The sooner Butt is out of the way, the better


The Ashes were gloriously retained last winter, for which Hugh Morris, Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss were quite rightly honoured recently with the Leadership in Sport accolade at the Sports Industry Awards, and the domestic season has begun with a raft of young tyros announcing themselves as cricketers of not just promise but substance too. But any euphoria would be forgetting the constant state of flux in which the game as a whole has found itself in recent times: to overlook the potential harm of a High Court case this summer involving the England and Wales Cricket Board’s chairman, Giles Clarke, the suspended chairman of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, and IMG, the international sports marketing company; of the financial crisis which is affecting nearly every first-class county and of worryingly slow ticket sales for two of the three test matches against Sri Lanka.
If you consider this as an overly negative viewpoint then just take a look at a book recently published by Malcolm Speed, telling of his time first as the chief executive of the Australian Cricket Board and then of occupying the same position at the International Cricket Council. The title and its subtext sum it up neatly: Sticky Wicket (Inside 10 Turbulent Years at the Top of World Cricket). Despite there being a little too much legalese and unnecessary personal anecdote from the former lawyer, this is a compelling book; an important, revealing and at times depressing document. He once called the chairman of the PCB, Ijaz Butt, a buffoon.
“His actions in relation to the match-fixing allegations in 2010 caused me to revise my assessment – clearly, I had been unfair to all the other buffoons I had dealt with. Pakistan deserves better. The sooner Butt is out of the way, the better.” As Speed outlines in the preface, this was a period visited by problems of “corruption, chucking, technology, player behaviour, doping, terrorism, wars, politics, Zimbabwe and the emergence of India as a cricketing superpower that was prepared to use its muscle”.
There may have been some cricket too. Speed burst out laughing, and in the book takes almost masochistic delight in describing how he was often burned in effigy, described in the Hindustan Times as “one of the most disliked men in India”, pilloried in Australia when naming rights to the Sheffield Shield were sold and booed at the end of the 2007 World Cup final. “I deserved it,” he writes. The chapters on Zimbabwe and Allen Stanford are intriguing. Zimbabwe was the “elephant in the room, the constant problem child, the basket case – pick any negative cliché you like,” Speed says. (the telegraph)