Home > Cricket Development > After the settling of the dust …

After the settling of the dust …

It has been 4 days of fuming over the ICCs decision to have an invitation only WC in 2015. It is time now to take a look at this decision from a logical perspective once again, keeping all parties in mind to see, what exactly happenned.

First, if I was Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, I would have voted against a qualifier as well. From almost every perspective, it was against the interest of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to have a qualifier. They know they are not heads and shoulders above Ireland, Afghanistan, Netherlands or Scotland. Their matchup in the qualifier could have gone either way, especially if the qualifier was actually held in Europe with conditions more suited to the likes of Ireland/Scotland. Getting knocked out of the world cup would have meant loss of the shared world cup revenue (which can be as much as $10M for the participating boards), loss of publicity for the game in the country, and loss of the world stage on which their players could have shown that they belong in that category. Interestingly, the associates also argued for the last 2 points for themselves, but it is not considered in the same light. Time was needed for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to widen the gap between themselves and the associates, and eight years of exposure to top flight cricket, and full nation funding, will definitely provide that. After that time, there would be no hesitation in participating in the qualifier becasue even your B team should be able to win against the associates.

The problem is that a board exists so that the best collectively beneficial decision can be taken. And in particular a sport’s governing body exists so that even if a decision is in the favor of the 10 powerful members, but against the interest of the weaker members or the sport itself, it can be overridden. The ICC essentially failed to do what it was supposed to. Perhaps that is why neither does the ICC want to talk about this, nor have they even updated this piece of information as of 3 days after the news on their website. They do know that it is the wrong decision, and probably also against their own constitution.

Countries like Ireland, Netherlands, Afghanistan etc are very unique cricketing countries. Not only are they HPP countries, but they are not Ex Colonies of the British Empire. The spread of the game in these countries is purely because of other reasons. One of the biggest flaws of Cricket was that it was, until 1960s, goverened by something called the Imperial Cricket Council, which made sure that the game was only allowed in top status in Colonies. In many ways, we are now back to being that, and it also seems that something that was considered a misplaced stigma against the sport of Cricket, was actually, the truth.

Is it ok to have a 10 team league? People say there were too many mismatches in the 2011 world cup so it is good to restrict the teams in the next edition. In reality, you still will have Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, West Indies playing in the 2015 edition, and thats a 25 games out of a total 45. Bangladesh may have been ok in their own conditions, but I would not bank on them to provide thrillers on the WACA pitch against Australia.

Complaints about the tournament being too long were correct, but it was not because of the associates. Personally, I am getting to believing that because the ICC wants India, Aus, Eng to stay in the tournament for 90% of the competition, they are just using the number of associates as an excuse. The interesting thing is that even the popular cricket experts are buying it. The next world cup will STILL be 45 days long, because the ICC doesnt want to have the 3 hour overlap between 2 games if they were to go with 2 games in a day. They will still have a 6 week long tournament. This world cup, and the 2 previous ones, were too long because they didnt play 2 games in the day. You can even have 6 teams in the tournament, but if you play a game every 2 days, it will be a “dragged” tournament as the pace of the tournament is slow by itself.

The other thing about increasing the associates in the T20 also seems to be a commercial decision, rather than a developmental one.  If you just look at the airtime, 3 T20 games equal 1 ODI game. If the ICC had a choice to have an invitational only T20 WC for 10 teams, they would. But it would have meant only 15 days of cricket. By expanding to 16 teams, and I wouldnt be surprised if they were to take that to 20 or 24 in the future, you can make the tournament go longer, with the financial powerhouses of India, Aus and Eng still in it for the most part. It is difficult for me to believe that the ICC’s decision of expanding the T20 WC to 16 was due to expansion of the game, especially after the annoucement of the 2015 WC participants.

Anyone who talked about Kenya and Canada’s performance in the world cup should have just been told that they are not the top 4 associates, and that the ICC will fix the qualification structure in the future to ensure that better teams like Afghanistan and Scotland are not sitting out next time. But the ICC just nodded their head. It like one of those things that if you want to do something, you will find all sorts of excuses to do it.

Now looking at the other countries that voted for the exclusion, they were probably told by the ICC that if it is a 10 team league, then ICC can sell the rights for $110M instead of the $90M that they can with the 14 team world cup. Those members took a decision in their best interest, as eventually the money is divided amongst the full members. Running a business is not just about commerce, although thats the most important thing. There is social responsibility, adhering to the spirit of a constitution, Fairness, Honesty and all sorts of other things that come into the picture. It seems, that they did not in this case.

Now the mismatches. Yes, there were mismatches involving the associates. I agree that a drubbing does not help the associate in any way. While many people say that mismatches have also been there involving test teams, like Sri-Eng Qtr final, they have to understand that it is different. When an associate comes in to play, they are EXPECTED to be drubbed. When it happens over an 8 hour period, the viewer does tend to look at it as a waste of time. However, if you are looking at the NZ-Sri drubbing, it is always different. Even at 50-5 chasing 300, the viewer looks at NZ with some hope, because they do have players who have proven to be able to score centuries still playing, or even if the test team is batting first and is 20-4, they are expected to recover, as they have the players. If they dont, the viewership sentiments are different, as opposed to when a minnow gets drubbed. I was actually ok with even a 10 team world cup, although 12 would have been better. But without a qualifier? What world cup does not have a qualifying tournament?

I remember that it was always funny to me that the MLB played a world series at the end of the season, but the world series, only involved Canada and US, mostly just US teams. It was probably ok to call it world series, even if the teams that reached the final were always from US and Canada, as long as other countries had a chance to qualify. It seems that Cricket learnt, after years of laughing, that in reality they also wanted to do the same thing.

Cricket development is very very unique, as there are no European leagues where good players from other countries can go and play to imporve themselves like in Soccer. There is the IPL, but it has only 10 teams, and its only 1 league. Top European soccer leagues are around 10, and they all happen at the same time, so there is no chance of a Chris Gayle becoming a freelance player in all of them. There are more oppurtunities in Soccer. Cricket development requires a LOT of personal sacrifice, community sacrifice, wasted talent, frustration, and a lot of sufferring to play the game that you love, particularly to get to being a competitive HPP associate. There is no monetary value that can be assigned to all this, and they ONLY reward that can work for these people, is that some day, they can look back and feel that their commitment, their sacrifice, was worthwhile.

For the ICC, and the full members, to tell them that it is not …. it is perhaps the most blatant example of a governing body not functioning at all.

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Categories: Cricket Development
  1. Ram
    April 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Mike Selvey unearth’s more on the decision here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2011/apr/07/ireland-cricket-world-cup-india

    The more people talk about it and greater the ICC’s silence on this issue, I find it more obvious that it was ESPN-STAR who actually called the shots at the meeting than the actual Full Members like Ind, Eng or Aus. First, why did it have to be 10 and not 11 or 12 or 14 teams? If it was 14, the format had to be the same as this year’s and would mean a fair share of one-sided matches involving non-test nations as we saw with Ken or Can (which is a valid point). If those teams couldn’t attract more than a few thousand even in the ODI-crazy subcontinent, what is the probability that they will attract a crowd at all in Aus/NZ? With 11 or 12 teams in a round-robin, the tournament would have been too long at 58 or 69 matches respectively, which is definitely not doable in 4 weeks.

    But then, why not 12 teams in 2 groups of 6? That would mean only 37 matches (1996 format) or 42 games (1999), less than the contractually agreed upon 45. They would have had to go for Super 8s instead to get to 45, but then that’s a format everyone dreads post-2007! Based on all these factors, the ICC decided last year that 10 was the most optimal number and was just playing the waiting game till this year’s event got over to see if the lesser nations did anything spectacular so that the same format could be retained (which I feel should have been considered given the success of this tournament).

    As for the absence of qualifiers, there is again an obligation that ALL 10 full members must be part of the WC. You can now see why ICC was non-committal all this while about the qualification process even though it had announced the 10-team format before. But, what is overlooked amidst all this euphoria is the decision to stick to this format for 2019 as well. Has the ICC decided 8 years ahead that its development program wouldn’t be good enough to produce a couple more Irelands by then?

  2. April 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    If you look at the highest breadearners for the ICC (Ind, Aus, Eng), then in 2011 WC Eng never played Aus, Pak or NZ, Aus never played SA, WI or Eng, and Ind did not get to play NZ. SA never played Pak, Sri or Aus. All of these games have a huge viewership market, not just in these countries, but also globally. How do you ensure that these games take place? The only way is the 10 team league.

    I dont know if there is any obligation that all full members must play in a WC, you had the 2009 T20 which was held in England despite England saying that they will not allow Zimbabwe to play. And they didnt. But the WC was not cancelled, it was not taken away from England, nobody cried foul. Scotland was drafted in and things went merrily along.

    My personal opinion : ICC and the Full Members can do whatever they want, whenever they want. If they want to do something, they will find a way to do it.

  3. Ram
    April 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    The contract with ESPN-STAR was signed in late 2006 before the advent of Ireland and the T20 WC, so to guarantee maximum returns they might have asked for all 10 FM to participate…The reason that clause must have been included only for the main WC and not T20 is because the ICC then was not sure and only promised a T20 or a Champions Trophy (with the elite teams) every other year, with the ODI WC being the main breadearner…

    But why the sudden decision to decide on the number for 2019 as well, 8 years ahead of time?….I think this is probably the first time ICC is deciding on playing matters so far before an event…The only reason I can think of is Eng do not want to share any games with Ire or Sco and so want to make sure as early as possible that it’s again a closed shop…

  4. April 8, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Ram, I doubt that ESPN-STAR will throw too much fit over Zimbabwe not being able to play in the world cup, but they might if Bangladesh is not there. However, if instead of Bangladesh, ESPN-STAR gets 4 extra games for Ind, Aus, and Eng against Big Test teams, I think purely from a commercial perspective ESPN-STAR would be ok with it, maybe even happier.

    Thats my complaint on this whole issue. When it suited them, they took a commerce based decision. When it did not suit them, they ignored the commerce based decision.

    Regarding the contract with ESPN-STAR, they are going into renegotiation I hear, which is why the 10 team decision was taken only 6 months ago.

    If the ICC wants a 10 team tournament because they only want the most skilled teams playing, so be it. How do they decide that given the same exposure as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Ireland or Afghanistan would not be the more skilled teams by 2015?

    If you tie a person’s hand behind his back, it is not possible to have a fair fight. Give Ireland/Afghanistan the same funding and the same oppurtunities as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe for the next 4 years, then just select the 2 best. Thats the only way you can get to the elite competition that everyone is talking about.

    NO world cup in the past has ever been a closed shop tournament in the past. NONE. So how can something that has been happenning for 40 years be wrong? Incidentally, if India had been kicked out of the 1983 World Cup because of their dismal performances in the 1975 and 1979 (they even lost to the associate team) world cups, where would the cricketing landscape be?

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