JOHANNESBURG: The International Cricket Council fended off allegations of vote fixing on Thursday and said “confusion” over procedures was the reason for a re-vote in a troubled election for one of its committees.
The mechanics of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan's victory over longtime players' representative Tim May for a place on the ICC's Cricket Committee was viewed by critics, however, as evidence of India's powerful influence over the sport and the governing body's continued favoring of its richest member.
Having announced Sivaramakrishnan as a new member of the committee on Monday following votes by the 10 Test captains, the ICC denied on Thursday it had any evidence to back up allegations that some of those captains may have been pressured to choose the former India international and India's preferred candidate because of the might of the Indian cricket board, the BCCI.
The international cricketers' association, of which May is the chief executive, has fears that five countries may have told their captains to vote for Sivaramakrishnan _ or even ordered them to change an initial vote for May _ to follow the line of India, the commercially dominant country in cricket. May's Federation of International Cricketers' Association asked the ICC to investigate through its ethics committee and made a scathing attack on the ICC this week when it referred to “very serious shortcomings in governance” at the international body.
The story, with accusations of vote fixing and a powerful governing body apparently reluctant to investigate itself or change, has parallels with the criticism currently being leveled at world football's top decision-makers at FIFA.
The ICC confirmed on Thursday that it received the written request from FICA to refer the election process to its ethics officer and said “this request is being considered,” although the lack of evidence, according to the ICC, might curtail any investigation.
“In view of the allegations already appearing in the media, the ICC wishes to state for the record that the re-vote took place according to the determined procedure and that the ICC has seen no evidence that supports allegations now being made that captains were put under pressure by their member boards to vote for a particular individual,” the Dubai-based governing body said in a statement.
The re-vote was required, the ICC said, because of uncertainty over the process if there was a tied vote and which player should be allowed to vote in countries that have different captains for the test and one-day formats.
“The ICC wishes to state for the record that the re-vote took place according to the determined procedure and that the ICC has seen no evidence that supports allegations now being made,” it said.
India's dominance of cricket's upper levels has been long accepted because of the country's huge, cricket-mad population and resulting commercial strength. India also has significant influence over other cricket-playing countries and often gets their backing because of its ability to enrich them with series against India's hugely popular national team. In the same way, the BCCI can take away those series.
Tony Irish, a board member of FICA and the South African Cricketers' Association chief executive, raised initial concerns over Sivaramakrishnan's election last week, saying the first result of the voting favored May and a re-vote was ordered because of India's displeasure with the result. May was not popular with the BCCI, Irish said.
Irish also told The Associated Press that South Africa Test captain Graeme Smith had been asked to vote three times, contradicting the ICC's stance that there were two votes. Irish has called the situation “a sad day” for cricket because players weren't able to freely choose their own representatives.
And FICA's response to the announcement of Sivaramakrishnan as the new committee member was scathing, with president and former West Indies captain Jimmy Adams criticizing the ICC for not changing its ways and following the reform recommendations of the Woolf Report, which was submitted over a year ago.
“(ICC) Executives have stood aside while apparently watching their own process corrupted by their own board members,” Adams said of the Sivaramakrishnan vote process.
“In the meantime, (the) ICC constantly tells the world it has a 'zero tolerance' approach to corruption in cricket and constantly tries to impress the 'Spirit of Cricket' on participants.
“How can the players of the world look to (the) ICC for leadership in these circumstances and how does the spirit of cricket apply to the organization itself? Board members didn't like how their captains intended to vote, so they apparently ordered them to change that vote.”
The ICC said it wouldn't comment further on allegations against its voting procedure while it considered FICA's request for an investigation.