A former President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Pakistani Ehsan Mani, is a vociferous proponent of good governance in the matters of running cricket at a global level. In June 2003, he became the ICC president, a position he held until 2006. With this solid background of management of the game at the highest level, Mani was the first of many dissenting voices that spoke against the 'Big 3' proposals to overhaul the ICC's role in the running and development of cricket.
This is a position that he maintains to this day, even after the initial furore over the changes to ICC's governance structure seems to be losing it's momentum. In an interview with PakPassion.net, Mani spoke about the basis for his opposition to the influence of the 'Big 3' over the ICC's governance structure, criticised Pakistan Cricket Board for its weak stance on the handling of the 'Big 3.'
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. You have always been outspoken against the influence of the 'Big 3' on the ICC. Has your stance changed given a change in Pakistan's position under Najam Sethi's leadership?
A. Absolutely not. It really does not matter whether it's Pakistan or any other country that accepts this situation, the whole principle is wrong. My position would have been the same even if Pakistan was part of the initiative in the first place or had been part of 'Big 4.' Simply speaking, what is being proposed is bad for cricket. The whole governance structure of ICC has taken a huge step backwards. What is being proposed by the 'Big 3' lacks total transparency and is being mooted by people who have personal vested interests or who have conflict of interests and are a beneficiary of their own proposals. It is very disquieting as far as I am concerned.
Q. If it was one country pushing for this change then one could suspect some foul play, but here we have three members. How would you counter that?
A. To me, Australia and England – are the real culprits in this situation. What they have done, because of their own self interest and in order not to upset India, is to impose standards of governance on the ICC which they themselves would not apply to their own organisations. If you were to compare the governance standards that the ICC has in place today with what these boards have, you would find a huge difference. To me, ECB and CA bear the most responsibility as to where cricket will find itself today.
Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards with ECB chief Giles Clarke
Q. The fact is that the many of the smaller nations are going along with the 'Big 3' which could be a result of a carrot and stick approach. How does that reflect on these nations?
A. This is why I refer to the governance structure. The ICC's mandate is to act in the best interest of ALL cricket playing nations and to promote the game worldwide and to expand it. Cricket will never flourish if eight or nine countries play the game at the highest level. The ICC for years, and certainly upto and during the time I was president, had a priority to have a structural growth of cricket round the world. The idea was to bring in nations like the United States of America and China where they could start playing the game seriously and in the long term, they would produce huge amounts of money and resources for the ICC and its members. As we know, the American sports market is worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Cricket gets excited over earning a few billions over 8-15 years or so which is really nothing. The fact is that cricket today needs a vision or visionaries and not intellectual midgets who can run the game!
Q. Pakistan's stance on the 'Big 3' has changed between the tenures of Zaka Ashraf and Najam Sethi. Is this change of stance based on sound reasoning or political expediency?
A. I don't agree with Pakistan's stance. What the PCB is trying to do is to come to an accommodation and to take a pragmatic decision. That doesn't make it right. What the PCB is trying to do is make the best of a bad situation. That is the bind it finds itself in today. Unfortunately, due to the structure and mismanagement of cricket in Pakistan, we find ourselves in a situation that at a critical juncture when this was happening and proposals were being mooted earlier this year, Pakistan had no leadership. We had one Chairman who had been thrown out, went to the court and came back. The other one went out and is now back again! This does not bode well.
Q. What future do you see for the ICC with the 'Big 3' in charge of its policies?
A. The ICC will be totally undermined as long as these three countries are involved with the three individuals who represent these countries in charge. They are clearly not acting in the best interest of the members. Certainly, when I was in charge of the ICC, Pakistan was just another member country for me. My responsibility was to every country including the lesser known cricketing ones such as Singapore or Gibraltar. These people ('Big 3') are there to make sure that they can extract as much in terms of resources for their own countries. They have a conflict of interest here. The sad thing is that in 2012, the ICC itself commissioned a governance review. The representatives from Australia and England who are there today, were themselves there when the Woolf Report was submitted regarding the governance of the ICC. There were a number of recommendations made by the review and these people have not seen it fit to implement even one of those. That tells us a bit about the agenda of these people and their motives which are clearly aimed at diluting the standing and authority of the governing body.
Q. IPL in the UAE has been the subject of many discussions in the recent past. How do you see this development?
A. IPL has its own route. It's a form of cricket which is really great for people who don't have the time to watch the longer form of the games. It's great that this is happening in the UAE, however the advent of IPL in the UAE shows the hypocrisy of the BCCI, who for years said that they would not play in the UAE. They came up with all sorts of reasons such as corruption for not playing Pakistan whilst blaming their government for not allowing their team to play in UAE. All that has now been exposed as being based upon the money that the BCCI is now making from playing in the country, as opposed to any sound moral stance.
The year in which Pakistani Ehsan Mani became president of ICC. He held the post till 2006, the year in which India's Sharad Pawar took over