Mercenaries in Associate teams
I started this blog in 2005. It was very active till 2008, and then work and other commitments meant that I had to take a hiatus. There have been brief spurts of revival, but unless there is full commitment, these things tend to go downhill. As blogs go, if they are not updated regularly, the traffic drops off as well.
Rambling aside, it is amazing how in the last 7 years, the issues have stayed the same and some have done full circle. I can even repost some of the articles from before and they would still be relevant.
World T20 Qualifier is less than a week away. Geriant Jones is now going to feature in the PNG team. Michael Di Vunutu is in the Italy team. Swart, Van der Gugten, Cooper (from Australia) are in the Netherlands team. UAE, despite being a hotbed for cricket matches since 1984, still relies on Pakistani players to stay competitive, and couldn’t even field a team for Asian games when the passport restriction came about.
A debate on the Switch Hit Cricket Show suggested that this was all good for the teams. The countries themselves also suggest that this is really good, as they get to work with a professional player and learn a lot from him.
This is, by far, the most pointless and never ending debate of all time.
The truth is simple. The players see this as an oppurtunity to revive a fledgling career … and a chance to play at the world cup. The country’s development programme is unable to raise the standard high enough through proper means, and want to artifiially raise it by other means, hence getting more ICC funding if their ranking goes higher. Geriant Jones didn’t line up to play for PNG when they lost to Hong Kong in WCL Div 3.
Is this all bad? Maybe not if it is moderated, max 4 players in a squad of 14. But given that the associates need ICC funding which blindly looks at the ranking of the team, it makes more sense for the associates to look elsewhere for players that their own system cannot produce. Netherlands in recent years has gone completely bonkers in this regard. Reminds me of a very amusing interview of the Netherlands coach during the Caribbean T20 this year when he explained the Netherlands development strategy as being one where they “are aggressively scouting for players in other countries”. Already, their starting XI includes Swart (Aus), Myburgh (SA), Cooper (Aus), Ten Doeschate (SA), Gugten (Aus), Borren (NZ), Schwarzinski (SA), Baresi (SA). Their team is going higher and higher in ICC rankings, while their playing numbers are dropping, and junior numbers are dropping even more.
International Cricket is NOT franchise cricket. This mercenary culture is in many ways unfair to teams that are completely indegenous. Kenya might have dropped significantly from their heydays, but if a strict representation policy is enforced in ICC, Kenya will end up in top 1-2 associates again. Afghanistan would have a much easier task at hand, and so would PNG, Nepal, Uganda, Namibia etc. Mercenary culture starts creating a model which is unsustainble. You get to a standard because you have some infrastructure, a certain player base, certain amount of public interest, certain natural talent, lifestyle and culture. From that point, the ICC can help you take the next step by funding and fixtures. But if you got there through artificial power injections, then you will stay at that level, or regress no matter what others do for you.
Plus what exactly will anyone get out of say, Netherlands winning the ICC World T20 Qualifier? Knowledge that there are active domestic cricketers in Aus and SA?
So to summarize, it is not the end of the world for development that Geriant Jones is playing for PNG. But if this is a successful strategy, in 5 years time there may be 6-7 English/ Aus players in PNG team.