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How about Indra Nooyi as ICC's next chairperson?

Indra Nooyi: would bat for the global game over parochial interests Ryan Pierse / © Getty Images

Here is a suggestion that won't be given serious thought but should: make Indra Nooyi, currently an independent member of the ICC Board, the new chairperson of the ICC. Nooyi is much more than just that independent member - she is a globally respected corporate giant, having been Pepsico's CEO for over a decade. In this day and age, this should not come across as a radical suggestion, but in making it to cricket and the ICC, it does.

What's worse, it's difficult to know whether it is radical because she would be the first woman to head the world game, or because she would be the first truly independent person to be in charge.

Shashank Manohar, who has just stepped down, technically became the ICC's first independent chairman in 2016. But he was lugging seriously heavy baggage as a former BCCI president. He was independent from the influence of the BCCI, sure, but the cost of it was an unhealthy, unworkable relationship with cricket's most powerful member.

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Actually, it is better framed as a question: is the ICC ready for a truly independent, female head? It's a relevant time to be asking it, against the backdrop of the wrangling over Manohar's successor.

Long story short - because it's really not interesting - it's been predictably unseemly and depressingly familiar. Cricket is still being pulled apart by those who thrive financially off bilateral cricket and those who live off global events. The next chairman will either be a winner of this battle - and so, polarising - or a compromise candidate - and so, too hamstrung.

At last count, those who hadn't been touted for a run were far outnumbered by those who had. Colin Graves (ECB) was a favourite; Imran Khawaja (the interim chairman) was in the mix; since then, Sourav Ganguly (BCCI), Greg Barclay (New Zealand board), Ehsan Mani (Pakistan board), Nazmul Hasan (Bangladesh board), Chris Nenzani (Cricket South Africa) have all featured in dispatches. Even Dave Cameron, no longer head of Cricket West Indies, wants in on the race and yet - this is the most ICC thing of all - the nomination process for how such a race will run hasn't even been finalised.

That, in fact, is the problem. The Board hasn't been able to agree on how to vote in a new chairman, whether it should be two-thirds of the vote, or a simple majority. Manohar could have stayed for another term, but didn't want to. He tried to find a consensus candidate, but couldn't.

"Nooyi is already part of influential committees like the Finance and Commercial Affairs, has played a significant role in the ICC's governance review, and is said to be a "passionate backer" of cricket at the Olympics"

The bigger problem is that it appears to have become a distraction from the more pressing issue - the fate of the men's T20 World Cup. The ICC Board first met in late March to discuss contingencies. We are now four months on. There have been countless meetings since and still no decision - despite the host country, Australia, all but having said it can't/won't do it this year. And there's still the World Test Championship, the ODI league, and the Women's World Cup to figure out.

Granted these are unprecedented times and cricket's scheduling on good days is a giant pretzel of a headache. Throw in biosecure bubbles, tracking pandemic trajectories, and balancing financial and broadcast obligations, and you could be sympathetic towards their attempts to solve what one official described as the "world's most difficult jigsaw". But it would help if the meetings - short as they have been because of the range of time zones involved - focused on these problems rather than veer off into inquisitions about leaks, as happened in one meeting.

ALSO READ: T20 World Cup 'unrealistic' and 'unlikely' this year - Cricket Australia chairman

The national boards need clarity for their own schedules, now more than ever. Not knowing whether the T20 World Cup happens this year has put everything on hold. "It has not made life easy not having any clarity," Graeme Smith, director of cricket at Cricket South Africa, said last week. "We are hoping for some very soon. We've got to be planning as though the [T20] World Cup is going to be happening, even though there is a lot of doubt around it, until we hear differently."

Another senior board official said much the same thing, a little more tartly. "It's frustrating everyone. Little leadership at present on this issue."

Most significantly, the BCCI isn't happy. Having postponed the IPL indefinitely, it wants dibs on the window created by the deferral of the T20 World Cup, but hasn't been able to plan for it.

In this light - any light, really - Nooyi's name is not meant to be gimmicky or a box-ticker. She has vast experience, at the very top, in just about the most cut-throat corporate environment. Jobs don't get much bigger, or more global, than leading Pepsi.

One of her major challenges, around the turn of the century, was to keep a company known for its sugar-filled sodas relevant at a time when awareness about health and wellness were growing. Pepsi navigated a way through, an old product adapting to a new, changing world.

Old product, new world - sounds like a familiar pickle, doesn't it?

Nooyi has an enduring and deep affection for cricket - she started the first women's team in her college in Madras back in 1971 - yet is also a total outsider to the politics that plagues the ICC board's functioning. She brings no skin to this game, other than wanting to, as she said in an interview to Forbes before this year's Women's T20 World Cup, "get the members to think beyond their countries and to think of the game broadly".

She probably won't want the job though. Asked once whether Indian politics held any allure, she said: "I'm not good at politics… I'm just a good worker bee." Good at politics being a prerequisite for the ICC chair's role, it's just as well.

It doesn't mean she can't do it. Already, she's made an impact. There is recognition around the boardroom of her authority and expertise, not simply her gender. She's already part of influential committees like the Finance and Commercial Affairs, has played a significant role in the ICC's governance review, and is said to be a "passionate backer" of cricket at the Olympics. A "very solid executive" without "any baggage" - at least one observer thinks she would be perfect.

But ultimately this isn't even about Nooyi as much as it is about what she represents. Cricket administration remains resolutely a men's club. The ICC, in particular, has always been that. It's had all kinds of directors: a knight, a prince, a lord, doctors, lawyers, but every single one of them has been male. Nooyi, who is continuing for at least another two-year term, is the first woman in.

Bringing an independent and fresh perspective on the game is just as important. Go through the names of those male contenders a few paragraphs ago. You can smell the staleness off your screen. Are these not men who have been knocking about in this new world without reconciling this old game to it? Men, almost all of whom are one of the 16 directors on the ICC board, nominated by their own country boards, who have always safeguarded their own country's interests ahead of those of the game at large.

Nooyi is unencumbered by this.

"Having an independent member like me is good," she said in that same interview before the Women's T20 World Cup, "because I can ask all these dumb questions, that look dumb on the surface, but I'm asking these questions to trigger discussion about what's good for the game."

It is good, but you know what would be better? To have an independent chairperson like her, in charge of answering those questions; one to serve without fear or favour, a luxury even the most powerful cricket administrators have never enjoyed.