Home > Cricket Development > Opinion: Mathew Engels Wisden Article…My take…

Opinion: Mathew Engels Wisden Article…My take…

Mathew Engel wrote an article in Wisden, bordering on the foolish, launching an attack on the globalisation of cricket.  I have below, my comments on some of the statements that he has made. The excepts from Engel's article are in bold-italic, while my comments are in the normal font.

Every year, it insists, there has to be an ICC tournament of some kind, whether anyone wants it or not. It would be hard to imagine cricket more ill-timed and ill-presented than the 2004 Champions Trophy in England. But the bad ideas keep coming: the Australia v World XI Super Series, held in Australia in October 2005, was OK in theory, but the World XI players didn’t want to be there (the Australians, a month after the Ashes, were happy to kick any available arses) and nor did the people of Sydney or Melbourne. It wasn’t even the cricket season.

This argument is very unfair to ICC I think. I believe, just like Engel, that the theoratical idea of Aus v World XI was fine. I dont agree that they should have been official tests, but the theoratical idea was fine. ICC annouced this tour about 6-7 months before it actually happenned, perhaps even more. It was not possible, and it is still not possible, for the ICC to say that next week we will have Aus v World XI. Players have to be selected, assembled,international iteneraries have to be changed to make room for the tournament, weather has to be taken into consideration and a lots of other things as well. Unfortunately, England beat Australia right before the super series, and the Super Series kind of became pointless, especially since Aus ended up beating the World XI. I dont understand what Engel means by saying that World XI players didnt want to be there. I dont recall seeing the World XI players playing in chains; if they didnt want to be there, they could have chosen not to accept ICC's offer. But it takes a big man to turn down $80K for a month long outing.

This might have worked as a full-length Test series if there was ever time for such a thing. But there wasn’t, and there isn’t. Coming up: yet another ugly-looking Champions Trophy, to the delight only of TV channels with more airtime than content.

I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that the Champions trophy should be a tournament involving only the top 5-6 teams. That would give it a distinct identity seperate from the World Cup, and it would also make the tournament very short, perhaps 2 weeks, and they can fit that in around the end of September. I do agree that the Champions Trophy is very similar to the World Cup, because all the teams that matter in the world cup are playing in the Champions trophy at the momment.  

Even the 2007 World Cup will be badly flawed. What should be cricket’s greatest tournament will last 47 days (the Olympics 16, football World Cup 31), the first two weeks of which will mainly comprise no-contests. The ballooning of the World Cup derives from one fact alone: the delusion of expansion. From well-intentioned beginnings, this has now become an outright menace.

Well, I personally dont mind if the tournament is 47 days. The only question is that for the soccer world cup people take a month off and go watch the tournament, but they cannot do that for the whole of the tournament in a Cricket World Cup. Yet, I have to say that this WC format is much better than the one they experimented with in 2003. There are other formats they can try too. One is to add semi finals between the second placed teams in every pool, and only the winners of these playoffs go through to a super six round. By just having these 2 extra matches, the total number of matches can be reduced by 13 (11 net), and perhaps it can be a 40 day tournament.

But one has to understand that the tournament is not long because of the number of teams. It is because the ICC wants to give every team as much of the world stage as possible. I mean, the ICC also organized the 2001 ICC Trophy in Canada with 24 countries participating in it. The whole tournament was over in 2-3 weeks. The U19 World Cups are always only 2 week long, despite having 16 teams in them. But the actual world cup is a different story.

But I dont see why the length of the tournament is such a big issue. England can tour Australia for 4 months to play a series and its fine? But a World Cup being 47 days is a big big problem???

Before criticising, people have to understand that with 16 teams, it actually becomes a shorter tournament than the one in 2003, and the number of minnow matches are less.

In modern times cricket has only really spread within existing cricketing cultures: to the Afrikaners and, to a limited extent, the urban black community in South Africa; and from the cities to the countryside in South Asia. None of the four countries elevated to Test status since the Second World War represents a gain of territory: Pakistan and Bangladesh were simply new political entities carved out of India; in cricketing terms, the same is true of Zimbabwe , which — as Rhodesia — played in South African domestic cricket; and the rise of Sri Lanka was just a matter of degree.

Sri Lanka was a matter of degree?? What does that mean? Is Nepal a matter of Degree? Are Bhutan and Maldives a matter of degree?? What about Netherlands, Chile, Argentina, Thailand, Malaysia, Uganda, Zambia, Italy, Greece? All with a lot of new indegenous players playing the game. And I am not even counting the tiny countries like Bermuda and Gibraltar because I am sure people have their reservations regarding them as 'expansion'. I do not understand what exactly Engel is tring to say here. Is he saying that a country should not be playing international cricket until they have a million strong criket crazy population?? Thats just crap, because there are no countries like that left in the world. And if you take a holier than thou attitude with associates which have perhaps 5-10K cricketers in their countries, you will very soon see the interest dwindling in those countries (Denmark is an example of this). The only way forward is to give the top associates an international calender, live TV feeds of cricket around the world for free, and an international team that they can back and rally around.  

Wisden’s Round the World section passes its century in 2006: in 14 years we have reported on cricket in 103 countries and territories. It’s a part of Wisden I love. But with minor exceptions (Afghanistan, for instance, where war refugees brought the game back from their camps in Pakistan), it does not report on true expansion. Overwhelmingly, the game in non-traditional countries is played by expatriates, mostly South Asian.

Which is why I did mention Greece, Thailand, Malaysia, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Argentina, Italy, Chile, Netherlands, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan, even Japan. And in any case, you should not only look at the national team's composure. Also look at the composure of the U19 teams, and the U15 teams. I personally think that even 1000 indegenous players is good for a start. In a year it will grow to 2K, in 2 years it will be 4K, 4 years it would be 16 K, and in 5 years it may be 32K. One should perhaps not discount starts such as these and not consider them real expansion. Unfortunately, the teams that show up the most are not these. The gulf countries are always in the limelight as associate countries, and so are Canada and US. And they create the impression the situation is like this everywhere, and thats not true.

Journalists were kidded into believing that cricket was about to burst on China, on the basis of some warm comments by civil servants and a couple of coaching courses. I have seen not one shred of evidence to back this up. Are the kids playing with tapeballs on the streets of Shanghai? Are they heck!

I think Engel is being crazy here. He is talking like a person who has no idea about the development of a game. Without TV Coverage, in this day and age, no game can burst onto the scene in a non traditional country. So when one says that China has started the game, it is good for the game, but offcourse everyone knows that it will not be 20 years before China can make an impact. If jouranlists were thinking that the kids in the streets of Shangai are playing cricket with tape balls as soon as the ACC or ICC mentioned that China has taken up cricket, they are being naive. China HAS taken to cricket in a big way, they are planning on getting 150K kids to play cricket in the next 4-5 years, they are planning to have 40-50 school teams in the national competitions in the next year. Given that China would have nothing to do with Cricket 10 years back, this is a big breakthrough, and I think the ICC should be excited about it.

But we have to pretend, don’t we? Eight teams at a World Cup doesn’t sound global enough, other sports would sneer, and what would the IOC think? So there have to be 16. Indeed, from now on, the leading associate members will get one-day international status whenever they play a senior country: Ireland v England in Belfast on June 13, for instance. This will add another layer of distortion to cricket’s poor old statistics.

We will have to wait and see about this. No way to say how a team will be doing in 4 years time after the experiment.

Far more often than not, it will also create yet more bad cricket, leaving less time for the great contests which the public want to watch. Two terrible events, the Champions Trophy and the Afro-Asian Cup, have already been justified by the need to raise money for expansion. Millions of pounds later and — aside from the thoroughly dubious case of Kenya — what has emerged?

The public can choose not to watch the first round of the world cup, and only start in the second. Super Eights round is exactly what Engels wants the whole world cup to be. So he should just tune in after 2 weeks. Not only will he see great contests, but he will also only have to see it for 30 days. Lowlifes like myself, and nearly 150K combined cricket followers in Bermuda, Kenya, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands and Canda can watch the first round.  

The top two of the five teams who qualified for the World Cup via the ICC Trophy are Scotland and Ireland. Well, whoop-de-doo! In cricketing terms, these are not separate countries. It is just a historical quirk that the England cricket team is not called Britain or the British Isles. Every Scotsman and Irishman who gets good at cricket wants to play for England and always has done. And we have enough formlines to go on to know how good these teams are: stronger than a Minor County; worse than the weakest first-class county. About where they have always been. The idea that they can provide proper opposition for any genuine Test team is ludicrous. But the World Cup will be substantially ruined to perpetuate this myth.

The full senior matches are matches between amateurs (associate countries) and professionals (test countries). Thats one of the major reasons why there is a mismatch. I think U19 is a slightly better way to judge the countries. As far as I know, Ireland U19 lost to Eng U19 by 4 runs in Feb 2006. Nepal's heroics are well known in that tournament, but I would also like to mention Malaysia, who have been losing only to Nepal in the last 3-4 years at that level.

Ireland btw also lost to WI by only 3 runs in one of the last U19 World Cups. And they are not the top U19 side from their region, Scotland were, until they capitualted in Sri Lanka. The talent is definitely there, but the cricket economy isnt. And it seems that any attempts in that direction, which are likely to take 2-3 years, and produce lopsided stuff during that time, is not what some people want them to have either.

Dougie Brown as already responded to the first point that Engel made above about Ireland and Scotland.

Categories: Cricket Development
  1. April 15, 2006 at 6:10 am

    Engel isn’t opposing globalisation. Just the way ICC is going ahead with the globalisation in my opinion. There are points which people may not agree with but over all the point made is pertinent.

  2. Cuen Lucas
    April 16, 2006 at 12:02 am

    From the looks of it, it’s nothing more than an “old guard” rant about the new countries that are coming to the fore on the cricket scene.

    But he does make an interesting contradiction, he critisises the ICC for not doing enough to push the game outside of existing “territory”, BUT then complains about the ICC handing out the 5 temporary ODI status, which of course includes the Netherlands and Canada who come from regions that cricket normally isn’t associated with.

    Frankly this article is ill researched and short sighted and I’m having trouble taking this seriously.

  3. Ja
    August 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Hello, do you mind if i quote it in my website?

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