Theatre of the absurd at the ICC

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The Independent Online
The International Cricket Conference's appointment of a new chairman elect has been deferred until next July, leaving one of the most important posts in cricket, dangling for another year.

It is a patently absurd state of affairs, and one that the current chairman, Sir Clyde Walcott, admitted to being unsatisfactory at yesterday's press conference. As a result, he is setting up a rules review committee that will look into the ageing constitution to see if suitable changes can be made.

At present the constitution states that any prospective candidate for the chair who wishes to gain election, requires at least a two-thirds majority of full member countries (the nine Test-playing nations) as well as an overall majority, which includes the votes of associate members.

However, when none of the three candidates standing achieved this, an impasse was reached. Mind you, what appeared on the surface as another boring stand-off by the ICC on Wednesday evening, was still crackling with electricity and subterfuge yesterday, when the ICC's annual meeting finally drew to a close.

Officially, the main reason given for the deferral, was that the rules of the constitution had not been met. Unofficially, however, it was seen by many as nothing more than a move to block the path of Jagmothan Dalmiya, in the hope that a more suitable candidate comes forward, such as Ali Bacher, in time for next year's meeting.

Dalmiya, the controversial millionaire from Calcutta, whose radical ideas to globalise the game have made certain Test-playing countries wary. Others, though, see him as a grenade set to explode the complacency of a game presided over by an archaic elite at Lord's.

Either way, the ICC chief executive, David Richards, would not be drawn into divulging where the various votes went. It is widely believed, however, that after Krish Mackerdhuj withdrew following the first ballot, Dalmiya had 25 votes to Malcolm Gray's 13, with two countries abstaining. In other words Dalmiya had a clear overall majority.

The more crucial full member vote, however, is thought to have been levelled at four each with one abstention. Incensed, Dalmiya apparently left the meeting intent on seeking British legal advice and he, for one, is clearly not going to let things lie until next year, when Sir Clyde Walcott officially steps down.

As eighth seeds, England will have been happy with their draw for the 1999 World Cup, despite ending up in the same group as the cup holders, Sri Lanka.

With 12 teams competing in two groups - including the top three teams from the ICC Trophy held in Malaysia early next year - it uses a more competitive format than its predecessor.

To get to the final, England will have to finish in the top three of Group A, which includes India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the runners- up of the ICC trophy. They will avoid meeting both the West Indies and Australia in the early stages.

Should they prevail - and with home advantage they ought to - they will progress to a six team super-league where each team will play the others once. From there the top four teams will go through to the semi-finals, the winners meeting in a showpiece final at Lord's.

White balls and coloured clothing will be used over 50 overs though there will be no provision for day/night matches. Each match will have one extra day set aside for rain. In all 42 matches are scheduled, five more than were played in the last World Cup.

DRAW FOR THE NATWEST TROPHY QUARTER-FINALS: Lancashire v Derbyshire; Surrey v Somerset; Hampshire v Essex; Sussex v Yorkshire. (Ties to be played on Tuesday 30 July).

Draw for 1999 World Cup

Group A: Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, England, Zimbabwe, runner-up of ICC Trophy.

Group B: Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand, ICC Trophy winners, ICC Trophy third place.

Tournament to be held in England. Each team will play five round-robin matches in two groups. The top three teams in each group will enter a second stage - a super-league of six teams. Super-league matches. The top four teams from the super-league will qualify for the semi-finals: the first-placed team will play the fourth, the second will play the third. Final to be held at Lord's in June 1999