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‘It’s mind-boggling that despite everything, Srini is in the chair’

Dr Ali Bacher goes on the offensive

Calcutta: Dr Ali Bacher, a former captain of South Africa and a one-time managing director of its cricket Board, has come out openly on Narayanswamy Srinivasan taking over as chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Privately, many others have been as shocked, but they haven’t mustered the courage to speak up. This lot includes certain gentlemen in India.

Dr Bacher, incidentally, could himself have become the ICC president, some eight years ago, had one or two individuals with considerable influence not made it an issue to keep him away from the No.1 position.

On Saturday, Dr Bacher (now 72) spoke to The Telegraph from his residence in Johannesburg.

Excerpts...

Q You’ve been an accomplished administrator. What are your thoughts on the major changes introduced by the ICC?

A My grave disappointment specific to the new direction in which cricket is going is mainly aimed at England and Australia who, together with India, have hijacked the game.

Very strong words...

But that’s how I feel... I’ll talk of India first... A certain gentleman (Srinivasan) is currently being investigated, with 12 others, by a committee set up by the Supreme Court. Despite that, he’s nominated by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and becomes the ICC chairman! It’s mind-boggling that, despite everything, Srini is in the chair.

That’s because nobody in the ICC objected. Not publicly, at least. So?

Exactly so. What staggers me the most is that not a word has been said by any of the member countries of the ICC.

England and Australia could have made an issue of the investigation, but didn’t. What do you have to say about England?

Well, England have not painted themselves in glory in recent times. Who can forget that, a few years ago, the England and Wales Cricket Board jumped into bed with a gentleman (Allen Stanford) who is now serving a life sentence, in a Texas prison. I needn’t say more.

[Actually, Stanford is serving a 110-year sentence.]

Australia...

In early March, I was in the presidential area at Newlands during the South Africa-Australia Test match... I noticed that the Cricket Australia chairman, Wally Edwards, was sitting close by... On seeing me, he came over to where I was... Edwards must have known about my opposition to the new direction because, without my saying anything, he tried to justify Australia’s position.

What did Edwards emphasise?

That, for the last two years, life at the ICC-level had become untenable. He was, of course, referring to the persistent demands made by India.

Then why did Australia play ball?

According to Edwards, Australia and England were going along with India, keeping it in the loop, as that was a way of having some control over India!

‘Loop’?

That’s what Edwards told me.

How did you respond?

I didn’t comment. Didn’t try and justify my strong reservations. Didn’t feel the need.

Whatever the sport, should three members alone have pretty much all the powers?

Never. It’s unacceptable.

Initially, South Africa raised a hue and cry, but quickly gave in...

Earlier this year, Cricket South Africa (CSA) did come out strongly against the new direction. They were applauded across the country... South Africa, in fact, held the trump card... Pakistan and Sri Lanka had also been resisting then... But what happened?

Exactly... What did happen?

India induced South Africa to change direction. Those who’d hailed CSA, now came down heavily, but... I haven’t completed my piece... To amplify how South Africa have been used and then discarded, there’s no South African in the high-level committees of the ICC announced after the annual conference... Even Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have been given positions, but not South Africa. What more is there to say?

Is South Africa paying the price for not having ‘obeyed’ India and gone ahead with Haroon Lorgat’s appointment as CEO of CSA?

That has been talked about in different circles... One country wanting to influence the appointment of a CEO in another country is just unheard of. I’m not privy to the goings-on, but I certainly haven’t heard of such interference elsewhere.

Last year itself, India retaliated by severely cutting down on the tour of South Africa...

All South Africa got were a few limited overs matches and two Tests. That’s it. India deprived the South African public.

Why have South Africa taken this lying down?

I don’t have the answer.

Today, what would be your advice to CSA?

It’s not for me to advise.

But why do you stay away from CSA?

After the 2003 World Cup, when I left the Board, I promised I wouldn’t make one phone call to any member with a view to influencing anything. I have kept that vow.

Lastly... What’s the biggest challenge faced by the ICC?

There are, to my mind, two challenges... One is curbing the menace of fixing... Sadly, that seems to be growing, instead of being brought to an end... Then, there’s the issue of good governance. Right now, that is being questioned, so the ICC has work to do there too.