‘Sticky Wicket’ — one of the most important
PETER ROEBUCK gives us a glimpse of a new book from ex-CEO of Cricket Australia
CRICKET followers are advised to dip into their pockets and buy Malcolm Speed’s riveting account of his stints as CEO at Cricket Australia and the ICC. Simply, Sticky Wicket is the most important cricket book published in the last ten years. Moreover readers are urged to follow the tale to the end. The last chapter concerns Speed’s removal from office and exposes the nasty corrupt forces that engineered his downfall.
It is a colourful tale methodically told by a man more comfortable with figures than words, a man without flourish but with a strong ethical core. As far as the ICC is concerned, it is a tale of misrule. Not that the ICC has an easy task. Cricket is contentious and an inward-looking game played at the top level by a small group of nations with long and painful memories of each other, and even themselves. Some of its governments are dubious. Had Zanu-PF been counting the votes they’d probably have won KZN. The leader of the opposition remains behind bars in Sri Lanka.
Progressive leadership is needed because it is also a game of high potential. Cricket is a uniquely diverse game — the semi-finals at the recent World Cup featured predominantly Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist neighbours, plus a Christian country that thinks primarily about rugby. No other game covers as wide a range in such a small space. Instead the opportunity has been wasted by bandits posing as patriots.
If the style in Sticky Wicket is as dry as a paper clip, the content is colourful. Speed describes the rumour ridden enquiry into Bob Woolmer’s death at the 2003 Cricket World Cup (CWC), an investigation hijacked by a vainglorious detective and a silly coroner. He talks about the disastrous 2007 CWC, the growth of Indian power, the move from London to Dubai, the advent of T20, the attempt to spread the game beyond the Old Empire and the sensible changes made to the throwing law. He focuses on the notorious SCG Test against India that showed numerous players and both boards in a poor light, an issue from which only a Kiwi judge emerged with credit.
Speed also outlines the crass manipulations over John Howard’s candidacy for the ICC vicepresidency. He was a poor but legitimate choice and much worse had been accepted. The Zimbabweans were especially alarmed by
Shane Warne bowed out of competitive cricket yesterday, bringing the curtain down on a career that has seen him build a reputation as one of the greatest cricketers of all time.