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No let-up in vigilance: Mani
- South Africa to get ICC presidency in 2005 l Reservation over Bacher being nominee

Calcutta: At a time the Ajay Jadejas are seeking ‘rehabilitation’ through the judicial process, International Cricket Council (ICC) president Ehsan Mani has declared the body will remain “vigilant” on match-fixing.

“In the past, member Boards didn’t always share information with the ICC. Now, we have a structure in place and unhealthy activities won’t go undetected,” was his unequivocal assertion soon after succeeding Malcolm Gray, Thursday.

Responding to a question from The Telegraph, during a tele-conference with select Indian publications, Mani continued: “It should be noted that nobody will be shielded and the ICC will come down with a very heavy hand. Clearly, there won’t be any place for corruption.”

The new president’s firm response has come just days after Gray’s stunning charge that some Boards “tried to protect national heroes” during the match-fixing scandal which exploded in April 2000.

[Interestingly, the former president, an Australian, didn’t speak about the silence (in the mid-Nineties) over Shane Warne and Mark Waugh.]

Talking on the one issue closest to Indian hearts — the Player Terms for ICC-hosted events — Mani said: “Look, the controversy can be resolved, though everybody may not be satisfied with the outcome… It’s going to take time, but I’m confident everybody will work keeping the sport’s interest in mind.”

Significantly, he labelled as “unfortunate” the $ 50 million damages’ claim slapped by Global Cricket Corporation (GCC), the ICC’s commercial partner. At the same time, the president added that the GCC — which signed a $ 550 million deal in the summer of 2000 — wasn’t like an “opposition”.

The claim, by the way, is expected to dominate Friday’s board meeting of the IDI Ltd (ICC’s business arm) in Monte Carlo.

Acknowledging that the stalemate in Indo-Pak ties had hurt world cricket, Mani maintained: “Sport should be used to break down barriers, should be used as a positive tool… I’m hopeful the resumption will come about soon.”

Quite sensibly, he didn’t do a Gray and lambast New Delhi’s intransigence.

Speaking about the ‘divide’ which seems to surface every now and then, the president insisted things had changed in the last decade. “There’s no division on the lines of Asia versus the West or whatever. However, there are cultural differences (among the member Boards) and such diversity must be respected.”

Looking ahead, Mani accepted that cricket will need to look at ways to counter the impact of other sport, specially the ones which are better run. Towards that end, he appeared impressed with the England and Wales Cricket Board’s Twenty20 concept, introduced this summer.

He agreed that Bangladesh’s performance (as a Test-playing nation) had been poor, but felt the ICC had an obligation to help and it would. “We must strike a balance between expanding the game and improving its quality,” the president explained.

Predictably, Kenya must wait to be ‘promoted’.

Meanwhile, true to form, Mani talked about being “open and transparent” in his inaugural address before delegates from 83 Boards. Next year, of course, the annual conference will feature 89 members.

That he would take such a line was indicated in these columns Thursday itself.

The ICC’s second Asian president also spoke of the need to move in unison and tackle issues in the “best interest” of the sport.

Incidentally, unlike predecessors Jagmohan Dalmiya and Gray, Mani will be president for two and not three years. He will be succeeded by a South African.

Indeed, well-placed sources have confirmed the presidency will next go to the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA). The South Africa-proposal had the backing of India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Much of the interest, though, will be on who actually gets nominated by the UCBSA to take charge in 2005. Apparently, there are “strong reservations” (among South Africa’s backers) over Dr Ali Bacher, despite his having the best credentials.

Eventually, then, UCBSA president Percy Sonn may get appointed vice-president till June 2005.

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