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John Howard: Woe Is Me! Updated

The ICC (supposedly cricket’s governing body) has found itself in the spotlight with the rejection of former Aussie PM John Howard from the post of ICC President.  World cricket has its factions, at least when Lalit Modi isn’t throwing a strop and the boards are falling into line like good little sheep (and I could use a far stronger word here), and Howard’s rejection has opened up some debate on those factions and the reasons for it.

The reactions themselves are generally predictable but there are two which deserve highlighting for their crass stupidity and one for its spot on analysis.

First up is Lalit Modi’s little Waikato Terrier Justin Vaughan.

“We were single-heartedly behind John Howard. NZC is held up as a model of good governance in terms of having independent directors who do what is best for cricket… but that obviously doesn’t apply to the ICC and that is a shame.”

What’s that Justin? “A model of good governance”?  Vaughan may well be having delusions of competence here, since he has forgotten his yapping response to Master Modi’s bidding over players involved in the ICL, India’s first T20 league.  I remember well sitting in bed listening to Vaughan’s pathetic performance in an interview on Test Match Special over his handling of the Shafting of Shane Bond.  It left me seething with anger that someone so pathetic could be given the position of CEO of a national board.

Vaughan has no right to make claims of good governance when he oversaw an about turn that betrayed a man far more honourable than he.  As someone I follow and chat with on Twitter said:

Hear hear. “Doing what is best for cricket” my a**e. Modi said jump, he got out the pogo-stick. Appalling spinelessness.

Good governance is doing what is best for cricket.  What Justin Vaughan did was not good governance.  Long will this blog be testimony to that.

Next up to the halfwit step is Malcolm Speed, or Slow Malcolm as I christened him in an early post here.  For those who don’t remember, Speed is the man whose dictats over what was and wasn’t allowed at the 2007 cricket World Cup in the West Indies ruined what should have been a wonderful Caribbean celebration of the game.  Despite a number of scathing criticisms during the tournament (a memorable one from singer Eddy Grant being the highlight of the tournament for me) Speed persisted in calling the tournament a success for several months thereafter.

Delusions of competence again?  At least Vaughan played first class & test cricket.  Speed did neither.

“Howard has been rejected because his strong leadership would have thwarted the ambitions of several administrators to downgrade and devalue the ICC’s role. The ICC board is as political as any political party. The countries that voted him down want a compliant figurehead.”

Strong leadership is certainly needed at the ICC.  Not that Speed ever provided it.  One word will forever be associated with Speed’s leadership of the ICC – ZIMBABWE.  Nasser Hussain will forever (and rightly) hold Speed in contempt for the foul up that was the Zimbabwe issue during his tenure.  That Speed ever rose to such a prominent position in the ICC is a disgrace to the ICC and to the game of cricket. Yes, the ICC board is a political animal.  Every board I’ve ever encountered is a political animal.  There are people who can work with such bodies and engender confidence and there are those who cannot.  Clearly the ICC felt that Howard could not.

Once again it falls to the excellent Neil Manthorp to clearly explain to those crying over the spilt milk of Howard’s rejection of the whys and wherefores:

The career politician who was Prime Minister of Australia for over a decade is not a popular choice amongst the majority of the ten nations who have to vote on his nomination as ICC vice president. This news has proven to be completely indigestible to Australians and the country’s media has been up in outraged arms at the temerity of South Africa and Zimbabwe who have led an “insidious campaign” against their man.

The fact is, Sri Lanka oppose Howard because they’ve had a belly-full of their own politicians, Pakistan because they feel strongly that a man with no history of cricket administration has no place in the top job in the game, South Africa because they believe it is hypocritical of an organization which proclaims to be ‘apolitical’ to have an inherently political animal at its head and Zimbabwe because Howard advocated years ago that Zimbabwe Cricket be thrown onto the scrap heap of boycott and sanction because of the abhorrent behavior of the ruling regime. Naturally there remains a suspicion that such a simplistic ‘baby and bath water’ approach would not serve the game best.

This was written before Howard’s rejection and is a very sensible assessment of what some of the boards may well be thinking.  Neil’s follow up article is also excellent.  Here’s a snippet.

The ICC is amongst the most racially and politically sensitive international organisations on earth, in sport or elsewhere. As much as a ‘strong’ business leader is needed, he needs to be a diplomat, too. Howard’s background suggests he is a one-dimensional colonialist.

He was the man who refused to offer a government apology to the Aborigine population for their appalling treatment a century ago and who refused a couple of boatloads of Asian refugee-seekers the right to even land on Australian shores a decade ago. On a cricket front, he infused the worst of Australian bigotism and superiority by calling Mutthiah Muralitheran a “chucker” during a Sri Lankan tour and proudly championed the ‘One Australia’ campaign. In other words, keep everything as it is. No change.

He was also calling Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” years after the rest of the world recognised him as either a freedom fighter or general hero.

With this in mind is it at all surprising that Howard was rejected?

UPDATE

John Howard has said his piece over his rejection.  Now perhaps he will have the good grace to shut up and go away.  He’s been rejected, he’s said his piece now it is time for someone more schooled in cricket to take the role.

Published incricketgovernancelack of ClueSport