Speed asked to go on leave as ICC plunges further into turmoil

The International Cricket Council has asked the outgoing chief executive Malcolm Speed to go on leave following major differences at the top of the organisation.

"The ICC President, Ray Mali, and the CEO Speed have agreed that Malcolm Speed will be on paid leave from April 30 until the end of his contract term on July 4 2008," an ICC statement from its president-elect David Morgan said. "This change of plan is the result of a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the CEO and a number of [ICC] Board Members, including the president, over a variety of issues that include Zimbabwe."

South Africa's David Richardson, the ICC general manager for cricket, will hold the post until his compatriot Haroon Lorgat takes over the job at the ICC annual conference in early July.

Asking Speed to go ahead of schedule is the latest crisis to hit the organisation, indicating serious divisions among its member boards.

The affairs of the troubled Zimbabwe board has been one of them. The national team has been out of Test cricket since January 2006 after the side were depleted in the wake of a series of confrontations between players and the administration.

Last month, an independent audit found serious financial irregularities in the Zimbabwe board accounts but the ICC did not call for any sanctions. The ICC's board decided there was no evidence of criminality and no individuals had gained financially.

The ICC's senior figures have also been divided over other issues, including the controversy over the Australian umpire Darrell Hair, who was sacked as an elite panel umpire in November 2006 but reinstated last month after a legal appeal by Hair.

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