Home > Cricket Development > Going back to composite teams ….

Going back to composite teams ….

In the last 5 years, the ICC took a few decisions that many believed were great steps for cricket development in the associate world. The expansion of the world cup, first to 6, then 4 associates was one. Giving ODI status to the top 6 teams was another. Trying to get full members to play the associates was another. Increasing funding to HPP countries was another step.

Perhaps I am a pessimist. But none of these have really worked in the way we thought they would. The world cup, is shrinking back from 2015 onwards, the ODI status by itself has not been an attractive carrot for the full members for varying reasons. Afghanistan, probably did not play a single Full Member for the 2 years they have had the status. The reasoning for this is different for different teams; Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have too much to lose and not much to gain by playing the associates regularly, and the big teams would rather play countries where they can sell TV rights and make big money back home, which happens only for strong opposition and not a weak one.

The fundamental problem, and I will confess, the naivety of it all has been that we ignored that in this day and age, commerce is an ingredient that cannot be ignored. It cannot be ignored by the associates, and it cannot be ignored by the full members either. Out of the 9 test boards, 5 are cash strapped, trying to come up with ways in which they can improve their bottomlines, and playing associates is not going to help them there. Instead of incurring the cost of hosting, or sending their team, they would be better off not doing anything, and saving the money, or trying to utilize the time to do something that generates some revenue.

In all of this, associate cricket, and cricket in general suffers. It suffers in the European countries as they lose their “Test level” players to England, and it suffers in the African countries as their “Test level” players …. well …. just rot away. The ICC has enough flak to deal with for giving Bangladesh Test status. And currently they face the situation that Pakistan, WI, NZ and Bangladesh are all below 100 in the test rankings. Taking a couple of associates and giving them test status will be difficult, especially since they need to bring Zimbabwe back to life at some point in time, and all new comers seem to need a 10 year break in period in which, well, others are doing them a favor by playing them.

I have an idea, which is by no means new, and we have seen variations of this idea floated before. The idea is to make 2 composite test teams. One would be East Africa, comprising of Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zambia and Malawi players. The other would be North Europe, comprising of Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Italy, Jersey, Denmark, Guernsey, Belgium players. I know that some of these countries dont necessarily fit into the geography identified by the team name, and they are exceptions.

Now both East Africa (which btw was there until mid nineties) and North Europe would be test teams, having their place on the FTP. It is assumed that the composite nature of these teams will raise the standard of the team to a much higher level than the individual countries. While Zimbabwe might not be able to produce 11 test level cricketers right now, they definitely have 3 in Taylor, Price and Taibu. The point is that because the teams will be stronger, there will be less friction regarding playing them from bigger test nations, their players will get the oppurtunity to improve their game and take it beyond first class level. The players will also have a platform to create a name for themselves, much better than what they get in almost obscure, once in a year games today. As part of FTP, East Africa will play both test and ODIs.

In global events however, like World Cup, T20 championship, Olympics or something else, the composite teams cannot play, only individual countries can. However, when the individual countries play, they are likely to be much stronger, as they will be featuring 3-4 test level cricketers. The opposition to including the associates in the World Cup would then reduce as there would be a viewship for the associate games as well.

Additionally, what can also be done is that Composite teams play ODIs only on away tours, but on home series, they dont play ODIs; instead the ODI status countries will play the ODIs against the visiting team. Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands can all play 2 games each against the visiting side for example. This kind of structure will give the national boards the oppurtunity to build their own brands as well, and will also give the public in a specific country to support their team outside of the world cup. This model however does not serve those players well who dont belong to ODI status countries but are part of the composite team.

Qualification would be very strict for the composite team so as to prevent misuse, which most definitely will happen. Existing ICC rules are too lax, and while they can be kept for the individual countries, the composite team qualification would also require that you have lived in the country for 70% of the first 20 years of your life in that country. The last thing we need is that first class cricketers can Australia start representing North Europe !!

The fact that the composite team represents a certain geographical region will still attract common sponsors, though I dont know if it can be more efficient than a per country one. Public support for the home games is another issue, but if proper branding is done, there is no reason why this cannot be achieved. I mean, somehow IPL Mumbai franchise is also able to sell Andrew Symonds and Kieron Pollard to the Mumbaites, it should also be possible for North Europe.

The teams can be managed and paid for by the ICC. They can contract 25 players for each team. There can be a maximum quota of perhaps 6-8 players per country in that 25. If one country starts dominating the team, and also the composite team becomes a world beater, then it would be time to extract that country from the composite set up and give them Full status on their own, depending upon their U19 and A team strengths. Otherwise, the composite structure can keep continuing.

Despite going back full circle, this is in my opinion, a much faster way to improve the standard, and stature of the associate countries. Also, the fact that composite teams can play home games in different countries prevents the boycotts that seem to hurt countries like Zimbabwe: Australia, or England can have their tour games scheduled in Kenya or Uganda. They dont mind playing Zimbabwe, they only mind playing IN Zimbabwe.

If the North Europe team has 2 of the world’s greatest batsmen and 2 of the world greatest bowlers, then whatever associate country they belong to, the cricketing world would want to see those teams playing in the world cup.

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Categories: Cricket Development
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