Mumbai:Divisions within the ICC on Friday deepened with Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand asking John Howard not to withdraw his candidacy for the vice-President's post even as new President Sharad Pawar hit back at his detractors saying the former Aussie PM did not have the numbers.
A day after the ICC conclave in Singapore, Howard got the backing of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who said he should give it another shot despite being rejected by the powerful Asian Bloc, raising speculation of a race divide.
Pawar, however, rubbished suggestions that rejection of Howard's candidacy would divide world cricket.
"The majority did not support him. Ultimately in any democratic organisation, there has to be support from the majority but that was not there in his case," he told reporters on his from Singapore.
Asked whether the rejection would divide world cricket, Pawar said, "I don't think so. We have discussed the matter individually and collectively with everybody including Australia, England and New Zealand. We took a collective decision."
Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket are already seething in anger over Howard's rejection and Gillard and Kiwi PM John Key echoed the sentiment.
"John Howard, passionate, passionate cricket fan. I share some of the concerns he's voiced publicly about the kind of factors that are influencing this decision," Gillard told 'Fairfax Radio today.
"I'd be very happy to offer full support for John Howard to get this role," she said.
The 70-year-old Howard has refused to back out and said he was disappointed by the Asian bloc's refusal to specify reasons for not supporting him.
Key said the Howard would make a "fantastic" ICC President.
"I know John well; I met him on numerous occasions when I was leader of the opposition and as prime minister. I think he's been a tremendous leader of Australia. He's a great administrator and he loves his cricket ... even if he can't bowl very well from what I've seen on TV," Key joked.
New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan has also backed Howard.
"We were single-heartedly behind John Howard. NZC is held up as a model of good governance in terms of having independent directors who do what is best for cricket ... but that obviously doesn't apply to the ICC and that is shame," he fumed.
However, Zimbabwe Cricket chief Peter Chingoka justified the rejection saying that the former Australian Prime Minister was not experienced enough for the job.
"No one has a problem with an Australian candidate, no one has a problem with a New Zealand candidate - if it's an individual we can accept," Chingoka said.
Chingoka refuted suggestions that Howard was rejected because of his past criticism of the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.
"That is an excuse that has been used because of the denial of the reasons given (to Howard and the countries), because it's a convenient excuse," he said.
Asked whether Howard's rejection would leave ICC a divided house -- that too on racial lines, Chingoka said, "If I stand against you in an election for an organisation one of us has to win and the other one has to live with it."
Meanwhile, the 69-year-old Pawar will now have to shoulder twin responsibilities of being a minister and ICC President but the veteran politician said he would be able to handle them with a little help from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"Fortunately the ICC headquarter is in Dubai and Dubai works on Saturday and Sunday. So, it's a matter of two hours flight. So, I think there won't be any difficulty. Secondly I will discuss with Prime Minister about my responsibilities and will take appropriate decision so that my government work is not affected," he said.
"I may suggest for more hands. I had asked for three ministers but they have given only one. If I request to reduce some of my work, we may find some solution. I won't allow my work in government to suffer," he said.
Asked what he considers the biggest challenge of his new job, Pawar said, "We have to preserve all the formats of the game. Today we have 105 countries who are ICC members. But in true sense unless we expand the game to China, USA, some parts of Eastern Europe and some parts of Africa, the game would not reach every corner of the world."