KARACHI: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ehsan Mani has surprisingly emerged as a strong candidate to head the International Cricket Council (ICC) as its chairman.
Sources close to Mani confirmed to media on Monday that pressure is mounting on Mani to accept the coveted role of ICC chairman from several of the top Test-playing nations.
Indian cricket legend Sourav Ganguly, who is president of India’s cricket board (BCCI), was previously seen as a favourite to replace compatriot Shashank Manohar as ICC chairman next month.
However, a series of developments in the last few weeks have led to Mani’s emergence as a strong, consensus candidate. According to well-placed sources, many of the Test-playing nations, who are wary of “too much” Indian influence in world cricket, want Mani to contest the election for ICC chairman next month.
However, according to a source close to him, Mani is yet to accept the offer from various ICC member nations to contest the election ahead of the ICC general council meeting at the end of July.
“He [Mani] accepted the role to become PCB chairman after being convinced by Prime Minister Imran Khan. He took the responsibility as he wanted to serve Pakistan cricket. He will have to leave PCB prematurely if he agrees to contest the election and is successful in the bid to become ICC Chairman,” a source said.
But the temptation to lead world cricket at a time when the global game is facing huge challenges could force Mani to return as the head of the ICC, which he served as president back in 2003.
Mani already has an influential role in the ICC as he currently heads its powerful Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee. “The representatives of many of the leading cricket boards believe he is the perfect man to replace Manohar as the new ICC chairman. He has the knowledge and experience and is well-respected in the cricket world,” said a source.
There are various reasons why Mani appears to be a perfect candidate for most cricket boards. Firstly, he is a former ICC president and is currently serving as the head of what is the most influential committee of the world body.
Secondly, as a seasoned chartered accountant, he is an accepted financial czar and could help world cricket at a time when it is facing serious challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the world cricket chiefs have to decide the contentious commercial cycle in 2023 and Mani can help.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly he is not from India. “Many of the cricket boards have been wary of the fact that India’s clout in the ICC has become way too big,” said a source. “That’s one of the biggest reasons why they are uniting against the BCCI and want to support Mani as a consensus candidate.”
If Mani agrees to contest the election, he will have a good chance of winning it even though India is likely to field Ganguly in the ring. “Mainly, it’s up to the Test-playing nations to decide who gets elected and at the moment most of them are likely to back a neutral candidate like Mani,” the source said.