Tony Becca: Rising pressure on cricket’s Big Three
Following the ICC's interim chairman Shashank Manohar's broadsided attack on the cricket coup of 2014, cricket's unpopular takeover by the 'Big Three' of India, England, and Australia is coming under increasing pressure to survive.
The coup, which was planned in almost secrecy and which promised the other ICC members, among other things, but more important, better financial returns, took place after a long fight headed by South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, who resisted the takeover to the end.
The first to come out against it was Manohar, an Indian. Then there was a protest to "change cricket", organised by Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber outside The Oval on the first morning of the fifth Test between England and Australia, and then there was a film, Death of a Gentleman, named as the Documentary of the Year by the Sports Journalists' Association in London last week, which was shown in the House of Commons on Monday evening.
The fifth and probably most deadly attack on the coup came a week or two ago, and it was an attack bearing far-reaching implications for the official running of the game, and especially so at this time in the West Indies.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been asked by the British parliament, by a member, to "confirm whether it intends to put forward Giles Clarke, the ECB president, as its nominee for the forthcoming election for the ICC chairman in June, in spite of his prominent role in the ICC structural reforms of 2014 that were widely criticised in last month's ICC board meeting in Dubai".
The question was asked by Damian Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, who has called on the ECB to answer six questions pertaining to Clarke's ongoing role and the board's overall commitment to good governance that he believes the cricketing public deserves to know.
The six questions include: "What is the ECB's vision for how the ICC should be run? Does the ICC feel that Transparency International has been fair in its criticism of the ICC is failing to adhere to recognised governance standards, including increased accountability and transparency? And, if so, as an influential boat at ICC, is the ECB prepared to publicly commit to tackling these problems?
"Will the ECB be putting forward Giles Clarke as their nominee for ICC Chairman? And, if so, does the ECB think it is appropriate to be endorsing someone who played such a prominent role in reforms that have been widely condemned as bullying, inequitable, and ignoring the need for those basic governance standards as noted?
"Can the ECB give full disclosure as to the terms of Giles Clarke's presidency of the organisation? And what does Giles Clarke's duties as president of ECB entail? Are they limited to representing the board at the ICC?"
Clarke's candidacy, however, received a blow earlier this year when it was understood that neither South Africa nor Australia was willing to support his bid to become the ICC chairman, although, at a recent meeting in Dubai, it was agreed that all nominees had to be either a past or present ICC board member.
Clarke, who was chairman of the ECB at the time of the ICC takeover, became the ECB president in 2015, and the feeling is that if he takes over as the chairman of the ICC, it would be seen as a "conflict of interest".
That is why MP Collins, who sits on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's Select Committee, wants Clarke before the committee to answer the six questions, especially after the move among sporting bodies towards "transparent and accountable governance" and particularly after the Indian court forced Narainswamy Srinivasan to give up his dual role as ICC chairman and BCCI president after he was found to have ownership of IPL franchise, Chennai Super Kings.
The committee, it is said by a member of the House of Commons committee, decided to look into the conduct of the ECB in relation to cricket because of the recent scandal in FIFA and because of other investigations it has been doing in football, athletics, and tennis as far as sports governance is concerned.
While Clarke's appearance before the select committee of the House of Commons may come to nought as far as the 'Big Three' is concerned, it may be the start of something big.
In terms of the British parliament's influence on cricket in particular, and on sports in general, it may be something probably as big as the impact, not only of 50-over cricket and of 20-over cricket, but also of franchise cricket.
Cricket, sports in general, and politics should not mix, not according to the ICC, FIFA, IOC, IAAF, ITF, and many international sporting bodies. In most cases, governments toe the line, especially when it comes to influencing sporting policies and selections.
While most countries go along with this quietly, some countries, like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, do not agree with it and sometimes do their own thing.
The feeling is that if they control everything else in the country and pay the bill for things to do with sports, and in some cases, all things to do with sports, they should have a say in all sports.
In Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, where the sports minister recently made Kumar Sangakkara a selector of the national team, the governments are involved in almost everything and yet the ICC turns a blind eye. In other countries, like the West Indies, the governments follow almost blindly.
They toe the line, regardless.
Things, however, may change shortly. The tide appears to be changing.
With Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh doing their own thing already, with India joining the action, and with Britain seemingly set to follow, it may be, or will be, only a matter of time before it becomes the norm.
The West Indies, and their many separate sovereign governments, are probably looking on longingly, hoping for that day to come, and quickly at that, especially after last week's rejection by the board of the governments' plan to scrap it.
The present confrontation between the West Indies Cricket Board and the heads of governments may have left the governments, the representatives of the people, coming to the conclusion that they who pay the piper, they who pay the bills, especially at the request of the board, have the right to call the tune, not in cases of selection and such technical matters, but especially when it comes to good governance, or as Keith Mitchell, the prime minister of Grenada, said a few days ago, and accountability.