Professionalism in the Associates
I was talking to someone yesterday and I realized something. Something that is fundamental to raising the standard of the associate nations compared to the test teams.
Nepal just beat NZ and SA at the U19 level. Now, if you were to take the same players from these countries 10 years into the future, when they are all 28-29, and have a rematch, what do you think is going to happen? In almost all cases, NZ and SA are going to beat Nepal by margins of 100 runs.
So what will happen between now and the next 10 years that such a dramatic difference in standard is going to be created?
The biggest reason would be that the Nepalese boys are going to go on with their lives, they will get a regular job, and cricket for them would end up being only a hobby, a recreation for the weekends. The NZ and SA boys are however going to go back and find contracts with their domestic teams, or retainers from their cricket bodies, and will be practising their cricket 8 hours a day/5 days a week and also get paid well for it. They have the environment to become professionals, while the Nepalese dont.
The problem for the Nepalese players is, that they cant even look around for professional contracts. India, the country which is a stone throw from Nepal and has a lot of money in Cricket, has virtually no interest in their domestic cricket, and has tonnes of players waiting on the sidelines for their domestic teams who are either better or as good as the Nepal players. In any case, there is a general tendency in test nations, the nations that have some salaried first class cricketers, to employ their own players in the domestic system, because no test country has a domestic system which is a product unto it’s own or has any passion associated with it. I noticed something strange, but understandable last year when Bangladesh was touring England. Though the matches were one sided, the attendance in the Eng v Ban matches was still higher than what England gets in their county setup, despite those matches being better contests. Unfortunately, when it comes to cricket, people have passion ONLY for the national country teams.
The only associate countries getting any chance in other’s domestic are the Ugandans and the Zimbabweans. This usually happens because SA have a policy to incorporate black cricketers into their leagues so that they create good role models for the black kids in SA. In any case, I dont think that the Ugandans, Zimbabweans or the Kenyans play in South African first class cricket. I think its just some second or thrid tier clubs. I have heard that some Cook Islands players play in NZ domestic, but we are not talking about 20 players, but perhaps 1 or 2.
Now, both Nepal and Uganda have the crowds, and they have the interest (about 10K registered players in Nepal and a whopping 34K in Uganda). But their cricket associations cannot afford to invite other teams and host them for a month long tour. The only associate association that is financially strong enough to host other teams is UAE.
Hence spurring the cricket industry in a country is a different problem that the ICC faces, and it is definitely not helped by the fact that there exists no passion for any country’s domestic game. Otherwise, lets say that the European countries in Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and England had the passion for their own club cricket like they have for their football, then most of the players from the associates could have gotten employment in them, and once you had about 10 professionals from an assocaite country, you would know that their national team would be one of good standard.
As an endnote, I would like to mention this MLB backed World Baseball Classic which is a baseball world cup taking place in march. Now there have been baseball world cups before, but this is the first one that is backed by MLB, and hence this is the true world cup with the best players playing in them. There are 16 teams participating, and except for Taiwan, all other teams are composed of MLB players. The whole South Korean and Japanese teams are comprised to players who play in the MLB. Now when they will compete, they will be able to compete well in the world cup (there should not be many one sided competitions) because there is no amateur v professional battle like in cricket. That would in turn spur the baseball industries in these countries (well, baseball in Taiwan, Japan, Domican Republic, Cuba and South Korea doesn’t need any spurring) but it would in other countries like China, Italy perhaps.
It is so pathetic, that despite having a viewership of over 2 billion, cricket is stuck in a limbo in this regard, and can do nothing like the MLB.