Why the secrecy over Howard?

It’s been nine days since enquiries were first made to CSA about their objection over former Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s nomination – and rejection – as the next ICC vice-president, and future president.

Zimbabwe were given all the ‘credit’ for the embarrassing impasse amongst world cricket’s leaders, but the truth is, South Africa were the first to vehemently object to his appointment and they have yet to say why.

Perhaps that is prudent on CSA’s part. Maybe they believe there is nothing to be gained by explaining why Howard, who was Prime Minister of Australia for the best part of 11 years, was so offensive as president of the ICC. The trouble with saying nothing, of course, is that they leave the rest of the cricket playing world free to speculate at their discretion. Or lack of it. So, let’s speculate.

The ‘Asian Bloc’ have told us that Howard’s complete lack of experience in cricket administration counted against him. Plenty of potentially fictitious quotes from alleged ‘senior officials’ inform us that nobody wanted a man “with absolutely no experience in cricket” assuming the most senior position in the game. But without names to verify this position, we can’t be sure.

The only man who has been quoted so far is the perennially vilified Peter Chingoka, president of Zimbabwe Cricket. He told the Melbourne Age newspaper that asking Howard to assume the presidency of the ICC would be akin to asking him to become editor of the Age, without a single day’s journalism experience. But he also offered a hint at other ‘issues’ when he said that Howard’s ministerial objections to Robert Mugabe’s loathsome regime were “a convenient excuse” and nothing to do with the rejection of him. Other reasons, he said, were “unpalatable” to some people who were offered them.

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 Muralitharan 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.

For many cricket people there is an awful lot to find objectionable in what Howard has stood for in his political life. For the non-caucasian members of the ICC, they are all unacceptable. Refusing an Asian girl the right to wear a veil at school might be greeted with triumph by certain sectors of Australia’s population, but its effects last a long time in the world community and such a man cannot possibly expect to be shoe-horned into an organisation such as the ICC.

Even if it was organised on a fair, rational or reasonable basis. Which it isn’t.

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