Revolution in the air

Many years ago there was a very funny and brilliant man who worked as a sports sub-editor on a tabloid newspaper in Australia and did so purely because he enjoyed sport. He could have worked on any section of the
newspaper with equal distinction, from politics to motoring.

He could probably have worked as a nuclear physicist, or for the United Nations if he had been so inclined, but he preferred the task of tidying up the sports stories written by men far less intelligent than he was which invariably landed in his inbox three minutes before the deadline. He dutifully made them read like English.

He did this for one very good reason: He loved, but I mean loved, the privilege of attaching headlines to stories. He routinely lampooned the tabloid infatuation with sex and regularly had people in stitches of laughter with the wit and ingenuity of his words.

But it had to end, and he knew it. He couldn’t carry on doing the job forever. There were Nobel prizes to be won and third world hunger to be tackled, not to mention climate change.

He had tried resigning before but, being a gentle sort of fellow who hated confrontation, he had been easily dissuaded by the sports editor. He had even been given a couple of pay rises but that, of course, wasn’t the point. There was only one way he was ever going to leave. He had to get himself sacked.

It was while watching a ladies tennis match at the Australian Open in Melbourne that he saw his opportunity. Anna Kournikova was playing an injured Martina Hingis and, for once, playing quite well. In fact, it was one of those rare days when the Russian beauty queen actually won a game.

Hingis, nursing a sprained and swollen ankle, tried to be ‘smart’ using a series of crafty lobs and subtle drop shots, but to no avail.

The match report duly arrived and our sub-editor tidied it up. And then added the headline: “Kournikova licks cunning Hingis.” Fortunately, it only made the early edition and was recalled before the entire nation saw it.

The next day he was asked to clear his desk and leave the building. What has this got to do with the subject of this column? Nothing, but since the column is about the ICC it seemed only right to put a smile on your face first.

The majority of the world’s international cricketers do not have faith in the ICC to administer the game effectively. That was confirmed by the results of a poll conducted during the World Cup in the Caribbean. Some of the players may not have even realised it, but their lack of faith is not in people like Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, or any of the other
full-time administrators, but in the presidents and chief executives of the full member nations.

They are the ones with all the power, they are the people who vote to play more and more cricket. Self-interest is paramount – it is the first, second and third question they ask themselves when it comes to decision time. “What is in our best interests?” In other words, “how can we make the most money?”

Only India, England and Australia could be guaranteed financial security if the game was left to operate in a ‘free market’. Sri Lanka and South Africa would make a decent fist of it, but for the rest, it would mean insolvency. So instead of working out a system which would work, they sell their votes to the powerful teams in return for a money-spinning invitation to a lucrative series here and there. And there seems to be no end in sight because that would mean the presidents voting themselves out of power.

But there is another way. Revolution is in the air. A couple of hundred years ago an army marched on its stomach but these days, in sport anyway, they are funded purely by cash, not beef stew. And there are two revolutions underway right now.

The Indian Cricket League and the Stanford 20/20 in the West Indies have both been shunned by the ICC which has adopted a high-and-mighty superiority. Brian Lara, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath may all be spent forces but they won’t be the last big name signings to the Indian Cricket League. And Stanford’s fortune is estimated at US$34billion.

The fact that these two bodies are heading straight towards a nasty collision with the ICC reflects the widespread dissatisfaction with the game’s ruling body. Stanford has tried to cooperate with both the ICC and the WICB but has been rebuffed. If he loses his temper, he could decide to recruit 50 of the world’s best cricketers and give them a US1million each.

Three quarters would accept without a moments hesitation. He could make Kerry Packer’s World Series breakaway look like a nuns’ tea party.

I have no idea what our rebellious headline writer is doing now, but he’d be licking his lips at the prospects of the battles coming up.

For the rest of us, the prospect is miserable.

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