Is the ICC top job on Sourav Ganguly’s radar?
Has the turbulence in world cricket caused by Covid-19 handed the Indian board a chance to push for Sourav Ganguly as the next chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC)?
The president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has a tenure problem on his hands—his short, nine-month term will come to an end in July under the current constitution, after which he will have to go through a mandatory “cooling off” period of three years where he cannot hold an office bearer’s post in Indian cricket.
In November last year, a month after Ganguly took charge, BCCI filed a petition with the Supreme Court to relax the tenure norms to allow Ganguly to serve a full three-year term. The court is yet to hear the matter, and if that doesn’t work out, said a BCCI official who did not want to be named, the former India captain would be free to make a bid for the highest post in world cricket. The tenure of current ICC chief, Shashank Manohar, also ends in July. Though he is eligible to run for another term, he has said he is not interested.
Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith, now Cricket South Africa (CSA)’s director of cricket, has already made a public pitch for Ganguly to be ICC chairman. “Post Covid-19 and with the things that are going to come our way, we need to have strong leadership and I feel Sourav Ganguly is best positioned for that at the moment. I know him well. I feel that he has got the credibility and the leadership skills and is someone who can really take the game forward,” Smith said at a media teleconference on Thursday.
When Ganguly took over as BCCI president in October, one of the most urgent issues on his wishlist was to get an Indian representative back on ICC’s crucial Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee. This would open up a possibility for BCCI to bargain for higher revenue share from the world body.
The Indian board, which was being represented by Supreme Court-appointed administrators for the 33 months till October 2019, has an ongoing feud with the Manohar-led ICC. In that time, ICC rolled back an earlier revenue model which gave the “big three” of cricket—England, Australia and India—a larger share of ICC’s earnings. Since Ganguly became president, BCCI has started fighting back and opposed ICC’s proposed Future Tours Programme (FTP).
Colin Graves is the outgoing Chairman at English cricket board (ECB), and has long been tipped as the front runner to replace Manohar, primarily because it was believed that he has the backing of BCCI. ICC board constitutes 17 members—representatives of the 12 Test-playing nations, three associates, an independent female director and the outgoing chairman—all of whom can vote to elect the new chief. It will not be difficult for BCCI to get the votes it needs.
To help other cricketing nations come out of the crisis caused by the pandemic, BCCI, the richest body in world cricket, is already working on a plan to schedule bilateral tours. Cricketing nations make the most money from broadcast rights when India visits. The Indian cricket team is scheduled to tour four countries over the next 12 months. It will play six limited-over matches in Sri Lanka, four Tests in Australia, three limited-over matches in Zimbabwe and three T20Is in South Africa.
“While we know that India can’t possibly tour every country in a short span of time, it is possible to add matches to the existing home calendar and help other boards out by covering current losses,” a BCCI official said.
Smith’s endorsement of Ganguly came a day after a telephonic meeting between CSA and BCCI, where both boards confirmed their commitment to try and make India’s tour of South Africa happen in August. Sri Lanka is equally dependent on an India series, scheduled in July, to attract sponsors and broadcasters. Cricket Australia (CA) has publicly spoken about the importance of India’s tour of Australia in December to their finances.
“Now with no board apart from CA and ECB having long term broadcast partners, and pandemic disrupting schedules, the dependence is greater,” a former administrator said.
After Smith’s comments, CSA Chairman Chris Nenzani clarified that Smith was speaking in a personal capacity. “At the moment we don’t want to anticipate any candidates,” Nenzani, who is known to be close to Manohar, said in a statement.
For the record, BCCI neither denied nor confirmed its interest in pitching Ganguly for ICC chairman’s post. “A lot of people are coming up with names which they feel will be the most appropriate to lead ICC,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal said. “As of now, BCCI has not decided, if it will be our representative or who we will support.”
At the May 28 ICC board meeting, timelines for filing nominations for ICC elections will be announced.
As per eligibility criteria, a candidate needs to have attended an ICC board meeting. Ganguly attended his first as BCCI president in March on a videoconference. A BCCI official said the board’s secretary Jay Shah could also become eligible before the deadline for filing nominations. “All you need is to attend an ICC meet. That opportunity can still come,” he said. Shah, like Ganguly, will have to go into a three-year cooling-off period in July if the Supreme Court does not approve an amendment to BCCI’s constitution.
This, it is learnt, is what things hinge on—the position of ICC chief only becomes important for Ganguly and Shah if they are unable to continue in their BCCI roles.
“You don’t want to head United Nations, when you are the president of the United States,” the official said.