Damien O'Meara talks to Alan Isaac
Damien O'Meara: It's cricket next, Ireland's planned World League One Day International against Afghanistan at Castle Avenue today fell victim to the elements. They'll try and play again tomorrow. The league is a step towards qualification for the Cricket World Cup in Australia in 2015. The postponement robbed the man who less than a week ago assumed the role of President of the ICC of the chance to watch two of the World's leading Associate or Affiliate Sides. His name is Alan Isaac, the New President of the ICC. Alan has this been a long term ambition?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Well no I couldn't say it has long been an ambition. I got the opportunity to put my name forward to be the Vice President two years ago, at short notice. I had up until then been trying to get the role for Sir John Anderson, my predecessor in New Zealand Cricket. So the opportunity came along for me a short notice, and I'm now five days into the role, so very excited obviously.
Damien O'Meara: How healthy is the sport that you now run?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Oh I think it's in very healthy state. We are unique almost amongst any sport. We have got three forms of the game with global interest at high levels in each of those three forms.
Damien O'Meara: And as you set out now on this road, in this job, what are the principle challenges?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Well if you break it down a little bit, obviously in the governance area there are a number of challenges. I don't think we could say in all honesty that ICC is seen as one of the top sports governing bodies. And I'd like to think that we'll have a much better reputation in two years time. Obviously we want a bigger game, more competitive nations. So how we find a way to achieve more nations who can all actually win the World Cup, have a realistic chance of winning the Cricket World Cup or the Test World Championship, that's obviously got to be a challenge.
Damien O'Meara: But how far off the pace do you see cricket as being, in that regard, in terms of a global competiveness? Because if we were to look at Rugby, and I know you've got a background in administration there, there are still only a handful of countries that can win their World Cup?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Absolutely, and so in that context, Cricket is probably already ahead. When you look at some of the countries who have made the Semi Finals of the Cricket World Cup in recent years, that's not something that you would expect to happen in Rugby. You know generally it's the big four, big five who you would expect to see in the Semi Finals. So yes we are ahead of say Rugby, but we're perhaps along way behind say Soccer. So an aspiration might be to have more teams be it ten or twelve teams, that could win the Cricket World Cup, the fifty over format. That would be something to aspire to.
Damien O'Meara: Has the game been damaged, or to what extent has it been damaged by issues of spot fixing and gambling and those cancers within the sport that seem to appear time and time again?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Oh I think we have to acknowledge that the spot fixing issue does affect how some people see the sport. But I think also in terms of cricket, we can be reasonably proud about the progress that we've been making in that area. I mean we apply a lot of resources internationally, and most of the member countries now have codes and active programmes to try and stamp it out, which includes not only the investigative aspect of that, but also the educational aspect of the players. So yes it's a challenge, and I think we probably can never say that we will beat it. But it is a challenge that we are taking on, and I think we can say we're making some progress.
Damien O'Meara: What sense of where Cricket is at in Ireland have you got from your brief visit here. I know the weather at Castle Avenue probably has put pay to plans to watch action today.
Alan Isaac (ICC President): I don't think there'll be any cricket here today. But in terms of the progress, I've been reasonably well briefed, because recently we received an application from Cricket Ireland in terms of the so called TAPPFunding that we had, which was a really good summary. Clearly in the last five years, in particular, cricket in Ireland has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. And that probably started in some ways with the success in the 2007 World Cup. The participation numbers have grown, and their ability to compete at the highest level against some of the full members is tribute to the progress that's been made.
Damien O'Meara: How far are Ireland off Test Status?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): I think that's probably a little way out, I think even aspirationally they see that as being in the future. So it's not too easy for me to give you an answer to that one.
Damien O'Meara: But overall you mentioned there, one of your priorities are the Associated Members or the Affiliate Members and to increase the pool of countries at the top table?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Yes and it's important that it's not just the Associate Members the TAPP Funding is designed to assist the Lower Rank Full Members together with the Better Performing Associate Members, to improve their performance, so that we have more teams, as we said earlier, able to win the World Cup.
Damien O'Meara: Could you envisage the World Cup being increased? Obviously the issue of it being reduced to ten teams, and the possible participation of countries like Ireland was quite a controversy over here some time ago. Could the competition get bigger and better and expand?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Yes I'm sure it can. 2019 of course it will be a ten team competition, and those ten teams will be decided on a qualifying format. So that's progress, and in theory that will be the best ten teams at that time competing. Whether it should be a twelve, fourteen or sixteen format will depend upon, like yes, the progress of the sides outside of the top ten.
Damien O'Meara: You've obviously, as we've mentioned, have been involved in administration in Rugby, and I know in Golf as well in New Zealand, what aspects of other sports could you see cricket taking onboard, or are there elements of global sport that would make cricket a better game?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): It's probably not answering your question directly, but I think one of the things that we need to be conscious of, is the development of domestic leagues and privately owned leagues. Cricket along with Rugby to an extent has continued to be reasonably unique where the profile of the sport is international, Nation v Nation, and income and the commercial rights from that activity fund the grassroots. That's obviously not the case with sports like Golf, Soccer and so forth. So that's a change that's likely to occur that we need to watch, so that we're maximising the opportunities of the Nation v Nation, but also the opportunities that come from domestic leagues and the introduction of some form of private ownership.
Damien O'Meara: Unfortunately as you've seen today the elements in this part of the world restrict how much cricket we can play from time to time, so perhaps it's time for us to lobby the ICC for a roof to cover Castle Avenue?
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Ha ha, it has been discussed today, as you can imagine.
Damien O'Meara: Ha ha ha, ok Alan we wish you well with the role and thank you very much for joining us.
Alan Isaac (ICC President): Cheers thanks.