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Cricketer's association FICA to meet in Texas.
by Partab Ramchand
Apr 26, 2008
Serious misunderstandings between players and administrators are nothing new. There has traditionally been a generation gap between the two parties and this is reflected not only in the age difference but in the differing views. Ian Chappell for one has never minced words when it comes to showing his disrespect for the game’s administrators. Generally administrators have preferred to sit cozily in their ivory towers and are quite often far away from reality. That is why the establishment was caught wrong-footed by the Kerry Packer episode three decades ago. They were forced on the defensive and costly mistakes were inevitably made.

Not that the players are always angels. Quite often they have behaved like spoilt and indisciplined brats, thanks to a fawning media, too many mega bucks and uncontrolled adulation from fans. The tendency in recent times of placing more and more former cricketers in various committees has helped bridge the gap but tensions invariably remain between the two parties. There have been moves to form Players’ Associations in many countries but personal ego clashes and pulling in different directions has led to these bodies not getting exactly anywhere and then being disbanded.

The Federation of International Cricketers' Association (FICA), a world body has however been around for some time guarding the players’ rights and taking care to see that they are not being victimized. But cricketers from only a few countries are members and its influence is rather limited. Lately however FICA is becoming more vociferous in its criticism of the International Cricket Council and it was a virtual salvo that FICA’s international legal adviser Ian Smith fired last week when he said that the players may stage a revolt against the governing body if it continues to be "paralyzed" by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and remains "incompetent" in its handling issues in the sport. Smith’s warning was loud and clear. He said the resentment among the players against the ICC was so strong that they are ready to break ranks and run the show themselves. In fact, FICA's world conference in Texas next month may actually see a no-confidence vote against the ICC's current set-up.

Smith was quoted by a British newspaper as saying that the two days of the conference would be dominated by Indian cricket, what to do about the cash-rich Indian Premier League, the growing popularity of the Twenty20 game and Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire who has proposed a US$20 million winner-takes-all contest between England and a West Indies XI. "People are increasingly seriously asking why we are not walking away. The competence of the administrators is being called into question at a policy level," Smith added. Obviously the growing financial clout of the BCCI and the influence it wields over the ICC is also something the players are not comfortable about.

According to Smith the players have realized their worth after being showered with millions of dollars by the IPL and its rival the Indian Cricket League and feel they are better prepared to handle the game's functioning. "We believe that because the players are better organized and that talent has been radically revalued by the Indian leagues it's time to look at whether the players can do a better job than the current policy makers," he said.

Reports have it that FICA is particularly upset with the ICC's poor organization of the World Cup in the West Indies which was played in front of half-empty stadiums and its handling of the England – Pakistan Oval Test fiasco in August 2006 which ended in a forfeit for the first time in Test history. Besides, the mismanagement of Harbhajan Singh’s alleged racial slurs against Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds during India's recent tour of Australia has also irked the players' body.

"There's no trust between the top level of cricket administrators and the guys who play it. The structure of the ICC is wrong for world cricket and they have messed up on every single policy issue," Smith said mincing no words.

Even though the chief executive of FICA Tim May distanced himself from the comments made by Smith clarifying that his views were not those of FICA he did add that FICA does have concerns with the governance structure of the ICC. Indeed after the poorly administered World Cup last year FICA issued a poll in which 56% of players who took part expressed a lack of confidence in the ICC.

May, a former Australian off spinner said that FICA had stated its concerns with the governance structure of the ICC at that time and called upon the ICC to review its governance structure, to determine whether its current structure is the most appropriate for an international sport. "FICA's position in regard to this issue has not changed,’’ he said.

May added that FICA was undertaking another survey with the results expected in about a month’s time and they would communicate any matter that relates directly to ICC to the game’s governing body.

Are the players then ready for a coup? How serious they are about the takeover and how the ICC reacts to their growing discomfiture are aspects that the cricketing world will watch with bated breath. For a change, all eyes next month will not be on Lord’s or Dubai but on the unlikely venue of Texas.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
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