Melbourne/New Delhi: Australia's hawkish former prime minister John Howard was rejected as cricket's future chief after making too many enemies during his time in politics, insiders say.
Howard's nomination as vice-president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) fell flat in Singapore on Wednesday when seven of the 10 Test-playing nations dismissed his bid.
Officials rejected suggestions that the strong Afro-Asian bloc in the ICC had divided world cricket by refusing to side with the former PM, 70, who was backed by Australia, New Zealand and England.
His nomination by the ICC, which should have been a formality, became a bone of contention in April when Zimbabwe raised the red flag on the sidelines of a governing body meeting in Dubai.
Zimbabwe vehemently protested against Howard, who during his 11-year reign as prime minister was one of autocratic President Robert Mugabe's most vocal critics. He also blocked an Australian cricket tour of the country in 2007.
South Africa backed its African neighbours and were soon joined by Sri Lanka, whom Howard angered in the 1990s by calling their star spinner and current world record holder Muttiah Muralidaran a "chucker".
Howard visited Zimbabwe earlier this month to pacify the Mugabe-backed Zimbabwean cricket board, but South African officials refused to meet him when he turned up in Johannesburg for crisis talks.
Howard's fate was sealed when India, cricket's financial superpower which generates almost 80 percent of the sport's revenues, chose to side with its African counterparts.
India's stand was backed by the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and even old foes Pakistan, who have usually formed a united front when dealing with contentious cricket issues.
Others felt that Howard did not have the requisite experience.
"Frankly, we did not want an outsider to meddle with the ICC," the official from the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said.
"There was nothing personal against Howard. But we do accept the argument that only a man with previous experience in cricket administration should head the ICC.
"Howard was not involved with Cricket Australia at any time."
Sri Lanka cricket chief Somchandra de Silva agreed in comments before the Singapore meeting.
"On principle it is wrong to bring someone from outside for the vice-presidency," he said. "We will support anyone from Australia and New Zealand who is a representative of the ICC, but not anyone from outside."
If Howard, a self-confessed "cricket tragic," had been voted in, he would have succeeded incoming ICC president Sharad Pawar of India in 2012 for a two-year period.
Instead, Australia and New Zealand have been told to nominate another candidate by August 31, with long-serving New Zealand cricket official Sir John Anderson the expected choice.
Trouble began for Howard even before his name was put forward by Australia and New Zealand, whose turn it was to nominate a candidate for vice-president as per the ICC's rotational system.
New Zealand had wanted Anderson to get the job and both sides refused to back down. An independent committee formed to break the deadlock voted in favour of Howard in March.
The rejection of Howard's nomination is, however, unlikely to affect the BCCI's ties with Australia, who are due to tour India in October for two Test matches and three one-day internationals.
"We enjoy a great relationship with all boards, including Australia and New Zealand, and that will not change," the official said. "Cricket always wins."