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ICC offended by claims of racism and bias, Speed says

Written by: Staff

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (Reuters) The International Cricket Council is offended by claims it is biased against Asian countries, chief executive Malcolm Speed said today.

Speed stressed instead that the Indian sub-continent is cricket's ''unique selling point''.

Asia's four Test-playing nations -- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- are major commercial players in the global game, Speed said, and that was one of the reasons the ICC moved its headquarters to nearby Dubai.

Speaking at an Asian Cricket Council seminar on the future of regional cricket Speed said: ''The ICC is sometimes criticised, and we read this from time to time and we get very offended by it, that we are biased against Asia and somehow we are alleged to be racist.

''We moved to Asia. It was a deliberate move and there are good reasons to move to Asia. We are only a few hours from Delhi, Karachi, Colombo or Dhaka. We are not far from here (Kuala Lumpur) or South Africa, England, Australia or New Zealand. We can get where we need to be.'' In December, former Pakistani captain Wasim Akram described the ICC as a ''forum for white cricketers''.

HUGE ECONOMIES ''Our president at the moment (Ehsan Mani) is from Pakistan, the chairman of the cricket committee is from India and our chief referee is from Sri Lanka - think about that for a moment,'' Australian Speed said.

''Cricket's unique selling point, we hear that term from the marketers, is the Indian sub-continent. In those four countries there is a great passion for cricket. That is 22 per cent of the world's population.

''They are huge economies that are growing rapidly. That is our unique selling point and too often we shy away from that.

''Much of our revenue now comes from that region and we should work very hard to make sure that continues to happen.'' Speed praised Mani, sometimes depicted by Asian media as a mere figurehead with Speed pulling the strings, for helping to bring about a more peaceful global cricketing environment.

Mani will soon be stepping down after three years in charge.

''Everyone gets along very well and that's great news,'' said Speed. ''A lot of it is due to the leadership of the ICC by Ehsan Mani. I think everyone should be hugely indebted to him.'' REUTERS PM PM1835

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