On the Front Foot: ICC still not calling the shots as they negotiate nervous nineties

In 2009 the International Cricket Council will mark their centenary. Since they are searching for somebody to organise a gala event in London next June, it is to be hoped that they can find something to celebrate – apart from the naming of the Team of the Century. Throughout most of their existence the organisation, less a governing body than a forum of divided opinion, have struggled for a voice. Always bearing the initials ICC, from the start they were up against it. The first gathering in 1909 was for the express purpose of holding a triangular Test series featuring the only nations playing international cricket at that time, England, Australia and South Africa. As Abe Bailey, the South African behind the plan, grandly called it the Imperial Cricket Contest, they became the Imperial Cricket Conference. They did not meet again until 1912 when their series took place. It was a disaster (the series, not the meeting) as Australia sent a weakened team and it rained all summer. With marked, honourable exceptions it has been like that for the ICC's tournaments ever since. They seem to face an increasingly uphill struggle despite the determined endeavours of the new leadership, their chief executive Harron Lorgat, fittingly also a South African, and chairman David Morgan OBE, who presumably is following in Lord Chesterfield's 1909 footsteps. Events companies must submit their tender for the gala dinner by next Friday, and must come up with ideas to celebrate cricket past, present and future and bring the global cricketing community together. Tough asks, as they say.

Fowler plucked in his prime

Chepauk, the intended venue for the First Test between India and England, has been the scene of what might be called roller-coaster fortunes. Each side has enjoyed three thumping wins and suffered three thumping defeats. Perhaps England's finest hour was in 1977 when Tony Greig's side won by 200 runs to take a 3-0 lead after three matches of the five-Test series (and to think we are now reduced to two). In 1985, Mike Gatting and Graeme Fowler both scored double-hundreds in a nine-wicket victory. Fowler played only one more Test (and he scored 69 in that) so maybe he wouldn't call Chepauk his lucky ground. England lost their most recent Test there by an innings and 22 runs, though it was 16 years ago.

Mendis the latest greatest?

How modernism prevails. 'Twas ever thus. The question of the week on the ICC website asks: "Does Ajantha Mendis have the potential to be the greatest spinner of all time?" The leg-spinning mystery bowler from Moratuwa is 23, has played three Tests, all at home, has 26 wickets and is 730 behind his compatriot Muttiah Muralitharan. But 49 per cent of respondents so far say he can, 42 per cent say he cannot. No pressure then.

Five-star service required

West Indies, it has finally been decided, will come to England in 2009, as the summer's first tourists. It will mean six Tests and eight one-dayers between the sides from February to May – hardly the mouth-watering prospect it once was. Five of their players are signed up for the Indian Premier League which coincides. Their presence in England is crucial to the venture.


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