Melbourne:Former International Cricket Council CEO Malcolm Speed has dismissed suggestions that India is trying to take over the sport by flexing its financial muscle, insisting that such apprehensions are too far-fetched.
"There is too much fear of an Indian takeover and the power of the Indian administrators," Speed told the 'Sydney Morning Herald'.
"Cricket's unique selling point is the passion for cricket by Indians -- cricket is the most popular sport by a factor of about 30 in the second-most populous country in the world. This should be seen as a major positive. The game needs to find ways to use that unique selling point," he added.
Speed, who was sacked from his post after he criticised ICC's inaction on financial mismanagement in Zimbabwe, said money-might does not make India's vote in the ICC any more valuable than that of other full members.
"India's vote has the same value as Australia's and the other full member countries. If there is concern about irresponsible use of power, there are processes in place to deal with this, and the other countries should take firm positions and make them clear," he said.
"I agree with (Cricket Australia CEO) James (Sutherland) that India should act responsibly, as should all member countries.
Speed also refuted suggestions that India's financial influence was straining its relationship with members like Australia.
"In recent years, Australia has been a very close ally of India in major strategic decisions - perhaps its closest ally. There is a lot of speculation about the "Asian bloc" in cricket. This occurs rarely. In the past few years, Australia has been more likely to vote with India than some of the Asian countries," he pointed out.
Speed felt a larger number of former players need to be made part of the ICC and also called for the inclusion of more women in the governing body.
"There are not enough former top players on the board. Arjuna Ranatunga is a welcome addition. It would be great to see Mark Taylor on the ICC board at some stage.
"I would like to see a revised board structure with some genuinely independent directors (including women), some former players and three or four directors elected by the ICC members to represent their interests. I do not expect to see it happen," he quipped.
Speaking on his exit from the governing body, Speed said his relationship with the then President Ray Mali had been damaged beyond repair on the Zimbabwe issue, which ultimately cost him his job.
"(ICC president) Ray Mali and I had an angry and bitter exchange in October 2007 over ICC's policy in relation to Zimbabwe. This caused our previously friendly relationship to break down irretrievably.
"In March 2008, the ICC board reviewed the KPMG forensic report into the finances of Zimbabwe Cricket. The report showed that there had been irregularities in the finances of ZC. The ICC board resolved to take no further action on the basis that the KPMG report did not prove that any individual within ZC had profited," he said.
Speed revealed that he saw his sacking coming after refusing to attend a press conference with Mali after the heated exchange over Zimbabwe.
"I elected not to attend a press conference with Mr Mali on the evening of the board meeting, as had been previously arranged, where this decision was to be announced. In failing to attend the press conference, I knew that there was a risk that I would be sacked.
"Six weeks later, in April 2008, after an informal gathering of directors in Bangalore for the launch of the IPL, I was requested to go on "gardening leave" for the last eight weeks of my contract as a result of "fundamental disagreement with the ICC president and other board members over issues that included Zimbabwe"," he recalled.
The bitter exit notwithstanding, Speed said he holds no grudge against the body which he served for seven years.
"Over 11 years in cricket (four with CA and seven with ICC) I made hundreds of friends and a few enemies. My role as CEO came to an unfortunate and sticky end. I had a very good run, and it finished more unhappily than expected. These things happen in sport," he said.
"International cricket is a very political landscape. Managing a sport that is as complex as cricket is a difficult job. It is an ever-changing jigsaw puzzle that revolves around a great game that is dear to many supporters, a complex and large business, vastly diverse cultures and interesting and, at times, difficult people - players, administrators and business partners," he added.