Speed plays straight bat to Modi muscle-flexing

India's new faces test ICC's patience - and mettle
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The Independent Online

Little more than a year ago, there was a seismic shift in the power base in Indian cricket. The result of those elections which saw the removal of the troublesome Jagmohan Dalmiya and his cronies was accompanied by a collective sigh of relief, if not exactly a party, at the temporary headquarters of the International Cricket Council in Dubai. The lips are pursed again, the streamers are down.

Dalmiya, or Jaggu as he is known to his associates, might have been a former ICC president, but he was secretive, elusive, forever ready to pick a fight and go his own way. Things could only get better for world cricket.

While there are no moves afoot to start a clandestine Bring Back Jaggu campaign, the relief has long since turned to irritation, frustration and, in private, almost certainly moments of sheer anger. The new Board of Control for Cricket in India have not stopped flexing their muscles for the past year. At every oppor-tunity they have let the ICC know that they are the most important and powerful country in world cricket with the biggest television audience and the deepest pockets, and that they would rather like the ICC to do what they say. This means they will play in what tournaments they want to, when they want, and preferably while holding the television rights to all major tournaments for which, bizarrely, they have bid.

The Champions Trophy provides another chance for India to reinforce their opinions, because media from round the world are around. It is not pleasant (though it has not been unamusing), because rich bullies never are.

India are flexing their muscles on a daily basis, making it clear that they will make their money talk. They are doing so not through the elected president, Sharad Pawar, who has enough on his plate as Minister of Agriculture in a country which is witnessing hundreds upon hundreds of farmers committing suicide.

The talking is being done by the chief administrative officer, Ratnakar Shetty, and the young vice-president, Lalat Modi. Modi has been especially talkative, and in a random remark last week he said the ICC should be headed by an Afro-Asian chief executive.

Perhaps that will be the case one day but for now the job, as Modi well knew, is being done by the Australian Malcolm Speed. So exasperated did Speed become by Modi's comments that he decided it was time to deflate the young millionaire's ego.

"Mr Modi has expressed a lot of opinions, often strident ones, about the ICC," said Speed. "We see those opinions, we note them and take them into account, but it should be pointed out that Mr Modi has never been to an ICC meeting and has never represented India in an ICC meeting.

"I think he has a lot of promise as a cricket administrator and I think he has done a great deal for the BCCI in that one year. But there are other people within Indian cricket, and several of them have attended ICC meetings and understand how it operates, as a democracy." Ouch.

That was a few days ago, and Modi has not been heard from since. Not too much should be read into that, since Shetty had a bash, suggesting the ICC were guilty of double standards.

India appear to be spoiling for a fight. Their latest grouse is with agreements covering individual competitions, objections to which they have just raised after six months.

They like their power. It is, however, instructive of their organisational priorities that as the host country for this tournament they are the only one without media or communications officers, or a team manager. They are impossible to make contact with.