Interesting article on Cricket Monthly about the current situation of Dutch cricket.
It is good that the Dutch are shooting for a team that is 80% born and bred in Netherlands by 2018. The question would be, what standard will that team be at? To me, a country that cannot be in the top 6 associates with a born and bred (at least bred) team just isn’t ready for the next step to be playing the full members.
It seems that every time there is a cricket world cup, 2 discussions always come up. One, whether the associates should be playing the current world cup, and secondly, whether they should be playing the next world cup.
The ICC’s argument is that it needs money to fund associate cricket. In order to do that it has to maximize the TV revenue it can get from a world cup. It has already created a 45 day tournament, so now it is about maximizing the money it can extract out of those games. Ind vs UAE sells for a lot less than Ind v Eng, so lets ensure the latter. The associates don’t disagree with the fact that they need the funding, but they want to showcase their skills at the world stage.
Of all the world cups, this particular world cup should not have generated this debate. One, it was not just the associate games which were one sided, the ones between the test teams (including all quarters, one semi and the final) were also one sided. Secondly, Bangladesh qualified over England, and Ireland should have qualified over WI (why bother with NRR in a 2 way tie?). So it wasn’t the foregone conclusion that everyone thought it would be at the beginning of the tournament. Zimbabwe should have won their game against Pakistan, and Ireland, and maybe even India. They also played very well against South Africa.
But I love how the ICC tries to justify the reduction of the teams to 10.
“World Cup should be played between equal teams”.
Going by the current tournament, that would mean reduction to 5, not 10.
“The World Cup should not go on for this long”.
Well, the next one with 4 teams less is 2 days longer. Thats because it is the same number of games.
“ICC wants to have one marquee game in a day”.
Ok, then have 1 marquee game and 1 not so marquee game. The tournament should be finished in 30 days if they had played 2 games a day. One day and one day/night. the first one can be the one involving the associate, and the second one can be the one that is the marquee game. Specially in the Aus/NZ context, this would have meant only a 2 hour overlap, and most viewers can pick and choose what they want to do in that case. It is just ridiculous to expect a tournament to maintain interest and reach climax over 45-50 days. I think 30 days is the magic number, which has worked well for soccer, and also cricket world cups before 2000.
Personally, I think the 1999 format can work. It reduces the associates by 2, but at least thats better (and fairer) than them having to slug it out with 2 well funded test teams for the 2 spots.
But lets say the 1999 format is not an option and we must play a 10 team league. First, the question is why? Is it because we all think 1992 worked very well? It worked well because in those days, the top 8 teams were not playing each other year around outside of the world cup, and also because a completely new team (South Africa) started throwing all predictions off the table.
But lets assume that the 10 team format is it.
I think Michael Holding’s idea for reducing the number of automatic qualification from top 8, to top 6. The bottom 4 ranked teams, which currently are Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Pakistan and West Indies, would then have to play the top 6 associates to qualify. Im assuming such a qualification tournament would also be a 10 team round robin tournament, where every one of the six associates has at least 4 shots to tip a full member and take their spot. I think that is as reasonable as you can get in an inherently unfair system. But at least it is something.
But there are multiple problems with this. One, what if Ireland beats WI, or Pakistan? or Ken beats WI? One upset can always happen, and it has happened in the past. Would a world cup of cricket really be a world cup without either WI or Pak in the final 10? What will be said of the qualifier who may underperform at the main event? This looks very similar to the idea of the super 8s in the 2007 world cup, where the upset has not been taken into account. Personally, given the passion that Bangladesh people have for the game, I don’t see the point of even having them have to go through a qualifier. How can a celebration of the sport be complete with the absence of a team representing 150M followers?
Second, what if either Aus or Eng, or god forbid (for ICC) India, end up in the bottom 4 positions? What if they were to get knocked out? The ICC is making a format which it considers fair, and at the same time, it probably can’t even fund the main tournament if one of Aus, Eng or Ind go missing from it. FIFA makes a format and says its equal for everyone. it doesn’t matter if France doesn’t qualify, or Greece or someone else. Thats the format. This one is based on unfairness. And I always thought that the ICC was in place to ensure fairness. Otherwise the boards can manage their finances better.
But still, I think lets go ahead with top 6 automatically qualifying, and see what happens.
Given that the ICC has already decided that the qualifier will be in Bangladesh (since the conditions are so similar to the main tournament in England!!), it seems that the ICC is unlikely to change the number, and is at the moment willing to take the risk on only Zimbabwe not making it. But you have to keep in mind that Afghanistan did beat Bangladesh in Bangladesh. In my opinion, it will be a pity no matter who qualifies.
The Dutch had a great T20 WC. Well, there was that 39 all out v Srilanka, but they still ended the tournament well. First they qualified for the Super 10, and the manner in which they did was so unbelievable that even a harsh critic like me, who was disappointed at Ireland getting knocked out, was left mesmerized. Then the game against SA which they should have won. The one against NZ which they probably played as well as anyone for 80% of the game. And the final win over England, which really was a boring one sided match involving a test team and an associate
But what happens next. I think the ICC would have to make an exception for the Dutch after this showing, and perhaps persist with their ODI status, and also make them part of the next WC Qualifier cycle. ICC has invested a lot in dutch cricket in terms of TAPP funding and also giving them ODI games over the last so many years, that it would be silly to send them back to the wilderness now.
Overall though, the current Dutch team was still the motley crew of players from all over the world. Logan Van Beek, and Van Gughten dont even play in Topklasse, while most of the others are not products of Dutch development system. This is why teams like Napal, Afghanistan and Ireland were more exciting prospects than the dutch in the first round. But when someone chases 193 in 13.4 overs, there is nothing that one can say to deny them their spotlight.
It can be argued, that while many of the players in the national team might not be residents, at least the team was representative of the Dutch Topklasse, because all of Borren, Baressi, Ben Cooper, Tom Cooper, Swart, Myburgh etc play in that league. These are good players from elsewhere who are attracted to the Dutch domestic league because it gives them an oppurtunity to play in a world cup. And if that incentive was not there, then Netherlands would have had a tough time paying them to come over and play. Them playing in the league raises its standards, and apparently the standard is high enough to be able to give test teams a good run in t20. But there is still something very flawed with the idea that a country can manufacture a team like a franchise, and be in the limelight more than countries with thousands of followers like Nepal, PNG and Uganda.
We have to wait and see what happens. I would still expect that the ICC will make a special exception for the Dutch. And after looking at the UAE team, which was the most unfit, and most unskilled team in the T20 WC, the Dutch would have been a lot better in the 2015 WC.
I came across this article by Rod Lyall at CricketEurope. Its a good article to read.
I have usually been at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to major publications on this topic. People have almost always talked about how I am politically incorrect. But it seems that after almost 8 years of ranting, finally, things seem to be making sense to others.
Let me make one point. Every single country on this planet has 11 cricket players, and can hence form a national team. Take the example of some south american country, like Paraguay, and I am sure there are 11 eleven players in that country who play cricket in their backyard. The high performance program is not just about getting someone to play cricket, it is about helping associate countries, maybe the top 10, to be competitive with the top 8 test teams.
So how does someone get into the HPP? By being in the top 10. One would assume that you are in the top 10 because you have a lot of things going for you:
1) Cricket can attract and sustain the attention, interest and imagination of a kid in that country below the age of 10. There are some facilities available where he can realize his passion, and this is happening for enough kids for this to be a competitive exercise. Given the lifestyle, the kid is not losing the interest to other sports or activities. The culture in the country is one that is at least somewhat supportive of him playing the game.
2) Same as (1) but for the kid from age 11-19
3) After that age, whether cricket is marketable, organized enough for them to at least get to semi professional level, whether the standard of the domestic cricket can maintain some reasonable amateur standard (read Ireland level from 2007). Whether the “appetite” for cricket is for it’s own team, or some other country’s team.
If you have this setting, and the associate is performing in the top 10 consistently, there is a real shot at identifying the growth areas, meaning that there is some plant that can be watered.
Now break this setting. Take the example of UAE, Canada or USA. Are the showing that cricket can survive in that country if you look at (1) – (3)? Is Netherlands showing that? Or Hong Kong? Oman? Italy? They are not.
Lets just get UAE out of the way. Waqar Younis grew up in UAE, but I didnt see him tearaway through associate ranks for that country. Tanvir Ahmed, a recent Pakistani test bowler, was born and grew up in Kuwait, but as soon as they realized he was actually a high standard player, guess who he represented. I will probably never forget the second biggest joke that was Ather Laeeq (Pakistan) bowling to Arshad Laeeq (UAE), and they were brothers, both living in Pakistan. Just that one brother was not really international standard, so he decided to turn out for UAE instead, before he returned to play for his domestic team in Pakistan. I call it the second biggest joke, because the biggest joke is when cricket writers refer to the UAE team as the Arabs. Errr ….. anyone with an iota of brain would know that they reason NONE of the Pakistani, Indian or Sri lankan kids born in UAE have a nationality is becuase they are NOT considered Arabs (Emirati) by the UAE government themselves. The Arabs DONT play cricket in UAE, and even if some do, it is not of HPP standard, and there are not many of them. So there, thats the answer to whether UAE should or should not be in HPP, or World Cup or not.
A kid who goes to College in the US or Canada for education, can at the end of this four year degree, qualify to play for these countries in a world cup qualifying event. Cricket has in it’s history a few things that differentiates it from other sports, and one of them is the perpetual international nature of the contest, which brings with it a lot of things that perhaps shorter international sports dont. For example, you do get to learn a lot about other countries when on an away tour. This kind of a tradition should probably not be nullified so easily, and if all that we care about is standard, and not who is playing, then perhaps giving Australia A ODI status should be the way forward !
Who is showing (1)-(3) above? The answer is simple, and it was the same 8 years ago: Ireland, Afghanistan, Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia, Scotland and Papua New Guinea.
So if the ICC can only invest in 6-8 countries, how is it a good idea to support a country whose claim to fame is that they are able to get 6 domestic players from Aus/SA/NZ/Pak/Ind to come and play for them? If you have to parachute players in, in my book that means you are in the wrong league, and not ready for the funding that you are getting. If you put up a false face, and show some high level of achievement with the national team that does not reflect the state of cricket in your country, then at least the ICC should not be blindly giving you any funds for showing progress. Unless off course, googling, sending emails, and finding loopholes in ICCs playing regulations is considered development effort.
And lets also spare the talk about England also having KP, Morgan, Trott etc in their lineup. At least if they leave, there are still other players who can keep England floating in the Top 8 teams in the world. It would not be that losing four imported South Africans would throw England to affiliate status. And really, England was in the inventor of the game, its not really a developing associate to worry about this stuff now.
I started this blog in 2005. It was very active till 2008, and then work and other commitments meant that I had to take a hiatus. There have been brief spurts of revival, but unless there is full commitment, these things tend to go downhill. As blogs go, if they are not updated regularly, the traffic drops off as well.
Rambling aside, it is amazing how in the last 7 years, the issues have stayed the same and some have done full circle. I can even repost some of the articles from before and they would still be relevant.
World T20 Qualifier is less than a week away. Geriant Jones is now going to feature in the PNG team. Michael Di Vunutu is in the Italy team. Swart, Van der Gugten, Cooper (from Australia) are in the Netherlands team. UAE, despite being a hotbed for cricket matches since 1984, still relies on Pakistani players to stay competitive, and couldn’t even field a team for Asian games when the passport restriction came about.
A debate on the Switch Hit Cricket Show suggested that this was all good for the teams. The countries themselves also suggest that this is really good, as they get to work with a professional player and learn a lot from him.
This is, by far, the most pointless and never ending debate of all time.
The truth is simple. The players see this as an oppurtunity to revive a fledgling career … and a chance to play at the world cup. The country’s development programme is unable to raise the standard high enough through proper means, and want to artifiially raise it by other means, hence getting more ICC funding if their ranking goes higher. Geriant Jones didn’t line up to play for PNG when they lost to Hong Kong in WCL Div 3.
Is this all bad? Maybe not if it is moderated, max 4 players in a squad of 14. But given that the associates need ICC funding which blindly looks at the ranking of the team, it makes more sense for the associates to look elsewhere for players that their own system cannot produce. Netherlands in recent years has gone completely bonkers in this regard. Reminds me of a very amusing interview of the Netherlands coach during the Caribbean T20 this year when he explained the Netherlands development strategy as being one where they “are aggressively scouting for players in other countries”. Already, their starting XI includes Swart (Aus), Myburgh (SA), Cooper (Aus), Ten Doeschate (SA), Gugten (Aus), Borren (NZ), Schwarzinski (SA), Baresi (SA). Their team is going higher and higher in ICC rankings, while their playing numbers are dropping, and junior numbers are dropping even more.
International Cricket is NOT franchise cricket. This mercenary culture is in many ways unfair to teams that are completely indegenous. Kenya might have dropped significantly from their heydays, but if a strict representation policy is enforced in ICC, Kenya will end up in top 1-2 associates again. Afghanistan would have a much easier task at hand, and so would PNG, Nepal, Uganda, Namibia etc. Mercenary culture starts creating a model which is unsustainble. You get to a standard because you have some infrastructure, a certain player base, certain amount of public interest, certain natural talent, lifestyle and culture. From that point, the ICC can help you take the next step by funding and fixtures. But if you got there through artificial power injections, then you will stay at that level, or regress no matter what others do for you.
Plus what exactly will anyone get out of say, Netherlands winning the ICC World T20 Qualifier? Knowledge that there are active domestic cricketers in Aus and SA?
So to summarize, it is not the end of the world for development that Geriant Jones is playing for PNG. But if this is a successful strategy, in 5 years time there may be 6-7 English/ Aus players in PNG team.
I must say its great to see mainstream sites such as Cricinfo taking a greater interest in associate level cricket.