West Indies won’t be ‘lost’ – Edwards

Wally Edwards, the chair of the ICC’s executive committee, is leaning heavily on what he believes to be a new spirit of good faith at the board table to resolve the current West Indies debacle, citing the recent clamp placed on illegal bowling actions as proof of a more practical and less politicised governing body.

The West Indies player walkout from the middle of their recent tour of India is the first major test for the ICC after the “big three” reforms ushered in by Edwards, India’s N Srinivasan and England’s Giles Clarke. The BCCI’s announcement that it intends not only to commence legal action against West Indies but also suspend all future bilateral arrangements has placed the Caribbean region on cricket’s financial precipice.

Edwards acknowledges that the “meritocracy” principles driving much of this year’s governance reforms – which just happened to place India, England and Australia at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in terms of revenue from ICC events – have placed additional pressure on other nations to get their houses in order or risk relegation from cricket’s top tier. But he is adamant that the board is far more capable of dealing with issues now that all its members are committed to dialogue and problem solving.

“I think there’s a genuine desire at the ICC next week to get things back on track,” Edwards said following Cricket Australia’s AGM, which emphasised the strong financial health of one of the game’s most prosperous nations. “In the past you’d talk about these things but you could never resolve anything in previous administrations at the ICC because there were factions all round the table and it was very difficult to have good quality debates then make a decision.

“But we have now got a fully functioning board and it’s well led. Mr Srinivasan’s doing a great job in leadership, he’s not only leading the board, he’s leading the administration, and I think we’re in a good place now to move world cricket forward the way it should. We’ll go to Dubai next week to hear what the issues are, and I think we’re in good shape to try and solve it.”

While Edwards acknowledged that the BCCI was “extremely disappointed, as we would be, if a team just leaves when all arrangements are in place”, he said he could not foresee West Indies being bankrupted by the withdrawal of subcontinental support via the television revenue to be gained from India tours of the Caribbean. He said the salvaging of West Indies’ next scheduled tour – to South Africa – would be the first priority at the next ICC board meeting.

“I don’t believe they will be lost, I can’t imagine that,” Edwards said. “They’ve had disputes before, they’ve had ongoing rumblings there for quite a while, and I feel confident they will get resolved. I don’t ever see a system where the world will all put a player pool together and everyone gets the same amount, that’s not possible. I don’t think ICC will be delving into those sorts of issues.”

Recent changes to the ICC’s protocols around illegal bowling actions, which heralded a new round of tests and bans for transgressors including Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, have been an example of the new ICC structure offering worthwhile outcomes for the game. Most pointedly, it has allowed umpires and match referees to think they can operate without fear of political ramifications for simply enforcing the laws.

“We’ve made those points very, very strongly – you can’t go down this path and then pull back and leave umpires holding the baby,” Edwards said. “[But] you can understand that unless you’ve got absolute, total support from the top down, it’s not going to happen, and that’s what we’re getting now. So I’m seeing it as a good sign.

“I’m not saying every issue’s going to be resolved with everyone on the one page, but this issue has been, and I think the way some of the countries have accepted the situation has been very positive as well. They haven’t been grizzling and grumping, they’ve got along with putting someone else in the team and getting on with it.”

The purge of illegal bowling actions had its genesis in the ICC’s cricket committee, where the likes of the former Australia captain Mark Taylor argued forcefully for reform, before the chief executives’ committee and executive board approved a tighter testing model put together by ICC management. Edwards is now crossing his fingers that the same orderly manner of co-operation can be applied to the troubled West Indies.

“There’s a desire for cricket to be getting better,” he said. “The theme running through all our discussions over the last two years at the ICC is that we want cricket to be better worldwide. It’s our responsibility, and we want to see cricket improve.

“We want to see countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Scotland, Ireland get better at cricket, and that will drive interest worldwide. The pressure’s on, and that’s how it needs to be. World cricket will get better if countries get better at cricket, that’s the focus.”

(Daniel Brettig, ESPNcricinfo)