Home > Cricket Development > Opinion: Of Expats playing cricket….

Opinion: Of Expats playing cricket….

Is it a good thing? or a bad one? What kind of a response does one expect when one says that a country, like Norway, is now playing cricket and has a standing in Europe, and then you find out that all the people playing over there are Pakistanis, who lived in Pakistan till they were 25, and recently moved?

The same is the case with Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE, USA, Canada, and many other countries.

Here is my take on this subject, which recently has become quite a heated debate because people use these examples to show how cricket is not really expanding.

First of all, the subject is not a simple one. I have come to the conclusion that what you have to distinguish between are citizens and non citizens. Citizens can be of any ethnicity, you cannot go ahead and tell them that they cannot play because they dont represent the ethnic majority. And in any case, if the US citizens of Pakistani origin can go ahead and decide who the next president of the free world should be, then looking down upon their playing of cricket and saying "They arent really americans" is a little foolish. Let them play, because if they play, their kids will play, and their kids, who probably would go to US schools and have friends from other ethnicities may bring them into the game. It hasnt happenned as yet in either US or Canada, or has happenned very little, but nonetheless, it is something that one would hope happens….. maybe in 20 years, maybe 30, maybe 40.

Thats actually the second thing. Recent Immigrants playing cricket is like sowing a seed. It is not like getting on with the harvest. Something is likely to happen after quite sometime. Because of the fact that there are only 10 countries that play cricket, we end up getting obsessed with standard. UAE, USA and Canada are quite high in standard, but not because they have a good cricket structure. Its becuase these are the countries of choice for South Asian immigrants, who are obsessed with cricket. On the other hand, you have countries like Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, Argentina, Italy (to quite and extent), Malaysia, Uganda, Nepal etc who maybe be as high or lower in standard, but it is because of their system, not number or quality of immigrants. Ideally, what should happen is that the ICC focusses, promotes and finances these countries, that have the right system in place. But the ICC, while trying to be a quantitative and fair body, ends up focussing on the immigrant based countries, because they have a higher standard.

ICC should do away with the rule that allows 2 players to represent a country after 4 years of residence. Think about it, a student comes from Pakistan to Canada to study for 4 years, and after graduation finds a job and starts working. That guy is also allowed to play cricket for Canada!?!? Thats just crazy. Additionally, once he has been working for 3 years, in ICC's eyes, he is a deemed national, and they can have as many as those in the team!?!?! I believe the ICC needs to fix their regulation of players. Allow only citizens, and in addition to that set a time limit of at least 10 years of residency before someone can take up 1 of the two spots for deemed nationals. Otherwise, might as well do away with all of them and allow anyone from anywhere to come and play for any country !

Now, one thing about expats that is very important. They contribute in setting up the cricketing economy. The expats have to play on a pitch, so they pool in to get that going. They organize the leagues, they set up the practice and create the demand for the cricker equipment import into that country. They also get the cricket clinics going and at times invite coaches to come and teach the skills. In other words, expats finance the cricket strucutre. Finally, since they already have a high standard of play, if the locals do play them, their practise is much better than what they could have achieved on their own, and it is likely to make their progress quicker. The downside is that the locals may be sidelined altogether, in which case you will be stuck with an immigrant tag with cricket and it would create a barrier for people to get into the game in the first place.

Hence the immigrants do all this, and it paves the way, sets up the structure for the locals to start getting involved in the game. As as example, take a local kid. He is more likely to just show up, if he is provided with the kit, ground, other players etc. than if he is supposed to take care of all those things himself and additionally also get the cricket kit imported.

The ICC, because it bases everything ONLY on standard and not on structure/ participation, what happens is that an immigrant based cricket country cannot take advantage of many things because it really is swimming in deep water for them. For example, take Canada. They have been given ODI status, and their response to that was as lukewarm as Pakistan's response would be if they were given the highest match tag for figure skating. The way in which all of Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland are likely to use their ODI match tag is much better compared to what Canada will end up doing.

So to summarize, only recent expats playing cricket is not a bad thing. It is just an extremely early stage of being able to call anything about it. It should be left at that, and no one should get overly excited about USA having the highest number of adult cricketers in all the associate countries.

The other very important thing to take into account is that expats only playing cricket is not necesarily a process that will lead locals eventually ending up playing. You can see from UAE, USA that whether locals will just pick up the game, or they will not, changes from country to country. The same process used in one country cannot be applied to the next. One can go and play in a village center in an african country and by the end of the day you will have at least 100 people who are interested in learning the game. But you can play all that you want in a park in California, and 99 times out of a 100 people will go about their own thing. In some countries a concerted effort has to be made to bring people into the game. Otherwise, even the second generation of immigrants is going to give up the game and get mainstreamed.

Categories: Cricket Development
  1. Cuen Lucas
    June 3, 2006 at 4:31 am

    I’ve been thinking about what you’ve written for a while now and here’s how I see it, there’s two seperate categories, One where immigrants bring cricket to a country, and the second is where immigrants are playing in a country where cricket is already established.

    The first category is easily the one with the higher potential, because from there it can only grow. The second category needs to be watched more carefully, because you need to strike a balance between allowing immigrants to prpgress through the ranks whilst also making sure that the locals aren’t marginalised or even shut out completely, especially at a junior level.
    The country that is probably facing this decision the most at this point is Denmark, a look at their junior teams shows a good balance at this point, but the DCB has to make sure that the balance is maintained.

    As for how the ICC can help in this regard, you’ve made a very good point, I agree that the “Deemed National” category should go, because it’s you don’t even have to spend four years in a country, it only needs to be 183 days per year for four years, and it makes for far too many loopholes.

    The other way the ICC can help (I think we’ve discussed this in another article in this blog) to allocate funding in a way that favours those countries that work hard to mainstream cricket within their country, maybe not on base funding allowances, put some kind of incentives, be it money, equipment or even expertise.

  2. June 4, 2006 at 12:15 am


    I dont see how a sports body can differenciate between citizens of a country based on ethnicity, without creating widespread criticism for itself.

    For example, take Zishan Shah from Denmark. His parents are from Pakistan, but he was born in Copenhagen and has lived all his life over there and learnt cricket in Denmark. Now, can someone go to him and say that he may be marginalizing a player from the ethnic majortiy, and hence needs to stand down? I dont think thats going to happen, and actually, I dont think thats the right thing to do either. One should not differenciate between citizens of a country.

    All of UAE, USA, Canada are different. They have recent immigrants playing the game. Thats different becasue the players are not a product of the local system.

    The only thing that the body can do, as you have mentioned, is to try and get more and more ethnic majority involved in the game. But that does not mean that for their U15 team selection, they should start having a quota. In the case of Denamrk, the mainstream number is not going down because the South Asian kids are better, it is going down because 90% of the selection pool is South Asian.

    btw…. where are you based?

  3. Cuen Lucas
    June 4, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Well, form that point of view Nasir, you are absolutely correct. However I wasn’t suggesting a quota system, because (I’ll explain this later) I have absolutely no belief in those.
    Instead what I was pointing more towards was that mainstreaming iniatives
    take centre priority because (In my opinion) the children of South Asian immigrants have a higher chance of picking up bat or ball as a result of encouragement from their parents, and will work their way up from there, by no means should a talented player have to “stand down”, I do apologise for my lack of clarity in what I was trying to say.

    To answer your question, I’m South African, and THIS is why I don’t believe in the quota system, because I’ve seen it for myself.
    If you cast a wide enough net, you’ll find talent from all walks of life, but it takes time, and only now is a lot of this work here starting to bear fruit with that talent beginning to rise throught the ranks, and the United Cricket Board of South Africa has actually petitioned the South African government to have the quota system scrapped.

  4. Nishadh Rego
    August 11, 2006 at 7:13 am

    I think both UAE and USA have cases similar to Denmark. In the current UAE squad I know that 10 players at least have been born, brought up, and have played all their cricket in the country. The reason their level has been so high is because they are competing constant with the real expats. The real problem lies with other Gulf Countries such as Bahrain Oman Qatar and Kuwait, who seem to be profiting immensely from the ICC rules.

  5. August 11, 2006 at 10:34 am

    UAE does have a few born and bred players…… in that sense, they should technically be called minorities and not expats, because they arent……… but given UAE’s demographics, where officially 50% of the country is South Asian, they arent minorities either……..

    The problem in UAE is one of focus…….. nobody backs the UAE team…… why? People come in throngs of 25K to back India or Pakistan, but even these born and bred South Asian minorities dont come to back the UAE national team playing……. it was perhaps because of this that Ehsan Mani told UAE that they need to get the nationals involved……. Football is obviously a 100 times bigger sport in UAE than cricket…… why? if the patronizing population is the same ratio, then why?

  6. Nishadh Rego
    August 12, 2006 at 1:35 am

    Thats true.considering the fact that its these people who are actually representing the country, a good observation.

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