ICC-Manu Sawhney
Manu Sawhney, the ICC CEO, may be asked to resign by the Board members before expiry of his term in 2022. Image Credit: ICC

Kolkata: The International Cricket Council (ICC), the world governing body of the game, is now without a CEO as Manu Sawhney has been asked to go on leave following an internal investigation by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Sawhney, who replaced Dave Richardson after the ICC World Cup in 2019 for a tenure till 2022, was conveyed about the decision on Tuesday.

While ICC did not release any statement, well-placed sources in the Council confirmed a media report to Gulf News and said ‘‘certain proceedings’’ have been issued against him at the moment. Sawhney, who had stopped attending office for a while, may be convinced by the ICC Board of Directors to resign well ahead of his term for an ‘‘honourable exit.’’

While speculations abound that he hasn’t been on best of terms with some of the influential cricket boards regarding various policy decisions about the future roadmap of the game, the official reason emerging is that there had been adverse findings of his management style in an internal culture review of ICC.

The ICC’s human resources committee, led by England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Ian Watmore, discussed the findings of the report and sent a unanimous recommendation for the move to act against Sawhney to the ICC Board, which has since been approved by the required majority. Sawhney had been working from home for more than a week, although the official reason for it was that he was isolating after a family member has tested positive for COVID-19.

The review was commissioned late in February and carried out by PriceWaterHouseCoopers, and ultimately based its findings on the opinions of 85 employees and ex-employees of the ICC.

A former Managing Director of ESPN Star Sports and also a non-executive director and member of the Audit Committee of Manchester United Ltd, Sawhney had been reortedly accused of an “authoritarian style of functioning” by the employees.

“He hasn’t exactly been a favourite of a lot of cricket boards during the past couple of years. Firstly, a lot of people didn’t like his passive involvement when Greg Barclay of New Zealand and Imran Khwaja of Singapore were in contention to replace Shahshank Manohar,” a senior Indian cricket board source privy to developments told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

There are unconfirmed reports that some of the bigger boards are upset with his backing of the ICC’s recent decision of asking boards to bid and pay a fee for hosting events during the next cycle. The BCCI, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia are against the idea and have made their displeasure clear at the various board meetings.

Another reason is a proposal backed by him to have at least one ICC flagship event every year during the next eight-year cycle from 2023-2031, which hasn’t also got the vote of the ‘Big Three’.

In case Sawhney chooses not to resign, it could lead to a long-drawn removal procedure by Board of Directors, which will require a simple majority to show him the door.