Cricket: ICC to splash out after ducking issues - Martin Johnson on a late move by cricket's governing body to take on a new image

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THE International Cricket Council, having furthered its reputation as a collection of enthusiastic but ineffective amateurs over the course of the past week, is to splash out on a salaried chief executive in an overdue attempt to bring it into the real world.

Sir Colin Cowdrey, the ICC's honorary chairman, is due to step down after his four-year cycle ends next summer, after which the post will be largely confined to controlling meetings rather than decision taking. Or, to be more accurate, non-decision taking.

The latter role will pass to the new chief executive, likely to be head-hunted from the world of commerce, while the new chairman will be required to exercise rather more discipline at meetings than Sir Colin, whose affably gentle demeanour rarely works when delegates' temperatures, as they invariably do, begin to rise.

The debate over the venue of the next World Cup was conducted in an atmosphere not dissimilar to the Lower Fifth ragging the new master, and finally broke up with the decision deferred until next January. The favourite for the chairmanship is thought to be the Australian Cricket Board's chief executive, Malcolm Gray.

In the mean time, Sir Colin has come down like a ton of feathers on Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan team manager, for his second burst of uncomplimentary remarks about the umpire Roy Palmer. On a sheet of notepaper to rival the one Neville Chamberlain brought back from Munich, Sir Colin stated yesterday that Intikhab 'fully accepts the principles of the ICC Code of Conduct, and has given an assurance that his captain and players are equally committed to support them. The matter is now closed'.

Sir Colin even used the word 'alleged' when referring to Intikhab's second breach of the Code (is it alleged that the voice criticising Palmer belonged to some one other than Intikhab?) and he also appears to have shelved his plans to head for Durham for talks with the tourists before Pakistan's next match at Chester-le-Street.

The ICC statement added that Intikhab had had 'further full discussions with Sir Colin and the match referee. The tour manager, Mr Khalid Mahmood, has also re-inforced his cricket manager's words: 'our team is not looking to create trouble, but to play in the best spirit of the game.' ' Even by ICC standards, it is a weak-kneed cop-out.

Sir Colin now plans to be present at the match referees' talks with both captains and managers before the Headingley Test match on Thursday week, when Graham Gooch and Micky Stewart will presumably be encouraged to ask their tail-end batsmen not to inflame the situation by getting themselves hit on the helmet.