Chris Waters: Time for ECB boss Clarke to step down after Gale made scapegoat

Yorkshire Cricket Club captain Andrew Gale sits next to the Championship trophy.
Yorkshire Cricket Club captain Andrew Gale sits next to the Championship trophy.
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A REPORT on the Cricinfo website this week suggested that Giles Clarke, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, will not seek re-election next Spring and that Colin Graves, the ECB’s deputy chairman and chairman of Yorkshire, will succeed him.

As the Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen might say: “Hallelujah”.

For Clarke, as shown by the Andrew Gale affair, is no longer suitable to run English cricket as head of an organisation that has treated the Yorkshire captain in contemptible manner.

Not that Clarke, the man who famously got into bed with Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire serving a 110-year prison sentence for fraud, was ever the right person to run English cricket, which would surely be better off for his departure.

I have covered cricket for 15 seasons – 11 of them in this county – and I cannot remember a more ridiculous saga than the one which effectively saw Gale accused of racism.

Clarke, who somehow survived the Stanford fiasco, will survive this fiasco also before he eventually seeks pastures new, but as the head of English cricket he must shoulder a heavy blame for an episode that has not only sullied Gale’s reputation but also that of the sport’s governing 
body.

Only those intimately involved in the investigation into Gale’s verbal outburst to Lancashire’s Ashwell Prince during the Roses match will know to what extent Clarke personally played a role in the affair.

But sources say he has been a key mover and that he took the lamentable decision not to allow Gale to lift the Championship trophy at Trent Bridge, something the Yorkshireman had worked hard all his life to achieve.

As previously stated in these columns, Gale’s language cannot be condoned.

He told Lancashire’s Prince, a black South African, to “f*** off back to your own country, you Kolpak f*****”, with Kolpak players being overseas players who are taking the places of home-grown ones.

However, much worse things have been said on a cricket field – for some reason, the name James Anderson springs to mind – and Prince’s own language seems to have gone unpunished.

Moreover, it was Prince who allegedly instigated the ill-feeling in the first place by sledging the Yorkshire batsman Adam Lyth.

The episode reflected well on nobody, of course, but to say it was all a Table Mountain out of a molehill is an understatement.

Quite how much was highlighted when Prince himself said that he did not consider Gale’s remarks racist, which was a bit like somebody finding themselves accused of shoplifting only for the shopkeeper to turn round and say that nothing, in actual fact, had been stolen.

Since Prince’s admission, the ECB have been trying to make this mess-of-their-own making go away.

Unfortunately, it is a bit like violently passing wind in a crowded lift after a particularly dodgy curry and hoping that no one will notice the bad smell.

It is Gale, however, who must pick up the pieces.

Not content with banning him for the final two games of last season and denying him the chance to lift the trophy in an after-match ceremony, the ECB have slapped him with another two-match ban at the start of next season.

He will miss the champion county match against MCC in Abu Dhabi and the opening game of next season’s Championship programme.

Furthermore, Gale has been ordered by the ECB to attend an anger management course.

Presumably, Anderson will also be on this course (yeah, right), the man who called India’s Ravindra Jajeda earlier this summer “a f****** c***”, among sundry other pleasantries.

Alas, the double standards are deafening, and the credibility of the Clarke-led organisation on the wane. There are some very good people at the ECB, those who should not be tarred with the same brush.

Indeed, there will be sympathy among them for Gale and 
Yorkshire, sympathy that someone can be accused of something as damaging as racism on the 
basis of thoroughly flimsy evidence.

Gale, however, has been made a scapegoat.

He is effectively paying the price for the ECB having to be seen to be doing something to justify the storm that surrounded the racism allegation, a storm that Clarke could surely have prevented.