Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) boss Ehsan Mani believes cricket’s new chairperson should come from beyond the sport’s powerful ‘big three’, as support deepens for progressive reform to address financial inequity among nations.
After the departure of Shashank Manohar, whose two-term tenure was notable for alleviating the stranglehold of the mighty Indian cricket board, the race has been on to find his successor. Two months have passed and yet the International Cricket Council (ICC) board remains at gridlock over whether to stick with a two-third majority needed among the 16 board members or revert to a simple majority.
“It’s unfortunate it has taken so long,” Mani told me. “Thepolitics introducedby Australia, England and India in 2014 to protect their positions – now they are struggling to unwind it because it doesn’t suit them anymore.
“It would be healthier to have someone (the chairperson) not from the ‘big three’.”
Mani, who was the ICC’s chairman from 2003-06, dismissed speculation that he had been interested in making another run.
“I was never interested. A few of the directors asked me but I told them that I’m there to only serve Pakistan,” he said. “I’ve done it all before.”
With so much stonewalling amid the usual politicking that sweeps the game’s suits and ties, the candidates are unknown. Outgoing England chairman Colin Graves had been deemed the frontrunner but his support has seemingly gone lukewarm, while the intentions of interim chairman Imran Khwaja are unknown.
Some voters, according to sources, are dubious of someone from an Associates nation ascending to the top but the pragmatic Khwaja, who was the former president of Singapore Cricket Association, is well respected and has done the hard yards through being a long-time presence on ICC boards and committees.
There is cynicism of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) motives and Sourav Ganguly’s potential candidacy has dominated headlines in recent months. But the former India captain’s future is currently shrouded by an impending Indian Supreme Court ruling setto determinewhether his BCCI tenure extends.
“There is a huge problem of conflict of interest on the board,” Mani said. “I’ve never seen that before, not in 17 years. This sort of conflict of interest is not transparent. The ICC is crying out for more independent directors.”
Mani has supported calls for a review of the ICC’s revenue distribution model marked by India’s large piece of the financial pie. West Indies chief executive Johnny Gravetold melast month that inequities had been exposed by large local broadcast deals in India, Australia and England – worth billions – which have widened the financial discrepancies.
Perhaps attempting to reignite his sagging candidacy, Graves, the outgoing England chairman, alsosaid recentlythat the ICC should “recut its pot”.
Exacerbating all of this, the ICC’s major men’s tournaments from 2015-23 have been rotated among the ‘big three’ countries.
“It’s not only the funding model that is wrong and skewered to India and also to some degree England,” Mani said. “They allocated ICC events to themselves, gave themselves generous hosting fees and the benefits from gate money and hospitality.
“In 2019 (World Cup), (hosts) England would have made what Pakistan, West Indies or South Africa do over an eight-year period. That’s what’s wrong with the system. There are some countries who won’t be able to survive if this funding model continues.
“We survived without playing India (who refuse to play bilateral series against their arch-nemesis). Can you imagine if that happened to Cricket Australia if India didn’t come?”
Mani said the PCB was in the midst of negotiating a new broadcast deal amid hope Pakistan could host a World Cup in the ICC’s next cycle of 2023-31. Under Manohar, there had been a concerted push for cricket’s showpiece events to start being spread around.
USA and West Indies are the frontrunners to co-host the 2026 T20 World Cup, while Malaysia hasexpressed interestin bidding for a major tournament.
The ICC was expected to announce the hosts for the 2023-31 cycle by the end of the year but it could be delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We want to host a World Cup during this cycle,” Mani said. “There are three-four events we have expressed interest, including some to host jointly with the UAE.”
In the meantime, Mani said the PCB was in discussions with a “number of countries” over playing bilateral series in the coming months due to space opening up afterthe postponementof the T20 World Cup. The Indian Premier League has largely filled the gap but Pakistan players are not allowed to play in cricket’smost lucrative league.
He said Zimbabwe was set to tour Pakistan in October, while Pakistan would tour New Zealand later in the year for Test and limited-overs series. “We are ready to tour and prepared to go there and adhere to the bio-secure environment, which includes 14 days of isolation,” Mani said.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to help other countries and we hope that’s to be reciprocated.”