Dubai:In a surprise development, the International Cricket Council's Chief Executive Malcolm Speed was on Friday put on paid leave till the end of his contract following a "fundamental breakdown" in his relationship with ICC President Ray Mali.
Speed, who had occupied the high profile post since 2001, had shared a strained relationship with Mali for sometime now and differed on several issues including Zimbabwe.
"The ICC President Ray Mali and Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Speed have agreed that Malcolm Speed will be on paid leave from April 30, 2008 until the end of his contract term on July 4, 2008," the ICC said in a brief statement.
"This change of plan is the result of a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the CEO and a number of Board Members, including the President, over a variety of issues that include Zimbabwe," it said.
ICC General Manager David Richardson will serve as the interim CEO until Speed's replacement Haroon Lorgat of South Africa assumes the role at ICC's Annual General Council at the beginning of July.
Speed has served as the ICC's CEO since July 2001 and is only the second person to have filled the role in the organisation's 99-year history. He succeeded David Richards, who was CEO from 1993 to 2001.
Although the ICC statement does not specify the reasons for relieving Speed of his duties, it is learnt that the Australian administrator was against Mali's decision not to take any major action against Zimbabwe following an independent forensic audit carried out by a leading company KPMG.
Following the ICC meeting in Dubai in March, in which the decision to overlook the audit was taken, Speed refused to attend the post media conference, explaining to the Executive Board that he was not prepared to defend in public a decision with which he disagreed.
In his opinion, the conduct of senior Zimbabwe cricket officials should have been referred to the ethics committee.
Speed's conduct not to address the media conference did not go down well with Mali, who is known to be a strong supporter of Zimbabwe and its officials.
ICC President-Elect David Morgan is expected to address a press conference on Saturday. The ICC said it would not make any further comment on the issue till then.