Helped by strongman tactics from an aggressive India, Greg Barclay, almost inevitably, became the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) new chairperson to cap a bitter contest marked by deep divisions among the game’s powerbrokers.
The New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chairman emerged with an 11-5 victory, according to sources, over interim chair Imran Khwaja in the second round of voting held this week. He replaces Shashank Manohar, who departed in July, to conclude this seemingly endless election with the dragged out process even frustrating board members.
Under the ICC’s constitution, a two-third majority was needed with Barclay attaining the magical number of 11 after receiving 9 – one voter abstained – from the first round, according to sources.
The contest was held through a secret ballot and – as I first reported last month – if a winner was not determined after three attempts then Khwaja would have automatically remained in the role for a 12-month period.
But a third vote won’t be needed after Barclay emerged triumphant following some furious lobbying from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Wavering South Africa and West Indies received the blowtorch from the BCCI, according to sources. It is believed those boards supported Khwaja – or at least gave the impression – but the final results indicate they eventually chose Barclay.
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Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and independent female director Indra Nooyi were firm in their support of the Singaporean, according to sources. But due to the shroud of secrecy over the voting process, it is ultimately unknown.
With the type of politicking befitting House Of Cards, the BCCI reverted to its well-worn playbook and, according to sources, there was pressure applied to the status of a three-match ODI series between India and South Africa set to be played in India before next year’s T20 World Cup.
The farce crested with confusion, according to insiders, over who exactly was in charge of Cricket South Africa (CSA), which has been in tumult recently. The camps of Rihan Richards, president of the Members’ Council, and Judge Zak Yacoob, the interim board chairman, each claimed they had the authority to vote.
Chris Nenzani, who stepped down as CSA president in August, had been a backer of Khwaja, according to sources.
It will be a bitter defeat for Khwaja, who was striving to be the first ICC leader from outside the Full Member nations – the 12 elite countries in cricket’s tiered system. The pragmatic former Singapore Cricket Association president had done the hard yards through being a long-time presence on ICC boards and committees.
He’s well respected and liked testament to running unopposed for deputy chairperson twice previously. The BCCI don’t have a personal vendetta against him, according to sources, but wanted a tighter grip on cricket and more bilateral series which suits their financial model.
Under Manohar and Khwaja’s leadership, the ICC had initiated a more inclusive approach and somewhat diminished the heft of the ‘big three’ of India, England and Australia. The 64-year-old is an advocate of increasing the number of ICC events in an effort to spread the revenue and help smaller Full Member nations and the Associates.
He also wanted to correct the embarrassing blunder of the ICC reverting to measly 10-team World Cups in 2019 and 2023 – due to India’s sway – and push for cricket’s inclusion at the LA Olympics, which has stonewalled. India – and to a lesser extent England – have been reticent over Olympic status, according to sources.
In the end, like almost all elections anywhere, self-interest seemingly prevailed. And the all-conquering BCCI is hard to resist. According to sources, the BCCI dangled carrots to board members, many of whom are worried about cricket’s future amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sources recently told me that cricket’s financial toll from the pandemic has not been completely felt with the pain set to intensify next year. Administrators are bracing for the grim prospect that some governing bodies from smaller nations may become close to insolvent if the situation does deteriorate further.
Cricket is in the bizarre position of being totally dominated – and often handcuffed – by India, a populous of more than one billion completely obsessed with the sport amid an emerging market.
The BCCI believe – and supported by some administrators – that it deserves more remuneration but that would make it almost impossible to grow cricket, which the ICC likes to hail as being the ‘second biggest sport in the world’, beyond a few powerful countries.
Perhaps mere pettiness, but it’s undeniable that there is some reluctance over someone not from a Full Member country ascending to the top. Although, peering at the world’s clear No.1 sport, the past two permanent presidents of FIFA have been from Switzerland – hardly a soccer powerhouse.
Being an outsider, Khwaja was seen by his backers as having the “independence” and “integrity” needed to safeguard cricket through a tumultuous period.
Barclay will now step down from his NZC position and be officially an ‘independent’ chairperson – the second after Manohar. He has been praised for his leadership with New Zealand long hailed as well run underlined by the continual success of the underdog men’s national team, who came within inches of being World Cup champions last year.
NZC, however, did not oppose the unpopular power moves of the ‘big three’ in 2014 with mistrust from that coup still causing friction on the board. Barclay, who like the ‘big three’ is a keen supporter of bilateral cricket, has vowed to be an inclusive leader.
“I take my position as a custodian of the game very seriously and am committed to working on behalf of all 104 ICC Members to create a sustainable future for our sport,” he said in an official ICC media release on Wednesday.
Barclay, whose term runs for two years, is also the chair of the International Rugby League, which could raise some eyebrows.
The shenanigans haven’t quite finished with more mudslinging ahead. Contests for deputy chair and the three Associates directors – a position Khwaja currently holds – are expected to be decided in the coming weeks.
Source: Forbes – Business