John Howard was always going to be a bad choice for the ICC presidency. But with his nomination collapsing at the first hurdle, no one could have understood how bad it would get.
In accordance with due process agreed to in 2008, Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket jointly submitted the name of John Winston Howard to be vice-president of the ICC from 1 July 2010 for two years, and thence to become its president from 2012-2014. The hearing for this nomination was due for this Wednesday June 30 at the ICC Executive Board's meeting in Singapore. Howard himself flew to Singapore to address the board.
On Wednesday afternoon, the ICC issued a three-paragraph statement with the euphemistic title "ICC Board considers the nomination for ICC Vice-President 2010-12". In full it reads:
"The ICC Executive Board today met to discuss the nomination of the Honourable John Howard AC for the role of ICC Vice-President for the period 2010-12.
Following lengthy consideration it was recognised that the nomination put forward by Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket did not have sufficient support within the ICC Board. No vote was taken.
Under the ICC's regional rotation process for the nomination of the ICC Vice-President, which was adopted by the ICC in October 2007, Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket have now been invited to re-nominate a candidate by 31 August, 2010."
Although no vote was taken, it is believed that six of the ten voting members (South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies) were opposed with Zimbabwe set to abstain - enough to preclude the necessary two-thirds majority.
But there are two more disturbing aspects of this rejection. One is that John Howard himself was not afforded the opportunity to meet with the Board. The other is that no one is saying why Howard's nomination was rejected.
I have written previously on why I believe John Howard was the wrong choice for this position, but having said that, Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket were entitled to make a decision, which they did by legitimate (if reportedly robust) means.
I don't suggest that the CA/NZC nomination should have been rubber-stamped by the ICC Executive - although if rubber-stamping is culturally accepted within an organisation, one would have to ask why that culture would be inconsistently applied.
I do expect the peak administrative body of a major world sport (if cricket can indeed be called "major") to show some professionalism in the way it conducts its business together with respect for its own rules and protocols. The International Cricket Council comes out of this episode with all the panache and transparency that we have come to love in the Government of North Korea.
Cricket Australia, whose demeanour has been both heavy-handed and undiplomatic in the manner in which it pushed Howard's claims for the Aus/NZ nomination, have been rightly humiliated by this rejection. Crazily, there are suggestions in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald that Mark Taylor may be put forward as a replacement nomination. Current CA board member, former Australian captain, current Channel Nine commentator and TV salesman for air conditioning systems. Where is Tubby's proven high-level track record of business leadership, which should be the number one pre-requisite for presidency of a major sports governing body?
And as for John Howard, he has shown yet again since Wednesday's fiasco that He Just Doesn't Get It. He had said that he is standing firm and he won't give up the nomination - as if that were his decision to make. And check this Fairfax press photo showing Howard at Sydney Airport on Thursday night having returned from Singapore, not quite empty-handed... but carrying the prized possession of a souvenir vuvuzela. (Source: SMH.com.au) No Vodafone Wallabies tracksuit any more...
For John Howard, the presidency of the International Cricket Council would have been one more item of sporting memorabilia to put in the trophy cabinet. Perhaps another bid for the post-NRL independent commissioner's post is in the wings?
Finally, and as a bit of perspective when considering Howard's suitability for the role, a reminder that Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar began his two-year stint as ICC president on Thursday. It was for Pawar that the role of Vice-President was created in 2008 to break the deadlock in bidding for president against England's David Morgan (who ended his two-year stint on Wednesday). Pawar believes he will have no trouble carrying both his ICC and Indian Government roles at once, telling Press Trust of India:
"Fortunately the ICC headquarter is in Dubai and Dubai works on Saturday and Sunday. So, it's a matter of two hours flight. I think there won’t be any difficulty."
Running world cricket is just a hobby that can be done on weekends apparently.