Will somebody in Singapore PLEASE listen?

The chief executives and presidents of the world’s major cricket playing nations will have their annual meeting in Singapore next week. They call it the ‘ICC’ annual meeting but that is flattering to an organization which has little power to sway opinion let alone actually veto proposals made by its member nations.

First, there is the whole John Howard fiasco to resolve. 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.

All sorts of reasons for the insubordinate behaviour of the Zimbabwe and CSA boards have been imagined by the Australian media. Australian newspaper readers have been told on a daily basis that Zimbabwe Cricket has “close links to the brutal dictatorship of the despotic Robert Mugabe”, yet no evidence has ever been offered. It may or may not have been the case in the past, and it may even still be the case now, but simply repeating the allegation without substantiation isn’t just sloppy journalism – it’s brainwashing.

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 behaviour of the ruling regime. Naturally, there remains a suspicion that such a simplistic ‘baby and bathwater’ approach would not serve the game best.

Anyway, it’s nothing more than a personality issue and there can be no doubt that aided by first-class travel, five-star luxury accommodation and some excellent wining and dining, the big men of the game will find a compromise that suits everyone.

Further down the agenda, but of far, far greater importance, is the issue of a Test Championship. It has been proposed and debated before but, led by the selfishness of India and England, always rejected. Heaven forbid that the games fat cats have their income stream in anyway compromised. The concept of global health is alien to national administrators.

Now there is a compromise on the table: Every fours years the top four ranked Test nations play two semi-finals and a final to crown the champion. It means, of course, that much of three preceding years will remain meaningless but at least it’s a start. Perhaps, once people realize how much more interest in Test cricket is generated by giving it meaning and context, the Test championship will be extended. We can only hope!

“All players will support a formal Test championship, certainly that is the view of all the senior players in the SA camp,” Graeme Smith said from Barbados. “Such a championship would give context and value to every Test match and would stimulate interest in the five-day game worldwide. It is important that all Test matches should have equal value and that is what a championship would do. If you look at the premiership in England, for example, Man Utd pick up three points for a win whether it is against Chelsea or one of the relegation strugglers. I believe a Test championship is a matter of urgency to stimulate the five-day game, particularly with the Future Tours Programme reaching the end of its current cycle shortly.”

He is the longest serving Test captain in the world – and one of the longest ever. It may be worth listening to him.


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