Sometimes, in the past, the ICC has defied logic in the method it has functioned and taken decisions. On most other occasions, there has been some rationale in the judgments it has made, but the underlying principle has been so seeped in a tradition of appeasing those within the ICC, that those watching from the outside have only been able to gesticulate in exasperation and helplessness, and do nothing else. And as if to prove likewise, the ICC failed to buck the trend and almost done nothing but to encourage these views at the end of the three day long ICC Board meeting at its headquarters in Dubai.
So much so, that it led to one gentleman, who answers the call of Michael Holding into tendering his resignation from the ICC cricket committee, and a lot many others, disgruntled, to say the least.
Amongst all the issues, the Zimbabwe crisis was at the top of the ICC concerns. Giving a little background here would help. The Zimbabwe cricket has been in such a shoddy state of affairs that, despite being a part of the ten full members of the ICC, it does not have a Test team. What is ironical is that the Zimbabwean Cricket (ZC) has itself suspended the Zimbabwean team from playing tests, thus acknowledging that it does not have the capabilities to compete amongst the top ten nations. One may be speculating, but it would not be surprising if Zimbabwe did go on to lose 'Tests' even against the other Associate nations, like, an Ireland or a Scotland.
That, however, is just a small part of the pie. It is not so much of a problem about having a team that is not up to international cricketing standards, but the fact that there have been umpteen issues on the byside to suggest that nothing has been initiated to act upon them. For starters, the first class structure is in such an apathy that there have been at least two instances of first class tournaments been scrapped for a host of reasons. The standard of this first class cricket, or whatever is left of it, is so appalling, that rest assured that not too many of the cricketers would find a place even in the current lower division Kanga League sides. With the inflation spiraling out of control in the country, money, or the lack of it anyways, has been one of the reasons and, it is almost difficult to motivate these guys into not only playing, but also umpiring, scoring or arranging for logistics in this sham called the first class matches. With most international cricketers having already retired or in exile, and the grassroots in no position to bear any fruit, the only way out would be hard, grinding way, where in the ZC rebuild the structure from scratch; by investing time and the resources to do so.
This brings us to the second issue, something that was touched upon earlier, about the money. Now, as a full member of the ICC, Zimbabwe is entitled to rake in the moolah, er, for the development of their cricket. Unfortunately, independent KPMG auditors have reported misappropriation of the funds to the tune of millions of dollars within ZC. While there could be many other repercussions, the biggest one of them all is that the money meant for the upliftment of cricket has not exactly been used for it! Your guess is as good as mine regarding its whereabouts though!
With this kind of background, it made sense for the ICC to ban the ZC for a definite period of time, till their cricketing backbone is strong enough to at least compete in international cricket. While mixing politics with cricket does not make for a good potion, the simpler underlying basis is whether Zimbabwe can compete with the nine other Test playing nations in any form of the game. The answer is no, and seems like that it won’t change sometime soon.
Incidentally, this is at a time, when the T20 cricket has reared its head and is threatening to devour the two other forms of the game away. And another meaningless series or two, involving teams of the stature of Zimbabwe could just only hasten this process. The other aftermath of the ICC ruling could mean that the Zimbabweans do not participate in too many bilateral series, and that leaves them with oodles of cash without playing too much international cricket. ICC certainly does not stand for the International Council for Charity, or does it?
The English Board, backed by their Government wanted to ban the Zimbabweans from International Cricket. However, without the necessary votes to back the decision to 'rest' Zimbabwe, the ICC had no option but to arrive at a compromise formula. This consisted of appeasing the English Government and also the Asian bloc of countries who had been backing the ZC right through this melee. As mediators, the ICC deserves to be given full marks. They have managed to convince ZC that they would be only 'gatecrashing into a party', yet, they could continue playing international cricket whenever, and wherever they would be welcome!
At least one of the other decisions that it has made has also come in for a lot of flak from the experts, and that has to do with the overturning of the Oval forfeiture and converting it into a draw. There may have been two wrongs committed that day, one by Pakistan's show of protest, and the other by Darrell Hair's inability to handle the situation in a manner that would have prohibited its escalation to this extent. However, the fact of the matter is that Hair went strictly by law, and if one starts to overturn such decisions, wrong or otherwise, in the hindsight, then it really sets a very hazardous model. If technically correct decisions like these start to get changed, then the queue at the doors of the ICC for result reversals may just be longer than the ones usually seen outside Indian cricket grounds.
As an Indian, I may be misconstrued as been talking from my heart, but how about reversing the result of the controversial Sydney test into a draw as well, due to similar "unique set of circumstances". Or better still; why not give the matches between Australia and West Indies during the Kerry Packer series, the official status as well?
In face of these two major decisions, the others pale in comparison. Yet, the one worth lauding is the pushing back of one extra fielder during the second Powerplay, making it three outside the inner circle during both blocks of the five over Powerplays. Far too often, bowlers of the quicker variety had had to bowl through these first twenty overs, and then with the ball getting changed after the 34th over, they were required to send down some with this newer, cleaner ball as well. This had made it very predictable for the batsmen, in turn, the scoring became easier. This move is bound to encourage the skippers to bowl their spinners even during the Powerplays, thus reducing a little burden off their shoulders. What does not go in their favour though is, that one of two five over Powerplays would be called by the batting team, thus making it slightly more interesting than earlier. No doubt it would help the batting team, but with the concerns over the bland middle overs, this seems to be a small step in the right direction.
How one wishes the other decisions were as correct. Or at least close.