Melbourne, Dec.5 : Former International Cricket Council (ICC) CEO Malcolm Speed has played down reports of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) playing a domineering and irresponsible role in the running of world cricket, but acknowledges that if it is doing so, there are processes in place to curtail it.
Accepting that the passion for the game in India is far higher than in any other cricket-playing nation, Speed said: "India's vote (in ICC Executive meetings) has the same value as Australia's and the other full member countries. If there is concern about irresponsible use of power, there are processes in place to deal with this, and the other countries should take firm positions and make them clear. I agree with James (Sutherland, who is doing a great job at CA) that India should act responsibly, as should all members."
He also said that cricket's unique selling point is the passion for cricket by Indians - cricket is the most popular sport by a factor of about 30 in the second-most populous country in the world.
"This should be seen as a major positive. The game needs to find ways to use that unique selling point. There is too much fear of an Indian takeover and the power of the Indian administrators," Speed said.
He was reacting to a question on whether it was right for Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland to call on the BCCI to display more responsibility in its leadership role in cricket.
When asked to comment on India's dominant role in world cricket and whether this had hamstrung the working of the ICC, Speed said that present ICC Board is too large.
"Sixteen directors (including president, vice-president and CEO) is a large gathering. All countries have agreed to this structure, and it is very unlikely that it will be changed," he said.
Speed also confirmed that he had a bitter row with ICC president Ray Mali over the ICC's policy regarding Zimbabwe that eventually led to the council placing him on "gardening leave" for the last eight weeks of your contract.
"Yes! Ray Mali and I had an angry and bitter exchange in October 2007 over ICC's policy in relation to Zimbabwe. This caused our previously friendly relationship to break down irretrievably. In March 2008, the ICC board reviewed the KPMG forensic report into the finances of Zimbabwe Cricket. The report showed that there had been irregularities in the finances of ZC (Zimbabwe Cricket)," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Speed, as saying.
"The ICC board resolved to take no further action on the basis that the KPMG report did not prove that any individual within ZC had profited.... As a director of ICC, I was bound by the decision. I elected not to attend a press conference with Mali on the evening of the board meeting, as had been previously arranged, where this decision was to be announced. In failing to attend the press conference, I knew that there was a risk that I would be sacked," he added.
Speed described his final days as ICC CEO as coming to an unfortunate and sticky end.
"I had a very good run, and it finished more unhappily than expected. These things happen in sport," he said, adding "international cricket is a very political landscape. Managing a sport that is as complex as cricket is a difficult job."
"I sought to perform my role without fear or favour, acting in the best interests of the game. I enjoyed every moment of my 11 years in cricket," Speed said.
He also called for the inclusion of former top players on the board, adding that while Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga is already a member, he would like to see former Australian captain Mark Taylor on the ICC board at some stage.
"I would like to see a revised board structure with some genuinely independent directors (including women), some former players and three or four directors elected by the ICC members to represent their interests. I do not expect to see it happen," he said.