SYDNEY (AFP) Former Australian prime minister John Howard has welcomed Indias new-found influence over world cricket as he prepares to become the sports governing body chief in 2012. Howard, who is facing a challenge to win over Asian nations, according to Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan, said Indias growing power was positive for the sport. India is the second most populous country in the world, its cricket-mad, they are pluses, Howard told state radio on Wednesday. I think its entirely wrong to look at the Indian involvement in cricket in a negative light. I think of those millions of people in India and the sub-continent... who play cricket. They play it with a passion and love it. Howard, a self-confessed cricket tragic, has been nominated for the rotating International Cricket Council presidency and will take over from Indias Sharad Pawar in 2012. Muralitharan said he had forgiven Howard for labelling him a chucker, but added that it would not be easy for the conservative former leader to get South Asian nations on-side. It wont be an easy job. He has to convince the subcontinent thats going to be a tough challenge for him, Muralitharan told the Sydney Morning Herald. Indias huge market has made it crickets most important powerbase, with its Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament handing out lucrative contracts to the worlds best players. Howard also defended his suitability for the role despite having no experience of sports administration, unlike the New Zealand contender John Anderson. I think the fact I havent been involved in cricket administration is explained by the fact I had a day job which made that rather difficult, he said in reference to his 30-year stint in politics.