It was certainly interesting to read Peter Roebuck’s article on the problems of political influence in Zimbabwean cricket the other day, in light of Australia’s decision to elect former Prime Minister John Howard as it’s representative at the ICC. As far as Peter is concerned, political interference in the Zimbabwe Cricket board has resulted in a plethora of hideous ramifications for that country’s players and overall cricket system. Now, no one is suggesting that John Howard in any way represents a similar threat to the Australian Cricket Board or the ICC, particularly when he will become President in 2012, but politics and sport generally do not mix well, and thus we can certainly take Zimbabwe as a cautionary tale.
Howard’s ascendency to this position is particularly strange. He has no background in playing cricket, except of course for this legendary moment, and he has no background in cricket administration. However, he does have a great love for the game, which according to the ACB and Howard himself seems more than enough. Now, there is no doubt that Howard has skills in diplomacy, management, and of course international relations, but are these skills enough? Surely at such a momentous point in history for the game, someone with his or her finger on the pulse would be more suitable. The ICC needs leaderships that can harness the ever-changing landscape, and that can find a way for the three formats to live long and prosper, and I can’t believe that an elderly, former Prime Minister with no cricketing background can really provide this.
The other interesting element of this is the precarious nature of the game in relation to international politics and terrorism. Never before has cricket been so heavily influenced by such forces. From the situation in Zimbabwe, to the inability to play in Pakistan and terrorist threats in India, the game is certainly under threat. So, there is no doubt that, no matter your political allegiance, someone with Howard’s past experience may well be useful in some kind of advisory role. I’m thinking that he could perhaps go along with Shane Warne and Brett Lee as they try to smooth out Australia’s relations with India?? But as the President of the ICC…he’s just going to be out of his depth. With the power base that Lalit Modi has built through the IPL in India, and with the afore mentioned struggle to keep cricket alive and relevant, Howard’s lack of expertise will surely result in a significantly weaker ICC.
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