ICC fighting hard for Zimbabwe

The ICC have come in for plenty of criticism for their inactivity on the subject of Zimbabwe and they have responded, by and large, with a sullen silence.

There was a cheap shot aimed at British prime minister Tony Blair (not that he deserves any sympathy) but, by and large, all the self-styled ‘hard men’ amongst the game’s ruling body have been remarkably quiet.

As a consequence, many leading commentators and followers of the game have piled in with renewed vigour at the apparent insensitivity and inaction of the game’s rulers and protectors. And still there is nothing but the old refrain “We are an apolitical body, we are sportsmen not politicians…blah blah.”

So I was thinking: For all the uncaring coldness of his statements and press conferences, ICC boss Malcolm Speed is actually a man of principle. His legal background means he is rational and, wearing his professional, knows he cannot be swayed by emotions. But he is a family man, too, and I have heard from people who know him that his cold aloofness does not exist at home.

Dave Richardson is a man I came to know very well myself as we moved from a respected player-journalist relationship to fellow commentators sharing a radio booth. Then he moved to London to become the ICC’s general manager of cricket and we stayed in touch. I also knew him as a family man and father of three children, and I know that, too, is not hard, cold or aloof.

So I started wondering why, between them, they hadn’t done anything. I don’t even mean anything ‘significant’, I mean just anything!

Then I thought, perhaps they ARE working extremely hard. Maybe they have been wielding their big stick behind closed doors, wheeling and dealing in the time-honoured fashion of politicians with threat and counter-threats until one party or the other backs down and the the ICC can emerge from the metaphorically smoke-filled room and proclaim: “We told you so!”

But what if the all-powerful Indian cricket supremo, Jagmohan Dalmiya, has told the ICC that he will withdraw his support for the Test Championship and for the other initiatives the governing body is so proud of if they even think of imposing sanctions on his pet puppy of Zimbawe. Then Speed and Richardson will be charged with the responsibility of splitting the game down racial lines.

Then of course, there is the old chestnut of what constitutes ‘morally unacceptable’. No doubt Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian and Pakistani Kashmiris and, at a push, New Zealand Maoris and Australian Aborigines might have a word or two to say about the moral acceptability of the governments ruling their own countries.

Perhaps ZCU president Peter Chingoka, on his recent visit to London, pleaded with the ICC for six weeks, or perhaps eight or even ten weeks, to put their house in order. Or perhaps Speed said ‘you need to put your house in order – how long will it take?

In one of the hundreds of articles written recently about England’s predicament and their scheduled November tour, the chief executive of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, Mike Fatkin, had this very obvious but nonetheless pertinent comment to make:

“I think a lot of people realise that they are between the biggest rock in the world and the hardest of hard places.” And that’s what got me thinking. Perhaps people aren’t abdicating their responsibilities to the game at all, and perhaps all this talk of fence-sitting is naive and uninformed. There could be mountains of sensitive negotiation taking place that most of us don’t know anything about.

There’d better be. Because if there isn’t, they had better become used to not sleeping. Not sleeping very much at all.


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