An emergency board meeting on Thursday could decide the fate of suspended International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Manu Sawhney, according to sources.
Pressure had been mounting on chair Greg Barclay to table the escalating saga at upcoming meetings next week with some board directors concerned at the ”absolute silence” over the contentious issue, which threatens to further fracture the sport’s powerbrokers.
But in a twist, board directors were notified on Wednesday about the imminent extraordinary meeting. The ICC has previously said it wouldn’t comment until the process had concluded.
Sawhney, who was hired in 2019 and has a year left on his contract, was put on leave in March after a workplace culture review conducted by PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) alleged misconduct from the Singaporean, which included “targeted acts of bullying against certain staff” and “physical aggression such as fist banging”.
As I first reported, Sawhney launched an extraordinary defense against those allegations during his disciplinary hearing with Barclay on June 17, believing he has been the victim of a “witch hunt”.
Barclay subsequently told the board a decision on Sawhney was imminent. As I first reported he sent an email to board directors on June 21, which I have seen, and said the ICC was “following a process as per our own internal requirements and pursuant to Dubai labour laws and which, as Chair, I am tasked to carry out”.
Pending some limited further investigation, I am close to making a decision and I will revert to you shortly,” he wrote.
It is unclear what decision he has made – if any – although the prevailing sentiment is that Sawhney’s brief tenure is over. In the disciplinary hearing, Sawhney said he would ”appeal any guilty decision to the board”.
In an email to board directors on July 7, which I have seen, Sawhney reiterated his earlier statement during the disciplinary hearing and believed the process had been taken “without accountability, transparency or fairness”.
“I have grave doubts over whether my case has even been presented to the board, whether accurately or at all,” he wrote.
One board director, according to sources, had written to Barclay asking for the issue to be tabled at the board meetings on July 14-15 ahead of the ICC’s AGM on July 18.
A section of the board has been “disappointed” not to have had access to the PwC Report, which cost $160,000 according to sources. During his disciplinary hearing, Sawhney labelled the report as a “generic” assessment of workplace culture and said it had only been seen by three directors on the board, while four others received feedback on its content.
According to sources, the report was only sent to a select group on the board because Barclay was “concerned of leaks”. But it has led to disenchantment on an already divided board underlined by last year’s bitter chair election between Barclay and Imran Khwaja, who is the deputy chair.
The Sawhney issue was not raised at the last board meeting in June. “This is a board issue and there needs to be debate,” a source close to the situation told me.
“He (Barclay) can have his verdict but then needs to take it to the board, who should make the final call. It was the board who hired the CEO.”
The air of mistrust stems back to the chair election, which swung in Barclay’s favor as the elongated voting process wore on after furious lobbying from the all-powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) behind the scenes, according to sources.
Barclay was dubbed as the “compromise candidate” by Indian media after surprisingly running for the top role on the back of important support from the BCCI.
Eyebrows have been raised over the Sawhney saga being cast in the backdrop and has become the elephant in the room for this divided board.
There has been absolute silence from the board over this issue and directors haven’t been asking questions,” an insider told me. “People take sides and don’t want to upset the wrong people.”
At a meeting late last year, in the aftermath of the chair election, board directors highlighted the need for the PwC review to be “conducted in a fully transparent manner” and ensure it did not turn into a “witch hunt”.
Those disenchanted on the board will finally get their wish with a fiery extraordinary meeting anticipated.