“I have never hunkered for positions,” Shashank Manohar had said during an interview with The Indian Express last year. From that perspective, this sudden resignation from his post as the independent ICC chairman attests an indifference to power and the weaker cricket nations might feel aggrieved for losing a real friend. But there could be more to this unprecedented departure, after only eight months in the global body top office, than just “personal reasons”.
The ICC for the moment becomes leaderless until it appoints a new chairman, likely at the Board meetings in April. But we would come to that later.
After taking charge of the ICC, Manohar seemed to have waged a war against the Big Three structure, calling for a more equitable revenue distribution system. He got England and Australia by his side, but India, cricket’s only superpower, refused to accept a slash in its revenue share from the existing 20.3 per cent. The proposed constitutional and financial overhaul, however, had been agreed in principle during the last ICC Board meetings in February. The BCCI lost the contest by a 7-2 margin. But it still required a final approval from the Board that was expected to happen in April.
Easier said than done… Because as per the Members Participation Agreement, any change in the ICC constitution needs the BCCI consent to be formally accepted. The clause is legally binding, and staring at a loss in excess of Rs 1000 crore during the present eight-year rights cycle, the Indian cricket board would have suddenly exercised its option. Even the recorded meeting minutes of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA), which is in charge of the BCCI at the moment, outlined the importance of protecting India’s interests.
And then, there’s that Champions Trophy pull out threat, which according to almost all BCCI members remains the “only option” if the ICC goes ahead with the reforms in April. If India don’t play the Champions Trophy, the tournament might not happen.
The relationship between Manohar and the BCCI became acrimonious ever since the Nagpur-based lawyer became the independent ICC chairman and vowed to look after the interests of all 105 member countries, declining any special favour to India. He had been presiding over the proposed reforms. So, did he pre-empt a failure; the stumbling block in pushing through the changes? Did he give up and called it quits?
Manohar hasn’t publicly said anything about his resignation yet. Silence creates a scope for conjecture. More importantly, the ICC’s immediate task would be to appoint a new leader. All ICC directors, past and present, are eligible to contest, provided they are not holding any position with his home board. It would be interesting to see the BCCI’s nominee for the post. As per the existing BCCI constitution – and it hasn’t been changed yet – only members are authorised to pick the candidate via an AGM.