Can't bat, can't bowl, can jibe: Howard to rule over world cricket

It’s a fact known through the generations of humanity that the leopard will never change its spots in whichever jungle that it opts to hunt in.

It is also a well known fact that the Australians always take the game of cricket very seriously and have undertaken to play the game as hard as possible if it is on the field or off the field.
So much so if they do not like the looks of a certain cricketer they will leave no stone unturned till they get the message across and may even seek ways of taking him out of the game using any machine that they deem fit.

John Howard

The classic example of all is the Muralitharan affair that the Australians had umpires Darrel Hair and then Ross Emerson firing from all ends which culminated in almost an international incident when the then Lankan cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga decided to stage a near walk out. Sanity prevailed. ICC was convinced that Muralitharan’s bent arm was only an optical illusion and the wagon was once again on the track.

But in 2004, the then Australian Prime Minister John Howard stepped out of his diplomatic protocol and prime ministerial etiquette and very unbecomingly called the Lankan champion spinner by then who was racing towards stardom “a chucker”. Of the ensuing controversy that took many shapes the final result was Muralitharan taking an individual decision to skip Sri Lanka’s last tour of Australia for personal reasons.

Since then the Asian bloc looked at the individual John Howard with a question mark at the rear. Intriguingly a March 2, AFP report reads -- Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a cricket lover seen at Test matches around the world, was Tuesday set to lead the sport internationally from 2012 after winning the nomination for the job.

Howard, 70, said he was honoured and humbled to be Australia and New Zealand's candidate to take over the rotating International Cricket Council (ICC) presidency when it next becomes available. “I look forward to working in the interests of the game that I've loved all my life and is very dear to me,” Howard told reporters in Sydney.

Howard, Australia's prime minister from 1996 to 2007, whose only official position since losing power has been as director of the Bradman Foundation which honours the legendary Don Bradman, said it would be presumptuous to speak about the role of president ahead of his official appointment.
But he told Sky News that finding a balance between all forms of the game would be a focus.

Howard trying his hand at Batting

“Generally speaking, anybody who cares about the future of the game sees the continuing need to make sure that the different forms of the game flourishes: Test cricket, one-day cricket and Twenty20,” he said.

“They each have a role and there's room for all of them. There has to be room... for all three forms of the game and for all three forms to do extremely well.” The self-confessed 'cricket tragic' said that joining the ICC would be “not only a tremendous experience, but also quite a challenge”.

“Because any international sport, and cricket is certainly that, has to, I guess, achieve a balance between preserving its traditional supporters and participants but also making sure that it gets a fair slice of a growing market. But I am very optimistic about its future.” The ICC presidency is a two-year rotating position currently held by England's David Morgan, who hands over to India's Sharad Pawar later this year.

It is expected that Howard will take on the ICC deputy presidency in July ahead of assuming full leadership in mid-2012. From the AFP report there is one paragraph that especially caught my attention in that he speaks of achieving a balance between its traditional supporters and participants but also making sure that it gets a fair slice of a growing market.

Some may feel once again the real Howard comes out in this statement. Yes, cricket is a barrowed game to us in the Asian bloc from our Colonial masters. At the same time not only we preserved the importance of the game while soccer was gradually taking over the stands in the European market, we in the Asian bloc made cricket a paying game with the wide television market available with India becoming the richest and most influential cricketing nation in the world.

What does Howard mean by calling a section of the cricketing crowd. “The Traditional supporters and Participants” is it an attempt to segmentise the Australian-English identity against the rest of the World.
Moreover there is a section of the sports entity in Australia who wants to keep Howard in the sports loop. We also hear about a bid to have Howard become a senior figure with the National Rugby League failed last year following heavy criticism from Federal Government minister Anthony Albanese.

Though the general acceptance is that Sports does not mingle with politics, with the inclusion of Sharad Pawar an out and out Indian politician becoming Howard’s predecessor that posse has looked after itself, but if the former Australian Prime Minister is handed over the role he would have a tight rope walk with regard to the on going violence against Indian students in Melbourne which may not end by the time Howard takes over the chair from Pawar in 2012, the above tantamounts to Howard's diplomatic skills facing a severe test with the now powerful Asian bloc within the ICC.

Howard’s main aim would be to preserve the interests the Western bloc of the ICC within his tenure his initial utterances indicate, but he must remember that there are a huge number of Australian cricketers young and old looking for the IPL for some extra income. It is known the BCCI accounts for more than half the wealth that is generated in world cricket each year.

Unlike all his predecessors, Howards’ tenure at the helm of the ICC will be looked through a magnifying glass especially by the media of the Asian bloc. P.S.: Murali says that he has forgiven Howard for his untimely utterances and the Asian bloc says that they will not oppose the appointment which comes in rotation. However I wonder if insiders still remember how a former Sri Lanka Cricket Board chairman’s attempt to occupy the same chair was derailed very craftily by the same forum.

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