SINGAPORE // The former Australian prime minister John Howard has failed in a bid to become vice president of the International Cricket Council, after his name was withdrawn because of insufficient support. The ICC said in a statement that Cricket Australia and Cricket New Zealand, which jointly proposed Howard for the job, have been asked to submit a new candidate by August 31.
The announcement appears to end Howard's bid to lead world cricket's governing body after he ran into stiff opposition from several Asian and African countries. According to reports in Australian media, the Afro-Asian block of six countries have a sent a letter of objection. At least seven out of 10 votes are needed to confirm the appointment.
Howard's bid to become the next vice president, which would have given him an unopposed path to the ICC presidency in 2012, ran into opposition from Zimbabwe and South Africa over his past criticism of the Mugabe regime and from Sri Lanka, which also opposed his nomination because he has has no experience in cricket administration. Zimbabwe, which in the past has labelled Howard racist and was angered at his successful efforts to keep it out of the Commonwealth, has been at the forefront of the opposition.
They also accuse him of leading efforts to strip the country of its Test status in 2003. South Africa reportedly supported Zimbabwe, though officials from Cricket South Africa refused to comment. Pakistan and Sri Lankan officials said their boards were leaning against the nomination. But because of the implications on diplomatic relations, they were seeking advice from their respective governments and also looking for support from the most powerful member board, India.
Their nomination for the presidency, Sharad Pawar, will be taking over in the ICC Executive Board meeting currently taking place in Singapore. India had earlier refused to take any sides but seem to have now made up their mind to go with the majority.
Howard was never an easy sell. A brusque conservative, he was the Australian prime minister for 11 years before his coalition government was swept from power in 2007. And while he has been a regular attendee at Test matches and describes himself as a "cricket tragic," he lacks experience as a cricket administrator. His name should have been submitted in January but even Australia and New Zealand initially were divided over his selection. Australia strongly supported Howard while New Zealand backed its former chairman and ICC representative Sir John Anderson.
The countries finally settled on Howard and the ICC executive board was supposed to rubber stamp the nomination in April - but officials claimed travel disruptions due to the volcanic ash cloud in Europe made that impossible. Sources close to the ICC said it was delayed over the growing opposition on the board to Howard's nomination. "He has no experience running a sports body," the Sri Lanka Cricket chairman Somachandra de Silva said earlier this month, adding that Australia's Jack Clarke or New Zealand's Alan Issac would be better choices.
Former ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed told The Australian newspaper several weeks ago that the opposition from Zimbabwe was hypocritical - since it had long called for countries to separate the game of cricket from politics. "Their position now, as I understand it, is that Howard's not qualified because he's a politician and he's criticised Zimbabwe, so they bring politics back into it when it suits them," Speed, a Melbourne-based lawyer and also former chief executive of the Australian cricket board, told the newspaper. "I think the behaviour of Zimbabwe, and South Africa supporting them, has been outrageous." Neither Cricket Australia nor Howard could be reached to comment on his withdrawal.