Speed the essence of a new era

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The Independent Online

In a clear sign that they mean business in all respects the International Cricket Council intend to double their staff numbers in the next year. More appointments will follow after that in the concerted endeavour to become a governing body with real power.

As a step towards reshaping their image (and, who knows, their destiny) the ICC will tomorrow unveil what they describe as "exciting plans for the future of the game and a new visual identity". But the changes have already started to take place since the new chief executive, Malcolm Speed, took over three months ago.

Key financial appointments have been made in the organisation's Monaco office and a lawyer will be hired soon in the headquarters at Lord's. The growth reflects both the necessity for the ICC to have significant influence in running the game, and the vast amounts of money now at their disposal.

In his interim report on match-fixing, Lord Condon, the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit which was established after the match-rigging scandal broke last year, said unequivocally that the ICC were unlikely to succeed if they continued as a loose, fragile alliance and that they "must become a modern regulatory body with the power to lead and direct international cricket". The ICC's first public annual report shortly afterwards showed that revenue increased from $636,413 in the year ending March 2000 to $21,120,579 12 months later, largely because of the sale of television rights. Hence, the increase in the Monaco branch office.

Malcolm Gray, the ICC's president, will join Speed, his fellow Australian, at Lord's tomorrow morning for what is in effect an official relaunch for the organisation. If it at first seems little more than a new logo, Gray and Speed have much more wide-reaching plans.

"This is part of the rapid evolution of the ICC," said their communications manager, Mark Harrison. "The increase in staff numbers demonstrates what there is to do. At the moment there are too few people all doing far too much work. The intention is that we become a governing body such as those that exist in some other sports with the ability to govern."

The eventual success of the aim will still depend on the various member countries realising the desirability of having a body which truly controls and guides the game worldwide. More of that should become clearer after the ICC's executive board meeting in Kuala Lumpur in a fortnight. It cannot have been helpful, for instance, to have the introduction last year of the Asian Cricket Council and, with it, the Asian Test Championship. It opens the way to conflict.

A measure of the difficulties still hindering the ICC was the reaction this week of one of their match referees, Naushad Ali, on seeing the bowling action of James Kirtley for England against Zimbabwe. Naushad might have harboured doubts about the legitimacy of Kirtley's (already cleared) action but did not follow official procedure in voicing his opinion to any passing media person.

The ICC in London could only listen aghast, doubtless waiting for the months to pass before new streamlined panels of umpires and referees are in place.

Names of those selected will be announced by the end of the year, although the vacancy for a referees and umpires adviser is proving hard to fill. Many applications were received, few of which were up to scratch.

Naushad Ali's days as a match referee could be numbered. The ICC will be anxious for guidelines to be followed in future. The increasing volume of suspect actions, however, must be concerning them. It is wise that a proper structure of reporting and subsequent advice is in place but there is also an uncomfortable feeling growing that there is an unspoken, unofficial moratorium on throwing despite, or because of, the ubiquity of television.

Under bright new management the ICC should soon have the staff to cope.

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