By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Sharad Pawar completed his two-year term as the president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) - his term in office coincided with the ignominy of spot-fixing controversy to the heated debate of the Decision Review System (DRS).
August 2010 heralded a very dark phase for the gentleman’s game – one that tarnished the image of the sport. Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif were accused of a conspiracy where the last two bowled deliberate no-balls in a Test match against England at Lord’s. The trio were immediately suspended under The Anti-Corruption Code for Players and Player Support Personnel – which was amended the year before Pawar’s ascent to the presidency. The power to suspend players was amended in 2009 and was first implemented in the said case. Pawar himself announced that such practices would not be tolerated. He said, "Cricket is going through a difficult time, but we will sort it out. Whoever it is, however towering a figure in world cricket, we will not compromise.”
The drama didn’t stop there as the ICC conducted a hearing in Qatar in early 2011. In a show of absolute intolerance towards corruption, the tainted trio was handed out harsh bans. If that wasn’t the strongest deterrent, a London Court banished these players to prison for their shameful deeds. It wasn’t the ICC that played a major role there and for the first time international cricketers were put behind bars for corrupt practices.
Pawar would certainly like to forget this period of his tenure, but the ICC should be lauded for its quick response. The code that was amended in 2009 was implemented without any delays and the accused players were prevented from taking the field with immediate effect. Even the tribunal that was setup the following year handled the matter well and didn’t show any leniency. Mohammad Aamer too wasn’t spared, despite calls to consider his young age. Looking back at this episode, Pawar should be satisfied with his team’s approach.
It has been a very bumpy ride for the ICC with regards to making the use of DRS mandatory. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has led a crusade against the system and demands more measures to make it fool-proof. In May 2011, ICC’s Cricket Committee, which included Pawar, recommended the use of the DRS in all formats. However, a few months down the line, the Chief Executives Committee modified the conditions for the implementation of the DRS.
In Pawar’s last week in office, the cricket committee again recommended universal application, but the BCCI continues to oppose it. There isn’t much Pawar could do about the DRS in his role as the president as there has to be a consensus. It is a known fact that most of the boards support the system, but BCCI’s stand is unbending.
Apart from these two controversies, it was business as usual. The minnows debate continued as their participation in the World Cup came under scrutiny. The ICC announced the next two mega-events as 10 team tournaments, but reversed its stand later. Hopes of a Test Championship were crushed as the ICC postponed it from 2013 to 2017. The Woolf Committee report too made its appearance.
Having completed a challenging tenure, Pawar hands the reins over to New Zealand’s Alan Isaac. The worst may be behind the ICC as the spot-fixing controversy is done and dusted, but Isaac would have to oversee the continuance of strict implementation of the anti-corruption rules. The shadow of corruption looms large over the cricketing world and the new president has to ensure that the ICC exorcises its ghosts for a better tomorrow. Finding a solution to the DRS conundrum would also be a key item on his agenda.
Isaac would be the last ICC president to serve a two-year term as its duration would be halved from 2014. It would be a ceremonial role as the administrative powers would be taken over by the Chairman – a post that would materialise in 2014.
For now, the focus is on Pawar. People in India, not just cricket fans, would be interested to know what he would like to take up next. Having held the highest posts in the BCCI and the ICC, will he call it a day from cricketing duties?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)