ICC CEO Manu Sawhney sent on ‘leave’, may resign before term ends

Sawhney has been sent on “leave” after his conduct came under scanner during an internal investigation by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Manu Sawhney at the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup 2021 Tournament Launch in Wellington, New Zealand. - GETTY IMAGES

The International Cricket Council’s chief executive Manu Sawhney has been sent on “leave” after his conduct came under the scanner during an internal investigation by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and may resign before his term ends.

It is understood that Sawhney, who replaced Dave Richardson after the ICC World Cup in 2019 for a tenure till 2022, hasn’t been on best of terms with some of the influential cricket boards with regards various policy decisions. He has come under scrutiny for his allegedly “abrasive behaviour” with colleagues.

“There have been testimonies from multiple ICC staff about his ‘abrasive behaviour’ which hasn’t been great for the morale of a very efficient group of employees,” a senior official close to the ICC Board told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

The 56-year-old hasn’t been attending office for some time and was asked to go on leave on Tuesday. “The Board of Directors are trying to find a compromise formula where Sawhney leaves the post with dignity by tendering his resignation,” the source said.

‘Authoritarian style of functioning’

He has been under pressure since the election process for the new chairman was set in motion last year, which ended with Greg Barclay taking the position in November. It is alleged that Sawhney’s “authoritarian style of functioning” is far removed from the inclusive approach taken by Richardson and has not gone down well with the employees. Also, a few cricket boards seem unhappy with him for backing interim chairman Imran Khawaja during the elections last year.

“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 Shashank Manohar,” a senior BCCI source privy to developments in the ICC told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

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The second reason why some of the bigger boards are upset is his backing to the ICC's recent decision of asking boards to bid and pay a fee for hosting events during the next cycle. It is understood that BCCI, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia are completely 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 all-powerful Board of Directors.

“Manu also has support within the board which is now split into two factions of nine and eight members on each sides. To remove Manu, one would need 12 out of the 17 votes, which is two third of the Board of Directors since he came with approval of majority of the board. It will be interesting if the faction comprising ‘Big Three’ can get 12 out of the 17 votes required to remove him,” the source said.

Sawhney is the former CEO of Singapore Sports Hub and also served as Managing Director of ESPN Star Sports, a company he worked with for 17 years. He is also a non-executive director and member of the Audit Committee of Manchester United Ltd.