‘Sticky Wicket’ — one of the most im­por­tant

PETER ROE­BUCK gives us a glimpse of a new book from ex-CEO of Cricket Aus­tralia

Weekend Witness - - Talking Sport -

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

PHOTO: GALLO I MAGES

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.

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