If you thought that the goings on in Pakistani cricket were bizarre, then look no further than Leicestershire County Cricket Club.
In the 1990s, the side were a force in County cricket, twice Championship winners and perennial contenders in the one day game. When T20 cricket came along in the 2000s, they won two of the first three competitions.
Since 2003, things have gone badly downhill in other ways. The membership has shrunk by, on some counts, 66%. The club has made a profit in only one of the intervening years, and began and then abandoned what turned out to be a disastrous policy of stuffing the side full of Kolpak players. Leicestershire now languish in Division Two of the County Championship and show no more sign of getting out than Chris Lewis does. Oh, and they’ve had no fewer than six chief executives in that time, too.
The common denominator in all of this has been chairman Neil Davidson. Whilst it is far too far a stretch to place the blame for all of the above at his door, recent events have turned him into the least loved man in Leicestershire – which is quite an achievement when you consider that Jonathan Agnew lives there.
First of all, Davidson oversaw the resignation last month of the latest chief executive, former Warwickshire batsman David Smith. No-one pretends that Smith was universally loved at Grace Road, but he was the man who brought about the end of the Kolpaks and the only profitable season of those mentioned above. More significantly, the reason for Smith’s resignation (and the whole thing is the subject of an ongoing legal action, so we have to be careful how we word this) is that Davidson was interfering in team selection – the specific incident apparently being whether offspinner Jigar Naik should be selected for a T20 match.
Even more oddly, Davidson doesn’t deny this, saying that it was his duty to represent the membership and try and halt a run of defeats. This belies the almost universal rule that chairmen don’t interfere in the day to day running of the team. Moreover, Davidson’s position would seem to be significantly weakened by the actions of a concerned membership, who raised the necessary signatures to call an Emergency General Meeting to hold a vote of no confidence in him.
What did Davidson do next? He refused to hold the meeting, claiming that the motion for it was legally invalid (a reason which this lawyer, for one, does not necessarily accept).
The tale then gets really strange, with head coach Tim Boon and captain Matthew Hoggard, along with other players, writing to the board, calling on Davidson to resign. Davidson, who clearly has read Toby Young’s ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’ , not only went running to the press, complaining that his staff were having the temerity to question him, but managed to upset the authors of the letter, who claim that it was supposed to be confidential.
And somewhere along the line, the Leicestershire players took advice from the PCA as to whether they could boycott – or at least stage a protest at – today’s game against Surrey.
In terms of management ineptitude, public relations (and employee relations) bungling and generalised avoidable stupidity, it makes the Pakistan Cricket Board look like rank amateurs. But isn’t it nice to know that there will be a story of cricketing chaos still running once the tourists go home?