ICC plays media googlies with a straight bat

Published: Monday, July 19, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:The International cricket Council (ICC) chiefs on Monday played a straight bat to criticisms pertaining to issues ranging from umpiring standards to perceived bias towards white players.

ICC president Ehsan Mani and CEO Malcolm Speed, in the country for what they call a 'roadshow', were waylaid by an inquisitive media who bombarded the duo with questions that they would have been happier not answering.

In fact, a restless Brenden McClemets, general manager, corporate affairs, ICC, did try to dismiss some questions for being "loaded" but the duo was gracious enough to answer every query.

Was mere tax policy of the Indian Government responsible for India's chances of hosting important ICC events taking a beating, or were problems of revenue sharing with member countries also a deterrent?

"There is no question of revenue sharing coming in between. The revenue goes to all members. There is no conflict over this at ICC," said Mani.

Has the ICC, which once found itself on the collision course with Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief Jagmohan Dalmiya over the contracts issue, included him as a member in a freshly constituted contracts committee?

"Yes, we have. We had a difference of opinion with Dalmiya over certain issues. But now we have moved on from that. Contracts are no longer an issue and that conflict does not exist anymore. It would be useful to have Dalmiya in the committee because he has been involved with it right from the beginning."

"No, in fact the standard of umpiring has been improving. In Test and ODI cricket 91 to 93 per cent of the decisions are correct. It is amazing how the umpires reach difficult decisions."

A scribe said Sunil Gavaskar had recently commented that ICC was biased towards white players vis-a-vis player behaviour, what does the ICC has to say on it?

"We have never heard of such criticism. Gavaskar is a member of our technical committee. He has never raised this issue with us," Mani said as Speed intervened offering to give his reply to the question.

"As far as player behaviour is concerned, whatever incidents take place on the field are dealt with umpires drawn from various cricket playing nations. I don't agree with the criticism because in recent times there have been instances of players like Darren Lehmann being fined. ICC works without fear or favour," the ICC CEO said.

Did the gap in quality between teams like India and Hong Kong cause worry to ICC?

"The 10 Test playing countries play good cricket. But at the same time we are quite pleased with the performance of teams like UAE, Nepal, Scotland. As cricket moves to new places, more interest will be generated and the gap will be bridged," Mani said.

"There are many, many challenges at any given point of time. The players' dispute, contracts, illegal bowling action, Zimbabwe - these were the challenges. Issues will always be there but we try to deal with these effectively.

"(But) we should look at the bigger picture. There is great interest in cricket. There have been outstanding performances, there is great cricket going on. We have to sustain the game, issues will always be there. We at the top must have a vision for the game."

What does ICC think of India's performance of late?

"The performance of the Indian cricket team has been great in the past 12 months. One of the new features of their game is that they have been powerful at home as well as away. We would be surprised if we don't see many Indians taking away the ICC awards."

Is interest in Test cricket waning?

"Test cricket is very popular and there have been good turnouts for Test matches in countries like India, England, South Africa and Australia."

Do ICC plan to have more indoor cricket?

"We have had two indoor cricket tournaments - Australia against South Africa and Australia against Pakistan. We plan to have the four One-day matches of the Super Series next year at the Indoor Stadium in Melbourne."

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