London: World cricket's leading administrators are set to tackle some of the sport's most intractable problems when they begin four days of meetings on Monday.
The biggest questions facing members of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) executive board concern the effects on the game from various tense political situations around the world. The continuing stand-off between India and Pakistan, for instance, has led to the cancellation of Tests between the two countries. And the world Test championship has been thrown further off target by the reluctance of teams to tour Pakistan due to fears of terror attacks. "In recent months international cricket has suffered a number of telling setbacks; political unrest in Zimbabwe, terrorism in Pakistan and escalating tension between India and Pakistan, which have all contributed to this current state of uncertainty," ICC president Malcom Gray admitted. "This meeting provides a timely forum to consider the problems and work towards finding realistic and effective responses." New Zealand failed to play its second Test in Pakistan, departing after a bomb exploded near the team hotel in Karachi last month. And it's not just the Pakistan and Zimbabwe boards who could be seeking financial assistance to cover shortfalls in revenue. In the West Indies there have been complaints about the structure of the Test championship, where all the game's major nations are supposed to play one another home and away over a five-year period. Consequently, claim the critics, the West Indies Board is being forced to stage commercially unattractive series at inconvenient times of the year. Costs remain inherently high because of the huge geographical spread of the Caribbean's major cricket venues. But an item not on the original agenda could prove to be the most controversial of all. On Saturday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said an official report into allegations of match-fixing during the 1999 World Cup had cleared the team of any wrongdoing. ICC board members will be presented with a copy of the judicial report commissioned in the wake of widespread allegations of cheating following some heavy Pakistani losses in England. Although thrashed by eight-wickets in the final against Australia, the Pakistan defeat that aroused most suspicion was a huge 62-run reverse against minnows Bangladesh in the group stages. However, the report said it found no substance in any of the allegations of malpractice. The problem of match-fixing has hung over cricket since former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje, recently killed in an airplane crash, was revealed to have taken money from bookmakers two years ago. So concerned were the ICC officials that they set up a new anti-corruption unit under the leadership of former London police chief Paul Condon. Earlier this month he announced the introduction of five regional security managers, a move he confidently predicted would protect the sport from further scandal. Other subjects up for discussion at ICC's Lord's headquarters include streamlining the procedure for reviewing suspect bowling actions, the introduction of a One-day world championship based on the Test model and the creation of official player rankings.
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