John Howard, the former prime minister of Australia, has welcomed India's new-found influence over world cricket as he prepares to become the president of the sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), in 2012. Howard, who is facing a challenge to win over Asian nations, according to the Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan, said India's growing power was positive for the sport.
"India is the second most populous country in the world, it's cricket-mad; they are pluses," Howard said on Wednesday. "I think it's entirely wrong to look at the Indian involvement in cricket in a negative light. "I think of those millions of people in India and the subcontinent ... who play cricket. They play it with a passion and love it." Howard, a self-confessed "cricket tragic", has been nominated for the rotating ICC presidency and will take over from India's Sharad Pawar in two years' time.
Muralitharan said he had forgiven Howard for labelling him a "chucker", but added that it would not be easy for the former conservative leader to get South Asian nations onside. "It won't be an easy job. He has to convince the subcontinent, that's going to be a tough challenge for him," Muralitharan told the Sydney Morning Herald. India's huge market has made it cricket's most important power base, with the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament handing out lucrative contracts to the world's best players.
Howard also defended his suitability for the role despite having no experience of sports administration, unlike the New Zealand candidate John Anderson. "I think the fact I haven't been involved in cricket administration is explained by the fact I had a day job which made that rather difficult," he said, referring to his 30-year stint in politics. * With agencies