| Ehsan Mani
Calcutta: Fourteen years ago, Pakistan’s Ehsan Mani attended his first International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting, where ‘neutral’ umpiring was top of the agenda. On Thursday, after having held key positions, he will become the second Asian (Jagmohan Dalmiya was No.1) to actually head the body.
“It’s an honour and a recognition of Pakistan’s contribution to the world of cricket,” Mani, president-elect for the past two years (and vice-president from the summer of 2002) told The Telegraph.
Professionally, of course, he is a financial expert and has a place on the board of two UK registered banks — United National Bank Ltd and Bank Insinger de Beaufort.
Speaking exclusively from his London residence, on the eve of assuming the presidency, Mani added: “Today, the ICC is run like any modern business and every stake-holder has to do his bit to carry it forward.”
For his part, the quiet-spoken Mani listed three priorities: (a) Ending the Player Terms imbroglio; (b) Ensuring that the member Boards have “full confidence” in action initiated by the ICC; (c) Taking the development process forward.
“All parties must work towards a solution which will be in the best interests of the game. And, yes, this Terms controversy must quickly end,” Mani, very active behind the scenes for many months, remarked.
Incidentally, as head of the ICC’s finance and marketing committee (which has since been disbanded), he was principal negotiator in the lead-up to Global Cricket Corporation — the World Sport Group as it was then known — being awarded telecast/marketing rights for all ICC events from 2000 till the 2007 World Cup.
Now, for priority No.2.
That the in-coming ICC president feels the member Boards must have “full confidence” in whatever is decided by the body more than suggests that the lines of communication have been rather tenuous.
“There has been some communication gap… One reason could be that interaction at the ICC level is limited to the presidents and chief executives. Therefore, I intend meeting ordinary Board members across the world. Such an exercise should bridge whatever gap is there,” a candid Mani explained.
He added: “Some see the ICC as a remote body. Well, this notion has to be dispelled.”
[Mani, by the way, informed that the next Cricket Committee (Management) meeting will probably be hosted by India, in September-October.]
As regards the critical area of development, the in-coming president is convinced the ICC needs to have a two-fold approach. “Besides taking the game to new regions, we must look at the threat posed by sport like basketball in the West Indies and soccer in England,” he pointed out.
Asked whether, with him at the helm, the ICC may play a bigger role in helping revive bilateral ties between India and Pakistan, Mani responded: “Look, beyond a point, the ICC can’t do a thing… The ICC, after all, can’t be in a situation where there’s a conflict with government policy…”
However, it will be a surprise if he doesn’t initiate some move — from the sidelines, at least. It’s not insignificant, perhaps, that the in-coming president shares an excellent rapport with the Indian Board officials (past and present).
Talking about the ‘Them and Us’ scenario, which invariably surfaces whenever the sub-continent is in the news, Mani said: “Every issue ought to be seen as affecting the game, not one affiliate or affiliates… But, yes, if the ICC needs to improve its functioning, it will. Equally, if the member Boards are required to work differently, they should. In my opinion, better communication will clear the air.”
While Mani (whose roots are in Rawalpindi) was a left-arm quick in school and college, nobody recalls his having bowled a ‘bouncer’ within the ICC. By all accounts, his approach has been gentlemanly and, clearly, playing straight has helped.
The next two years should be no different.