The Evening Standard

When Stuart Broad used his spiked boot to stop the ball during last week’s epic Third Test in South Africa, David Morgan could have been forgiven for taking a sharp intake of breath at the furore it caused.

Instead, the president of the International Cricket Council – the most powerful man in the game – allowed himself a chuckle at the suggestion that England were guilty of ball-tampering.

“I was brought up on Glamorgan cricket under Wilfred Wooller and he did not expect his fast bowlers to fling themselves about and risk injury when fielding,” says Morgan, whose first involvement with cricket administration came with the county.

“Stopping a ball with your boot was very common just after the Second World War. Nobody would have seen that as ball tampering. And, for all the media talk, the South Africans made no complaint.”

The reaction of the Welshman, 72, to the Broad situation says a lot about how he has run cricket and how he conducts himself.

The first Briton to head the international body is softly spoken, enunciates his words at dictation speed, exudes the air of a friendly bank manager and even makes me a cup of tea as we meet at Lord’s. We are chatting in a spare room, just above the Real Tennis courts at the home of cricket, which the MCC allow him to use when he is in London.

So, as events in Cape Town unfolded, he was tucked away in a passage leading to the Long Room and following England’s progress on Test Match Special. There has been much from South Africa to cheer him, the most surprising being his belief that the video referral system has worked so well that we may see an end to neutral umpires taking charge of Ashes Tests.

“I am not at all certain it is right to continue the policy that an Australian or an Englishman cannot stand in the Ashes,” says Morgan, who became ICC president in 2008, having previously served as England and Wales Cricket Board chairman for five years. “If he is one of the best umpires available he should be permitted to stand. And with the decision review system in place there is even more good reason. It is something we will be looking at.”

Indeed, such is the momentum on this issue that this important change may come in time for next winter’s series Down Under.

What also gives him just as much satisfaction is to see how the Andrew Strauss-Andy Flower combination is blossoming into what Morgan believes is “as good a partnership as the one Duncan Fletcher developed with Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan”.

This bond between the coach and captain – who stand on the verge of completing consecutive series wins over Australia and South Africa – is of great significance for Morgan. The departures of their predecessors Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen came over a year after the Welshman had left the ECB.

But that failure in England’s cricket management can be traced back to Morgan’s last year as chairman at the ECB, during which time he also oversaw the decision to sell all live TV rights for Tests to Sky and sanctioned the addition of the Twenty20 competition to the county calendar.

Vaughan’s knee injury meant Freddie Flintoff was appointed as skipper ahead of Strauss for the 2006-07 Ashes series in Australia, which England lost 5-0. Then following England’s failure to emerge from their 2007 World Cup group stages, Moores replaced Fletcher as coach. “The selectors chose Freddie as they felt Steve Harmison would play better for him than any other captain,” adds Morgan. “As chairman I had the right of veto but I approved the choice and, with hindsight, that was a mistake – history will see our appointment of Peter Moores as a mistake.”

But Morgan quickly adds: “It was no bad thing for Andrew Strauss, though. He had a year away from the pressures of captaincy in international cricket and is now in the form of his life.”

If this sounds like a man keen to extract good from disaster, that is understandable. His appointment as head of both the domestic and international governing bodies came with predictions that cricket’s many problems would prove too much for this former executive of Electrical Steel.

When Morgan took over as chairman of the ECB in 2003, he was faced with a tricky decision: should England go to Zimbabwe to play a World Cup match? Morgan was with the England players at the World Cup in Cape Town debating the matter when an email came from Interpol saying that a letter threatening the players’ families by a group called the Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe should be taken seriously.

Morgan says: “Most of us had thought the letter was a hoax. Then would you believe, on the morning of the opening ceremony, we received this e-mail. I shall never forget it.”

England’s refusal to go to Harare incensed South Africa, who were due to tour England later that summer.

“Cricket South Africa said, ‘We are not prepared to tour unless you meet with Zimbabwe cricket and explain your position’,” Morgan adds.

So he flew to Harare to ensure that the English summer was not wrecked. A year later, he was faced by another Zimbabwean crisis, which this time threatened the 2005 Ashes.

England were due to play one-day internationals in Harare and Bulawayo but Morgan wanted the Government to stop the tour. But they refused to do so. Under ICC regulations, unless a tour is called off because of security concerns or a government instruction then failure to fulfil tour obligations means facing sanctions.

“We would have been suspended from international cricket,” says Morgan. “Australia were due here and that tour would not have taken place.”

To save the Ashes, England were forced to go to Robert Mugabe’s country. If that was Morgan’s nadir, the crowning glory soon followed when England regained the famous Urn after a 16-year wait.

And just as Zimbabwe dominated Morgan’s domestic reign, India have shaped Morgan’s international stewardship of cricket. It started with Morgan meeting an Indian in a room at London’s St James’s Hotel in the summer of 2007 with the media speculating whether they would toss a coin to decide who should be the next ICC president.

The ICC, unable to separate the two, had resolved both should become president but left them to decide who should go first. The Indian was Sharad Pawar, a powerful politician.

Morgan smiles as he remembers what happened. “There was no toss,” he insists. “Sharad said to me: ‘I think you should go first’.” And Morgan is grateful for the part the Indians played in ensuring the ICC did not get involved with Sir Allen Stanford, the millionaire who portrayed himself as the saviour of West Indian cricket but is now facing US fraud charges.

Morgan had a ringside seat when Stanford came calling on the ICC, with the meeting taking place in Johannesburg on the morning of the inaugural World Twenty20 Final in September 2007.

“Stanford was accompanied by his board, the greats of West Indian cricket Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson and Michael Holding,” says Morgan. “He had approached the ICC to examine the feasibility of two full member nations playing his superstars in an annual triangular tournament in the Caribbean.

“But at the meeting Stanford surprised us by saying: ‘We are not interested in this anymore. We want to play the winners of today’s game.’ India went on to win the Twenty20 Final and did not want to play a Stanford XI.”

Neither the ICC nor Morgan ever set eyes on him again. The next time Morgan heard about Stanford was when he arrived by helicopter at Lord’s in the summer of 2008, a prelude to England playing a million-dollar-a-man match with the AllStars in Antigua later that year.

Morgan acknowledges that India, who provide some 80 per cent of world cricket’s income and are the No1 Test nation, are crucial to the game but he refuses to accept they dictate the ICC’s agenda. And he is equally insistent they will not decide where the next headquarters of the ICC should be.

This follows an ICC Board meeting in October when it was agreed that Morgan would explore the possibility of a move away from their present Middle East base in Dubai.

Morgan has set up a Headquarters Task Force which includes important Indian members led by Pawar, who will take over from Morgan in the summer. This had led to much media speculation that the Indians want the ICC to go east to Mumbai not back to Lord’s.

However the mattered was discussed last week and Morgan says: “It was unanimously agreed that due diligence should be done on a move back from Dubai to Lord’s. No other location was discussed.”

And, more than India, the key player in this matter is the Treasury. It was its refusal to exempt international cricket from corporation tax that prompted the move to Dubai in the first place. For some years the ICC got round this problem by basing their commercial arm in Monaco before Dubai offered a tax free status that was too tempting.

Morgan has still to talk to the Treasury and rates the chances of changing its mind at “55-45”. But what is abundantly clear is that he wants his legacy to be the game’s governing body returning to their historic home.

By then, however, the ICC will be headed by Pawar and I suspect he feels it will be appropriate that the new kids on the block have come back to cricket’s ancestral home to exercise their new-found power. No doubt Pawar will have his secretary make tea for his guests as well.


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