More on mercenaries in Associate Cricket …
I came across this article by Rod Lyall at CricketEurope. Its a good article to read.
I have usually been at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to major publications on this topic. People have almost always talked about how I am politically incorrect. But it seems that after almost 8 years of ranting, finally, things seem to be making sense to others.
Let me make one point. Every single country on this planet has 11 cricket players, and can hence form a national team. Take the example of some south american country, like Paraguay, and I am sure there are 11 eleven players in that country who play cricket in their backyard. The high performance program is not just about getting someone to play cricket, it is about helping associate countries, maybe the top 10, to be competitive with the top 8 test teams.
So how does someone get into the HPP? By being in the top 10. One would assume that you are in the top 10 because you have a lot of things going for you:
1) Cricket can attract and sustain the attention, interest and imagination of a kid in that country below the age of 10. There are some facilities available where he can realize his passion, and this is happening for enough kids for this to be a competitive exercise. Given the lifestyle, the kid is not losing the interest to other sports or activities. The culture in the country is one that is at least somewhat supportive of him playing the game.
2) Same as (1) but for the kid from age 11-19
3) After that age, whether cricket is marketable, organized enough for them to at least get to semi professional level, whether the standard of the domestic cricket can maintain some reasonable amateur standard (read Ireland level from 2007). Whether the “appetite” for cricket is for it’s own team, or some other country’s team.
If you have this setting, and the associate is performing in the top 10 consistently, there is a real shot at identifying the growth areas, meaning that there is some plant that can be watered.
Now break this setting. Take the example of UAE, Canada or USA. Are the showing that cricket can survive in that country if you look at (1) – (3)? Is Netherlands showing that? Or Hong Kong? Oman? Italy? They are not.
Lets just get UAE out of the way. Waqar Younis grew up in UAE, but I didnt see him tearaway through associate ranks for that country. Tanvir Ahmed, a recent Pakistani test bowler, was born and grew up in Kuwait, but as soon as they realized he was actually a high standard player, guess who he represented. I will probably never forget the second biggest joke that was Ather Laeeq (Pakistan) bowling to Arshad Laeeq (UAE), and they were brothers, both living in Pakistan. Just that one brother was not really international standard, so he decided to turn out for UAE instead, before he returned to play for his domestic team in Pakistan. I call it the second biggest joke, because the biggest joke is when cricket writers refer to the UAE team as the Arabs. Errr ….. anyone with an iota of brain would know that they reason NONE of the Pakistani, Indian or Sri lankan kids born in UAE have a nationality is becuase they are NOT considered Arabs (Emirati) by the UAE government themselves. The Arabs DONT play cricket in UAE, and even if some do, it is not of HPP standard, and there are not many of them. So there, thats the answer to whether UAE should or should not be in HPP, or World Cup or not.
A kid who goes to College in the US or Canada for education, can at the end of this four year degree, qualify to play for these countries in a world cup qualifying event. Cricket has in it’s history a few things that differentiates it from other sports, and one of them is the perpetual international nature of the contest, which brings with it a lot of things that perhaps shorter international sports dont. For example, you do get to learn a lot about other countries when on an away tour. This kind of a tradition should probably not be nullified so easily, and if all that we care about is standard, and not who is playing, then perhaps giving Australia A ODI status should be the way forward !
Who is showing (1)-(3) above? The answer is simple, and it was the same 8 years ago: Ireland, Afghanistan, Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia, Scotland and Papua New Guinea.
So if the ICC can only invest in 6-8 countries, how is it a good idea to support a country whose claim to fame is that they are able to get 6 domestic players from Aus/SA/NZ/Pak/Ind to come and play for them? If you have to parachute players in, in my book that means you are in the wrong league, and not ready for the funding that you are getting. If you put up a false face, and show some high level of achievement with the national team that does not reflect the state of cricket in your country, then at least the ICC should not be blindly giving you any funds for showing progress. Unless off course, googling, sending emails, and finding loopholes in ICCs playing regulations is considered development effort.
And lets also spare the talk about England also having KP, Morgan, Trott etc in their lineup. At least if they leave, there are still other players who can keep England floating in the Top 8 teams in the world. It would not be that losing four imported South Africans would throw England to affiliate status. And really, England was in the inventor of the game, its not really a developing associate to worry about this stuff now.