Home > Cricket Development > Opinion: What is the big deal with expats?

Opinion: What is the big deal with expats?

This question keeps on coming up…… in the last one month we have seen UAE dominate ACC Trophy, with Hong Kong getting into the WCQS Div III, and Norway getting into Euro Div I……………. on every occasion people have been posting that it is ok for expat based countries to win these spots ‘because that is how cricket starts’……

I think, either everyone else is missing the point, or I am……

Cricket is a professional sport. It is an extremely extremely unlikely situation that amateur teams from the associates will ever be able to rise up to be world champions without the sport becoming professional in these countries….. at least at the national level. One of the MOST important things, for any team to become professional is to have public following. Without that, nothing can be done. Obviously, you are a professioanal if people follow what you are doing. if nobody cares, then being an amateur is the best you can hope for. Govt backing is also very important, but one feels that barring exceptions like the Ontario govt grant to OCA, it is generally reflective of the public following. If the population in general is following the game, the govt grant will come.

Countries like UAE, USA and to some extent perhaps Canada are non starters in this regard. USA’s qualification in the 2004 champions trophy could not create a whimper amongst even the expat population in the US. I have personally known many registered US cricketers who stayed up the whole night to watch India v Pakistan match in the 2004 Champions Trophy, but did not even know until the tournament started that the USA team was playing in it, and on top of that could hardly name 2-3 players from the US team. Were the 15K registered cricketers in the US tuning in to follow the US match verses Australia? or New Zealand?? Recently the West indies select XI came to play a couple of games against USA team in New York…. to this day, we dont even have a score card for that match, not even on the bulletin boards. US U19 team played South Africa, West Indies and Australia….. and no reaction………….

Who are we kidding??

UAE has played a few ODIs…… why is it that the same market that India and Pakistan find so lucrative for their bilateral games is a nothing market when it comes to UAE games??? Thats because there is no public support for the UAE national team from the expats. Is Hong Kong jumping with joy at the momment that they have qualified for WCQS Div III???

It is typically countries like USA, UAE, Norway etc that overshadow the countries where cricket is actually developing.

Here is another example…… what would happen in Nepal if there is a India v Pakistan cricket match there? answer, the ground is going to be full, at least 30K people. Now, what would happen in Nepal if there was a India v Nepal cricket match?? Answer, the ground is going to be overflowing, and the streets are going to be deserted, even though its a mismatch. The same is the case with Afghanistan. What is going to happen in Scotland if there is an India v Pakistan match?? 5K people?? 3.5K people were in the ground for the Scotland v Pakistan match as well, and that was limited by the available seating, with the Scotland board saying that they turned away as many people asking for the tickets in the last 1 week because there was no seating available…. there was enough interest in that game that BBC Scotland was covering the audio live……. Ireland was able to get 7K people to back the national team in the ODI vs England, and also live coverage in on Free to air TV, which was basically targetted towards the Irish and not England………..

So why is it in the UAE that India v Pakistan matches can get 30K people to show up, while if there was a game the next day between Pakistan and UAE, hardly anyone would show up?? You can tell by the previous ODIs that UAE has played…. I have seen UAE play an ODI vs Pakistan in Sharjah in the early 90s and there were hardly any people in the ground…………

In such situations….. does it make sense to persist with the idea that ‘this is how the game expands’??

Categories: Cricket Development
  1. August 28, 2006 at 6:27 am


    You are probably still missing a point. In Nepal there has been talk of playing a few Indian cricketers in the national team just to compete with teams like UAE and Hong Kong. I don’t see that it would be a possibility but there are talks about it. I see it bad because it can bring down the morale of the local players. If Nepal starts playing, say, 5 Indians in the team then there remains only 9 seats for the locals and that means many would just leave the game and that way the popularity of the game decreases.

    The second thing is globalization doesn’t mean cricket in many nations but its correct meaning should be cricket among diverse population and that won’t happen with the expat players. UAE played in 1996 World Cup and if playing expats help local cricket then what had happened in UAE in these 10 years.

  2. Cuen Lucas
    August 28, 2006 at 9:11 am

    Ujjwal makes a very important point in the second sentence in his post, it looks like a lot of countries are staying with expat teams so they can remain competitive in the short term with other expat based teams, basically, it’s a vicious cycle.

    However, I am pretty sure that if ANY board were to instead pay less attention to short-term results and instead spread cricket amongst the ENTIRE population, they would struggle for a while, but after an 8-10 year period would begin to gain strength at a rapid pace. Why? Because they have a vastly larger talent pool to draw from, as well as considerable sponsorship money and government grants as well.

    As for your question regarding match turnouts for international games, the answer is a cultural one. Sometimes some people emigrate to another country and even become citizens, but they still consider themselves part of their origional country. It’s something that has happened (for example) a lot of South Africans who have moved to Australia, they may be in Australia, even be Australian citizens, but still think of themselves as South Africans. Obviously this is not always the case, but it does happen.

  3. Ram
    August 28, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    For all those who defend the presence of expat-based teams by saying that cricket spread with the help of expats, I’ve to make a point here….

    Till now, cricket development in the current Test nations took place on its own by starting from expats…That’s fine as long as we are prepared to wait for decades and be content with 8 or 10 countries playing Test cricket…But now, that’s not so with the ICC’s Development program in place where one bad performance can result in loss of ICC funding to another country…

    Expat-based teams DO deserve backing but we must remember that there are teams that’ve already moved on to the next stage by having indigenous sides thanks to good development programs in place….Obviously, these promising countries deserve their fair share before expat-based teams….Not the other way round, as it seems to be happening now…

  4. August 29, 2006 at 11:28 am


    We have waited for decades for UAE team to become non expat….. if it cant become mainstream, at least it should become born and bred……. that has not happenned in 30 years, and I would like to state that its not that there are Arabs playing cricket in the domestic leagues but cant make it to the top…… out of the 10K cricketers in UAE, there are probably less than 100 Arabs in the clubs, if that much…….

    West Indies first test team was a born and bred white team…… within 20 years, it was a black indegenous team………. UAE hasnt even moved to even born and bred in 30 years………. Hong Kong has gone from born and bred to expat………… Canada has gone from mainstream to expat….. Denmark is going from mainstream to born and bred……. yet we all content at the fact that cricket is moving forward, because the number of flags playing the game is increasing…….

  5. Ram
    August 29, 2006 at 12:07 pm


    Didn’t I mean the same albeit in a different fashion?…In what way is it justified to focus on USA or UAE ahead of Nepal/Afghanistan or even Italy/Malaysia/Argentina/Hellas, not to mention countries like Chile and Japan?….Denmark and Hong Kong are going/ have gone backwards while Canada and USA continue to be expat-based teams for decades…

    What I meant was I’ve no problems wuth the ICC looking at USA/UAE/Canada as long as the above mentioned countries got the attention they deserved…

  6. August 29, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    I agree that long term for countries to improve, they have to get the majority of the population playing the game.

    My problem is however with the difference in the terms ‘born and bred’ and ‘indigenous’. As far as I am concerned, this is something people need to get over – both are nationals/citizens of a country from birth. I am caucasian AND Kenyan. Anyone who wants to argue differently is welcome to get up at 3:00am in the morning with me to watch Kenyans compete in various sports around the World. There are plenty of people of european or asian descent in most african countries who have lived in those countries longer than they have actually been independent. Again, try telling them they are not a citizens or nationals.

    The argument regarding the West Indies is a good example. Everyone there is in effect ‘born and bred’: the black population was initially formed by escaped slaves from the USA and the whites were hardly far behind in settling there. Likewise with the USA, the only ‘indigenous’ Americans are those now refered to as ‘Native Americans’. When I was growing up, they were known as ‘American Indians’, how ironic that the argument in case centres largely around another group who could fall under that same name. In South Africa even, many of the white settler families have as much claim to being South African as the Bantu tribes that came down from the North. The real indigenous peoples are the Bushmen and there are bloody few of them left, let alone playing cricket. How many aboriginals are in the Australian cricket set up? How many Mauris are in the NZ set up? They are the ‘indigenous peoples’ after all. This may seem like being overly pedantic, but I am trying to make a point that descrimination based on race/origin is not only outdated, but also nonsensical.

    Your latest post about points based on how long someone has lived in a country makes much more sense, if only in terms of a funding criterion. Countries that are making the effort to promote the game to the greatest proportion of their youth (of whatever descent) should be rewarded for it and your suggestion would be a good way to measure this.

    Regards who should play for a country however, the ICC has some of the strictest rules regarding national qualification of any sport. If someone has met the requirements to play, they (or the country they represent) should hardly be penalised for doing so. It is in the long term interests of any country to put forward its best team possible for a match. After all, as you so rightly point out, it is a professional era. Losing matches by fielding a weaker team that you could is hardly professional.

    Reward good development programs by all means, but lay off the ‘born and bred’ players, there is enough racial discrimination in sport as it is without adding more.

  7. August 29, 2006 at 9:04 pm


    I think in any country, if a particular ethnicity used to play a sport, but suddenly stopped and the numbers went down drastically, they would care about it. It not about who is playing, but about who has stopped playing…..

    Lets say you have 100 South Asians and 900 mainstream danish kids living in a community…….. lets say that 20 years ago, 20 South Asians and 60 Danish kids used to show up to play cricket out of these 1000……… now lets say that today all 100 South Asians show up and only 10 Danish kids show up…… would you not be concerned about why the Danish number has dropped from 60 to 10?? Or would you be happy about the fact that the total number has gone up from 80 to 110? I think just the latter would be a naive analysis of the situation……..

    Now if the numbers for South asians went up to 100, and the number of Danish kids went up to 200, but all the South Asian kids were better, then by all means, it is a good situation to have a team composed only of the minority ethnicity……….

  8. rego
    August 29, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    Nasir….Where is exactly is anything of the sort happening? I don’t think Denmark or Hong Kong are seeing anything like this. Hong Kong never had mainstream chinese playing the sport, and I think it was you that said that people like Zishan Shah, and Tanmay Mishra are citizens of the country and therefore should not be treated differently. Moreover, I don’t think sport is as segregated amongst ethnicities anywhere in the world. Malaysia have three main ethnicity bases, the “indian” tamils, the Chinese, and the Malay muslims. I don’t think an increase in Tamils playing the sport has brought about a decrease in MAlays playing it…

    Everyone comes out of the same development program in most places.I don’t think countries have ethnic development programs and then when these ethnicities realize they have join other ethnicities in playing for the national team..they stop playing. Ofcourse you would be concerned if Malays just stopped playing cricket all of a sudden because Tamils are playing it..but that doesn’t happen!!

  9. August 30, 2006 at 3:18 am

    Rego…….. I believe this is happenning in Denmark……. thats the only way you can explain that their age level teams were only from South Asian descent, and at the same time were much worse than age level danish teams from before……… this year was perhaps the worst performance by the Danish age level teams in quite a few years, and it was coupled with the fact that most of their teams were from minority ethnicity……..

    What I said about Zishan Shah and Mishra is correct. They are Danish and Kenyan respectively and there is no reason to discriminate against them, and nobody is doing so either. It is not a bad thing that Danish age level teams had kids from minority ethnicity either. What IS a bad thing is that mainstream danes, are either not seriously pursuing the game, or are not getting into the system as much as they were before………….

  10. rego
    August 31, 2006 at 3:44 am

    Can you be a little specific with Denmark? I think they have some very good young “mainstream danish players coming through as well.” Even if this was the case with denmark, it is the sole example of this trend and therefore not to be worried about too much.

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