Lord Marland of Odstock may find the past coming back to haunt him in his campaign to lead English cricket into a brave new world. Upon entering the hustings yesterday to try to unseat Giles Clarke, the present chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Lord Marland claimed the current regime had systematic problems.
Although this view may not only have a degree of accuracy but also accrue a larger amount of sympathy, the challenger must persuade 10 of the 19 voters – the 18 first-class counties plus MCC – that he is a better bet than the contentious figure of Clarke.
"There has been non-stop firefighting in the ECB," said Lord Marland, a former treasurer of the Conservative Party. "There was the failure in the IPL and the disastrous Stanford match. There needs to be much more harmony in Test match cricket and in county cricket. My approach would be more conciliatory."
All these points are valid and England's continuing frosty relations with India – despite the slight thawing engendered by the return to play the recent Test series after the Mumbai terrorist attacks – may persuade the electorate. But trenchant views on the English game, expressed in a wide-ranging report five years ago, may yet tell against him. He was prepared to sacrifice counties – "they will have to face the reality that they may cease to exist or merge" – to ensure a more prosperous future. He is now trying to persuade them to vote for him.
As a passionate fan of English sport who made a considerable fortune in the city, the affable Marland established Sports Nexus in 2003. Described as the independent voice of sport, it had something of the air of a rich man's plaything but its heart was undoubtedly in the right place.
In the paper entitled "Lifting Cricket's Fortunes", Sports Nexus advocated sweeping change. It may be instructive that several recommendations – a changed management board, a reduction of overseas players, financial rewards for playing English-qualified players – have since been implemented.
But the report also said: "We have constructed a model that will allow counties to be authors of their own destinies. The model asserts that counties unable to meet the criteria should be dropped from the professional game." This may all be wise but it could also be grist to Clarke's electoral mill.
Marland said last night: "I have no intention of putting counties out of business. I understand that some counties have already made up their minds, but I hope they can wait to see what's on offer before they decide."
james lawton, page 58