Singapore: Sharad Pawar today took over as ICC President in the middle of a blazing controversy over former Australian Premier John Howard’s rejection as Vice President, prompting former chief executive Malcom Speed to question the minister’s credentials.
Pawar’s rise to the coveted post came on a day when Australian and New Zealand officials reacted angrily to Howard’s rejection by the Afro-Asian bloc, raising speculation of a divided house within the ICC.
Speed said if Howard was not good enough then Pawar was hardly an ideal candidate to lead the game’s governing body.
“The man who is to be the next ICC president, Sharad Pawar, is the Minister for Agriculture in the Indian government - a serious full-time job, feeding 1.2 billion people.
“He is a good and fair man but he will be working part-time as ICC president and, take it from me, he knows little about cricket administration,” Speed said.
Pawar, however, sought to downplay the snub to Howard saying there was no political connotation to the issue.
Addressing his first press conference as the President, Pawar said the move had nothing to do with politics and Howard’s policies on Africa, in particular towards Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
“What is the political connotation? There is no question of political connotation,” the 69-year-old Pawar, second Indian after Jagmohan Dalmiya to occupy the top post, said.
ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat, who was also present at the press conference, said that the game’s governing body was not obliged to explain why Howard’s bid failed.
“The ICC does not have to give those reasons. There weren’t sufficient number of directors in support of the nomination, (it) did not go to a vote and the outcome was to request Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket to reconsider their nomination,” Lorgat said.
Lorgat refused to be drawn into a debate on how the ICC would react if Cricket Australia and Cricket New Zealand re-nominated Howard.
“I think that’s speculative and we must wait for 31st August and see what comes forward,” he said.
If Howard’s nomination had gone through, he would have become ICC vice-president for two years and then take the top post from Pawar in 2012.
The Asian and African nations united to reject his nomination as Howard failed to get the required seven votes.
Only England, Australia and New Zealand supported his candidature thus forcing ICC to withdraw his nomination.
A defiant Howard refused to withdraw his candidacy for the ICC President’s post.
“I won’t be withdrawing. Even in private discussions they (the opposing boards) are very reluctant to give a particular reason. It’s a very unusual situation,” he said.
Howard’s name was proposed by Australia and New Zealand and backed by only England at an ICC meeting in Singapore. The self-confessed “cricket-tragic” failed to get the crucial support from the powerful sub-continental bloc – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka – and the African Boards.
Cricket Australia (CA) chairman Jack Clarke and his New Zealand counterpart Alan Isaac said they were angry and gutted by the rejection.
There is speculation that Howard was rejected by the African Boards for his vocal opposition to the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe during his tenure as Australian Prime Minister.
Howard said if that was the reason, he would rather accept the rejection then back down on his past comments on Mugabe.
“All I can say in relation to Robert Mugabe is that if that is the reason I wear the negative attitude as a badge of honour because I don’t apologise in any way for the criticism I offer of the Mugabe regime,” Howard said.
No past experience in cricket administration also worked against Howard but the Aussie said it is hardly a reason to oppose him.
“If it was in some way based on past political reasons then that is a very bad precedent to be establishing for the ICC because there are serving politicians holding positions of authority within the ICC.
“I’m not criticising that but I’m just drawing attention to it,” he said.