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September 16, 2002
1940 IST

Pool A:
Aus | Ban | NZ

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Pool C:
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Ned | Pak | SL

The Cricket Interview/ Malcom Speed

'It's just not in the ICC's interest to undermine India'

Malcolm Speed

In his first year as chief executive of the International Cricket Council, Malcolm Speed has made an impact on the functioning of cricket's governing body.

The Mike Denness controversy that threatened to split the cricketing world saw him emerge victorious in the game of brinkmanship forcing the Board of Control for Cricket in India to withdraw Virendra Sehwag from the Indian team to play the first Test against England in Mohali. A few days ago, he negotiated a deal with the Indian players ensuring their participation in the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka.

Speed, 53, has dealt with various issues ranging from the controversy surrounding Ricky Ponting's conduct in a Kolkata bar, Shane Warne's 'phone sex' ruckus, a players' pay settlement and several incidents of players being accused of throwing during his earlier tenure as chief executive of the Australian Cricket Board.

A qualified lawyer, Speed played lower grade club cricket in Australia and earned notice as a cricket administrator. Besides running a sports management business he is also chairman of Basketball Australia.

In a freewheeling interview with rediff Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff, Speed discussed his vision for international cricket.

What is the vision you bring to the ICC?

As the governing body for international cricket the ICC seeks to lead by developing the game as a global sport, protecting the spirit of cricket and optimizing the commercial benefits for the betterment of the game.

The ICC has been dubbed a toothless body. There are a lot of issues to be resolved and as a parent body it has failed to keep its flock together. Do you accept that criticism?

The ICC is open to criticism. I don't think the member bodies wanted the ICC to do more than that. Now the member countries want the ICC to play a greater leadership role. The ICC has made some significant achievements; setting up the ICC development program around the world, running events like this ICC Champions Trophy and the agreement with the GCC (Global Cricket Corporation) are all major steps that the ICC has made when it was being criticised.

The manner in which the ICC's technical committee headed by former Aussie skipper Bobby Simpson was disbanded was seen in bad taste. Mr Simpson complained the ICC was ignoring the threat of chuckers in international cricket.

Bob Simpson was unhappy because he was no longer member of that committee. What happened is that there was a new process put in place about two years ago. Earlier, we had three stages for bowlers whose actions were suspect. Earlier this year that has been reduced to two stages. We think that is an effective process to deal with it. We have discussed this with the boards, players -- current and former.

Former cricketers believe bowlers with suspect actions are still playing the game and there are millions of youngsters watching them on television.

I don't agree there are many international cricketers who are saying that. The process is in place to deal with that (chucking). If the umpires think a bowler's action is suspect the process we have in place is short and sharp. We ask the suspected bowler's board and an ICC advisor to watch his action and correct it. If the bowler still hasn't rectified his action then he goes in front of a panel face to face instead of a telephone hook up and faces a ban for a year. I am quite comfortable with that process than when Simpson was part of the panel.

Is the ICC trying to undermine the clout India has in world cricket today? Is there some sort of vendetta against the Indian cricket board?

None at all. The Mike Denness incident in South Africa was an isolated one. We have had a problem with the ICC and the BCCI recently regarding the ICC contracts.

There is healthy dialogue. I have spoken to (BCCI president) Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya 10, 20 times in the last month. I also had a dialogue with him face to face to discuss the issue. There is no vendetta. Far from trying to undermine India as a powerful cricket nation we are trying to do more in India. We wanted to play this (ICC Champions Trophy) in India and still hope to play the 2006 tournament there. We want India to become a more powerful cricketing nation. It is just not in the ICC's interest to undermine India.

Could lack of communication between the ICC and BCCI be blamed for the distrust amongst the two bodies? What went wrong on the ICC contracts issue?

I am not interested in blaming anyone. At the outset it is fair to say the ICC should have not relied so heavily on the boards making sure their players got the message. The ICC does not deal directly with the players. We leave it to the boards to get the message through to the players. I think the ICC should have made it more clear to the boards to get the message through to the players.

With the doping policy for the next World Cup we are taking a different approach. We are telling the boards time and time again that their players should be made aware of the banned substances.

I think the BCCI could have communicated better with its players. There has been no secret whatsoever that there were exclusive sponsorship arrangements as part of this deal with Global Cricket Corporation, the sponsors, the boards and the ICC. Some countries dealt very well with it, some didn't deal with it as well.

I think it is a lesson that everyone has learnt. The ICC, the players, the boards have learnt as there is more money coming into the sport we have to work harder to make sure we deal better with the commercial and contractual issues.

What is the anti-doping policy? How do you plan to enforce it?

All the boards have been sent the list of banned substances. They have been told very clearly they should ensure that their members are aware of the substances on the list. The team doctor or physio must work with the players to make sure there is no one who is taking substances on the banned substance list and does not know about it.

There is a process where if a player is taking some substance on the banned substances list to come to the ICC and tell us about it. If there are people out there who are taking undue advantage by using some banned substance that is another issue. We will deal with that. But what I don't want to see is players who are unaware and innocently taking substances. I don't want them to be punished unnecessarily.

The ICC does not know who will be picked for these events, therefore it is the responsibility of the boards to make sure this does not blow up into yet another issue. We have sent 4, 5 separate messages to the boards to ensure they work on this issue seriously.

Who negotiated the contract with the Global Cricket Corporation?

Mr Dalmiya was president of the ICC when the contracts were drafted. There was a tender process where the most of the major media companies tendered for the rights. That was in the first half of 2000.

All the negotiations occurred in Mr Dalmiya's term along with (then ICC chief executive) David Richards. The deal with GCC is an excellent agreement for cricket. The people who negotiated the deal should be complimented for it. Though the deals were negotiated during Mr Dalmiya's term as president of the ICC they were signed after his time as president.

An agreement like this with 120 pages takes a long time to draft. So the tender processes happened and agreements were made during Mr Dalmiya's term as president of the ICC but were signed after Mr Malcolm Gray was elected president.

Had Mr Dalmiya agreed to all the clauses in the deal? Was the 30-day before and 30-day after clause a part of the deal he negotiated?

I don't believe that is the case. That was drafted later. When Mr Dalmiya was president there was an agreement where there would be exclusive rights for broadcasters and sponsors. The fine print for that had not been developed. That happened after his term as president.

Were the boards kept in the loop when the fine print was been prepared for the final contract between the ICC and Global Cricket Corporation?

They knew there was a tendered document to various media companies and that set out that there were exclusive rights being sold there. Shortly after the agreement was reached in Paris, the agreement was drafted and it is fair to say the boards did not see the fine print of the agreement.

It is a pretty long agreement. What they did see shortly after that was a new document called the 'cricket events agreement' that picks up the key parts of the master agreement. Each board commits to play in the ICC events and recognizes there are exclusive sponsorship and broadcast rights that have been sold as part of the master agreement.

That happened in the second half of 2000 and at that time Mr Dalmiya was neither ICC president nor president of the BCCI.

The next thing that happens is as we get close to each event there is a 'participation nations agreement' that needs to be signed for each event. The agreement was circulated to the boards in December 2001.

That was at the time when (former BCCI president) Dr (A C) Muthiah was not the president of the board. He signed the cricket events agreement and after his time the participating players agreement was signed by his successors.

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