"Howard's future in retirement? I've come up with three options:
(a) A ceremonial role (eg: patron, no.1 ticket holder, mascot) with one or more of the Australian Rugby Union, Cricket Australia or the Australian Olympic team...."
- Rick Eyre, 1.12.07
How can the selection of a nomination for International Cricket Council vice-president be so long and exhausting? How can a man so clearly the heir apparent be overlooked? How can a man so lacking in experience be chosen? The answer to these three questions, in order: Dunno; Because he's a New Zealander; Because he's John Howard.
Today, Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket have jointly announced that John Winston Howard will be their nominee to become ICC vice-president in the middle of this year, and thereby become its president for two years from 2012 to 2014. The announcement came only after a selection process in which Howard was chosen over New Zealand Cricket's preferred choice, Sir John Anderson.
Howard, a practising solicitor for twelve years after graduating in law from Sydney University in 1961, was elected to Federal Parliament in 1974 becoming Prime Minister from 1996 until 2007, when both his government, and he personally, were thrown out of office by voters. More recently, Howard has been busy on the conservative think-tank public speaking circuit.
Howard has no adult experience as a competitive cricketer, nor in sports administration. His interest in cricket as a fan received much public exposure while he was Prime Minister.
John Anderson (not to be confused with the leader of the National Party who was Howard's deputy prime minister from 1999-2005), has been chairman of New Zealand Cricket from 1995 to 2008 and NZ's representative on the ICC executive. Six years younger than Howard, he started out as an accountant and stockbroker before founding a merchant bank in 1972, which through mergers and acquisitions, led to him eventually being the executive director of the ANZ Bank in NZ. Among his former chairmanships is the NZ branch of the WWF.
John Howard's influence on Australia in the past decade and a half has had a polarising effect, and I should note that I have written many thousands of words over the years sitting on one of those poles. The fact that he is so disliked among so many Australians represents one reason why his nomination to the ICC, initiated by Cricket Australia, is such an embarrassment.
His lack of any appropriate experience, when put alongside New Zealand's Sir John Anderson, is bemusing, even if age is not considered a factor (Howard will be 75 when his term as ICC president expires - Anderson will be 70 then). In January former NZ Cricket CEO Martin Snedden said that Sir John Anderson's appointment as future ICC president should be a "no-brainer".
So why was Howard, of all capable Australians, the choice of Cricket Australia? And why have they so aggressively pushed his claims against those of Anderson's?
One wonders how conciliatory a president he will be when his time comes. He maintained a ruthless discipline over his Liberal Party whilst Prime Minister. Can anyone imagine how the BCCI and PCB will sit with that style of presidency?
There's another reason why I believe John Howard is an inappropriate choice for the ICC presidency. His nomination gives Antipodean endorsement to the notion that there is a place for self-serving politicians to indulge in sports administration as a part-time hobby. For example, Sharad Pawar, the man who John Howard will be following, who also happens to be the man for whom the compromise VP-progressing-to-President arrangement was created, who also happens to be Indian Minister for Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
This news report from the ABC contains eight minutes of audio from a press conference John Howard gave this afternoon, despite having earlier said in the official press release that "he would make no further statement at this time". Howard's superficial knowledge of the intricacies of world cricket are laid bare, along with his cloying vanity. He continues to cling to Mark Taylor's jocular 1998 description of him as a "cricket tragic" as if it were a Doctorate of All Cricketing Expertise.
One thing for sure is that John Howard has a steep learning curve before he steps up to a post that ought to make him the equal of Jacques Rogge, Sepp Blatter or Bud Selig. I wish Sir John Anderson well in his retirement.