that; May lost the vote 4-6 to Laxman Sivaramakrishnan; a commentator with strong links to the Chennai Super Kings IPL franchise
That’s the same franchise headed up by N Srinivasan who also happens to be head of the Indian cricket board; the BCCI. They weren’t even subtle about it.
The four captains who held their ground were those from England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand; the four countries with strong players’ associations. There is no coincidence there either.
These positions were specifically set aside as being chosen by the players with no board intervention. Yet clearly that is not the case as various bits of information come to light.
It has subsequently been revealed that Graeme Smith was pressured by his board to change his vote. Under orders he resubmitted his vote three times; each time for May. That would not have been easy, and you can imagine the pressure exerted on the five captains who did change their vote without anything like the standing and support Smith gets.
Take Bangladesh for example. Their board would’ve flinched at any “No vote, no more tours” hint and they probably were not huge on May, and his “Players must get played in the Bangladesh Premier League stance”. And it is hard to see how Pakistan are ever going to be reintegrated into the international game without Indian help.
Then there is Zimbabwe who has less credibility than Aaron Gilmore under cross examination.
The powers that be in India have been suspected to rule with a golden fist for a long time, and this takes it to another level. But try challenging them. Even the previously respected journalist Harsha Bhogle has come out in favour of the BCCI with a range of completely unconvincing arguments. And when in doubt, make reference to the colonial past.
The victims here are the ICC itself and the players.
Then, during the week there was the report from the Mumbai Mirror that India were threatening to pull out of next month’s Champions Trophy in England unless the investigation was scrapped. This appears to have been hollow talk, but even the thought of it kind of proved the point.
The ICC is exposed as ineffective and toothless. How can the players and fans of the world look to ICC for leadership in these circumstances and how does the spirit of cricket apply to the organisation itself?
The players are also compromised. Outside of their control and wishes they have had a representative known for standing up to boards on issues like getting paid and security replaced by a person whose lack of independence is demonstrable. All of this in a manner that can only be judged as bullying.
It is not the decision; as noted above this committee has previously recommended adoption of the DRS previously in vain; it is the blatant politicking involved here that smells. Everyone knows the IOC and FIFA are corrupt too, but no country comes out of those organisations with a smoking gun quite like India does with cricket.
There is a challenge to this though. The boards? No; the International Players’ Association have laid a formal complaint and are convening this week to discuss how to deal with this trend. They understand its importance.
It is hardly the thin end of the wedge anymore. And to think of all the time spent in the NZ media around a change of captain when the bigger issue goes ignored…