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Opinion: Off the grid

I would like to mention 5 countries that the ICC seems to be ignoring despite having huge potential, both interms of ICC's business of cricket, and also the spread.

Japan: I am baffled at why the ICC does not show the kind of interest in Japan the way it does in the US, even a 10th of that. First, lets get the thing clear about economy. Japan is the second largest economy in the world, and is half both in size and economy to the US. But unlike the US where the game is expat based, it is not so in Japan. Their national team comprises 90% of indegenous Japanese players, recently, they also had a predominantly Japanese club winning their domestic championship. Their structure of cricket is pretty good, and they are using their expats in the best manner i.e. to raise the standard of play for the indegenous players. This is unlike countries like USA, Canada, UAE and the other Gulf countries where the expats are just, well, raising the standards of other expats. Additionally, last year, they got the associate status, but their junior involvement programs are the thing that really impresses. Everyday they have some activity going on, they have taken the game to the schools. Their association website is one of the most frequently updated associate site, but the problem is that it hardly gets attention because it is in Japanese. Cricket is established in about 15 Universities in Japan. I do not understand why the ICC would go around and try to do project USA and the sorts, while ignoring Japan, which obviously has a lower standard of play at the momment, but a bigger indegenous cricket market and a better chance for the game to develop. Not to mention a population of 124 million people.

Italy: One of the higest number of junior involvement programs in the world in 2005 (5000 kids), Italy is now a division 1 team in Europe and will play in the Div 1 competition with the best in Europe minus England this year. One would be surprised that the team is not an expat based team either, though there are 3-4 expats in all the age level teams, 70-80% of the team is indegenously italian. Their national team however, is mostly from Italians who are based in Australia or South Africa. But thats their national team. Looking at their domestic teams, you will see the 70-80% number that I am talking about. Plus they have a good structure to give exposure to all age levels. 6th Richest country in the world, and a population of 60 million, I dont know why the ICC gives them a cold shoulder.

Greece (Hellas): Outside of an island, called Corfu, not many people except the expats play cricket in Greece. But the population of Corfu is 100K, 5 times that of ICC favorites Turks and Caicos, Cook Islands, and about 2 times that of Bermuda, Guernsey etc. And they are apparently crazy for cricket in the Island of Corfu, which is why, quite surprisingly, the entire Greek cricket team is formed of indegenous Greeks, and as far as I know, it has been like that for the last 10 years or so. But they do have infrastructure problems in terms of not having grounds etc, and the poverty level in Corfu being a little higher than the rest of Greece. Still, the ICC has a foothold in a small area of Greece, and they should ideally try to give them exposure and try to expand the game from there. ICC complains about the lack of cricket culture in non test playing countries, but here they have one that has a cricket culture albiet on a small Island, they can still expand from there if given the right resources and ICC help.

Chile: Currently, they have mostly expats in their team. But if you look at the amount of Cricket they organize for their kids, through schools and cities, if you look at the amount of tours that take place between Chile age level teams and Argentina etc, it is quite amazing, perhaps more than any other non test country that I know of. Also, looking at their U15 and U13 teams tells you how popular the game is amongst kids over there, though realistically it will not be more popular than football, but it is quite good that culturally they have taken onto cricket without any problems. Their national team currently lost out in Suriname, but the teams preparations etc got decent press coverage.

Malaysia: Ok, first of all, Malaysia lost only to Nepal in the Asia U19 qualifier, and we all know that Nepal was not really an associate team in the U19 WC 06 was it in terms of standard. They have the higest number of junior cricketers in the world outside of test nations. And they have been runners up in Asia for U19 level since 2004. They also have decent interest in the sport, and decent media exposure to live cricket. With about 11000 active cricketers in the country, and another 10000 who are intersted in the game but not active cricketers, it is funny to me how not only the ICC, but even the ACC doesnt put in some extra effort into them to raise their standard. Not to mention that they are perhaps the only associate country who have already given contracts to their players (ok, Bermuda has also done that now till the world cup) in order to make them play cricket all day. But they seriously lack the chances to play against better teams.

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Categories: General Cricket, Japan
  1. Cuen Lucas
    March 22, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    There’s no doubt that these countries are making great strides in the development of cricket and the ICC would get great returns on it’s investment, but why no cash? The only pattern I can see is relatively weak, and if the ICC is thinking along thse lines I would be thoroughly disappointed.
    It seems that these countries are “out of the spotlight” on the intl. front.

    Japan are at best #2 in their region behind Papua New Guinea (Though frankly I see Japan as having more potential)

    Italy and Hellas find themselves competing for money with the likes of The Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland and Denmark, and even Turks and Caicos islands as you pointed out.

    Chile are still quite young, having only been on the cricketing scene for about 4 years, but it the eyes of the ICC are clearly looking mostly towards North America, even Argentina appears to have fallen by the wayside.

    And Malaysia are in the Asia development region where even if you take India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh out of the picture, you still have
    the likes of Nepal and China, so Malaysia have a lot to do in order to get extra investment from the ICC.

  2. March 23, 2006 at 11:37 am

    Japan may not be #2 in their region. I think Fiji may be #2. The problem is that Japan (population of 124 mil) has to compete with Cook Islands (population of 20K people) for ICC funds. That is fine if the world cup spot is at stake, you want to ensure that the best team gets to the world cup. But development overall should not be based on performance alone. ICC knows that, which is why they were coming into a very weak country, USA, with virtually no mainstream americans playing the game, with $9 mil 2 years back. But it seems that this display of common sense was only limited to US for the ICC, which is strange.

    Japan will surpass both Fiji and PNG eventually. These 2 countries have been playing cricket for a 100 years, and if they were seriously interested in the game, they would have done something by now. It seems that they are more interested in Rugby, which is fine.

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