We have reached an historic moment: for the first time in the 111-year existence of the International Cricket Council, we have a candidate for the body’s chairmanship who comes from a country outside the charmed circle of the Full Members.
It must, of course, be acknowledged that it was only in 1965 that the category of Associate Member was established, and that therefore it has only been 55 years since a candidacy from a country such as Singapore has been possible.
But for most of this latter period such a development has been close to unthinkable, and it is a tribute to the contribution Imran Khwaja has made to the game, and to the vision of former chairman Shashank Manohar in creating the current ICC Constitution, that it now becomes a credible proposition.
The Editorial Board of Emerging Cricket is in no doubt that the time has come for the ICC to reaffirm its commitment to the growth of the game across all its 104 members – and beyond – and to demonstrate this commitment by electing a chairperson whose roots lie among the 92 Associate Members, those who make cricket a truly global game and the ICC a truly global body.
The question which the Directors must ask themselves is: which candidate is better placed to put the interests of cricket above all else, to negotiate the minefield of competing claims and demands within the game’s global community, and to ensure that no member, faction or interest group is able to sacrifice the common good on the altar of its own advantage?
It is an interesting feature of this contest that it is Imran Khwaja, rather than his opponent, New Zealand’s Gregor Barclay, who is the ICC insider: he has served on the Executive Board since 2008, was a member of the crucial Governance Review Committee in 2014 which helped create the current Constitution, and was Manohar’s deputy chairman.
And not only was he a long-serving President of the Singapore Cricket Association, he also played for the country, as Imran Hamid, from 1975 to 1994, taking part in two ICC Trophy tournaments, and, remarkably, turned out for Bangladesh in the 1997 Hong Kong International Sixes.
Mr Khwaja’s professional career is no less relevant to the case for his election to the ICC’s highest office: he is a distinguished Singaporean lawyer whose fields of expertise include arbitration and dispute resolution, skills he has no doubt deployed to good effect in the past and which he is likely to need in the future should his candidature be successful.
His opponent, Gregor Barclay, is also a lawyer and is not exactly a newcomer to ICC politics, having been chair of New Zealand Cricket and a member of the ICC Board since 2014.
He is reportedly the compromise candidate put forward by the so-called ‘Big Three’ after they were unable to gain traction for one of their own, and it is surely significant that certain individuals in the media have been campaigning against Mr Khwaja, even going so far as to raise spurious doubts about his position on the Board.
The fear must be that in the end the election will be less about the relative merits of the candidates and more about the ability of those who have dominated the game for too long to bully, cajole or otherwise persuade the smaller Full Members to vote their way.
But we must hope that the Board does not fluff this opportunity to show, once and for all, that the ICC governs the game for all its members and not only for those who have the loudest voices and the fattest wallets.
By electing Imran Khwaja as its next chairperson, the Board can take a step which will be both prudent and a significant turning-point in cricket history.
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