PNG’s Tour to Singapore: I Dig This

April 25, 2011 1 comment

Papua New Guinea’s contracted cricketers recently made a short stop over in Singapore on their way to the World Cricket League (WCL) Division 2 tournament in Dubai, where they took on the Singaporean National Team (themselves WCL Division 5 contestants) in two fifty over friendlies. For PNG this was a convenient, and cheap way to squeeze in two important practice games against decent opposition on home-turf and for the Lions, it was a chance to brood the new and young, and test out combinations before their next official tournament (likely to be the annual Saudara Cup challenge against Malaysia as they don’t have any ACC commitments in 2011). Add to this the fact that the series received coverage from the Singapore media outfit, Voxsports, and the tour was a win-win-win situation.

Yes, tours like these don’t happen often enough and the reasons for this are obvious. The assumption made by boards is that starved for funding, a short bilateral series which usually does not draw spectators, will not receive major television or radio coverage, and will therefore not generate much money, is not worth the costs! Fair enough. Often, this is a reality, however I argue that given the dire situation facing non-test playing countries in the wake of that announcement the need to make competitions such as these work has never been more important.

Ofcourse, there are more strategic ways of going about it: tap into potential markets, minimize organizational and travel costs, and advertise well!!!

Nepal, and Afghanistan, for example, both have cricket-mad populations (arguably more so than those of their more illustrious neighbors in the subcontinent). Afghanistan have ODI status, and Nepal have a competitive side arguably capable of competing with most Ranji Trophy teams. A Nepal-Afghanistan bilateral series, or a Nepal-Afghanistan-PNG tri series (if PNG were playing another WCL tournament anywhere in Asia) held in Nepal or Afghanistan would be played in front of sell-out crowds, and live TV broadcasts.

What about the world-class cricket facility in Guangzhou, China? Perhaps a Japan-China-Hong Kong tri-series under the auspices of the country’s national sports authorities?

Canada and the United States? Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa U-19s? –

Profitable? If thought out properly and managed strategically, why not? And lets not forget the benefits by proxy – players are exposed to different conditions; more matches and competitive cricket; relationships between associations and boards develop whereby future collaboration is possible; and ICC gets a great big ‘associate’ foot shoved up their ass. Ofcourse, short series like this will never substitute for qualification to a World Cup or Test Status, but they give these mostly amateur players exposure, experience, and something to work towards, as their countries climb their way up the long, and seemingly never ending cricket ladder, dreaming of mixing it with the big boys on the big screen.

Thoughts?

Categories: Cricket Development

Launching @developCricket Twitter account …

April 14, 2011 1 comment

I will be starting off my associate cricket twitter feed with the name of @developCricket. I am planning to tweet at least 10 times a day on different things regarding associate cricket, from interesting history tidbits, to statements, to opinions to news.

This will be in addition to this blog. Please follow me there as well .

Categories: Cricket Development

Cricinfo poll on the exclusion of Associates from 2015 WC …

April 11, 2011 3 comments

Cricinfo has recently done a poll on this issue which got 22K participants. The results are quite surprising for me. The question was “What do you think of the ICC decision to limit the world cup to 10 Test teams”

Disgrace – 56.88%
Tough Luck Ireland, but correct decision, as others are not good enough – 30.08%
Correct Decision, period, associates are not good enough – 13.05%

While still the majority would have liked to have the associates, the 43% who think the decision is correct are what bothers me. Who are they? So far we have not even seen anyone come out justifying this decision exception for Haroon Lorgat. But it looks like ICC is not as far off from reality as we thought.

Categories: Cricket Development

What exactly is a mini world cup?

April 9, 2011 2 comments

I have heard this from other people so much, even authors on Cricinfo, that the ICC should have a mini world cup before the actual world cup for the associates.

Isnt that the ICC Trophy? Which has been held since 1975? What exactly is the new suggestion here?

Someone said that the first week of the proper world cup should be the week in which the associates play each other along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to find the 2 teams that will play the rest of the tournament. ??? isnt that the , now defunct, world cup qualifier that everyone was asking for

Maybe people just have no idea what they are talking about and I am giving them too much credit by reading into what they are saying.

Categories: Cricket Development

World Cricket League Div 2, 2011

April 9, 2011 3 comments

A few upsets have happenned in this tournament so far. HK beating Uganda, UAE beating Namibia, and PNG beating Bermuda. Interestingly all 3 on the first day of the tournament.

2 things are critical here. Finishing in the top 2 of this league makes you part of the intercontinental cup. I am guessing on for that will be Namibia and UAE. The bottom 2 will get relegated to WCL Div 3, which means they will have it tougher to qualify for ICC Trophy 2013.

We can discuss the rest of the tournament as comments in this post.

Categories: Cricket Development

After the settling of the dust …

April 7, 2011 4 comments

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.

Categories: Cricket Development

No associates in 2015 WC …

April 4, 2011 2 comments

Wow …. after 1 month of believing that ICC will never be able to do the absolute unthinkable …. that the case for a qualifying tournament was so obvious that it didnt even need much discussion …. we get the news today, briefly after ICC said that they would be considering a 12 team world cup, that they will not only stick to a 10 team tournament, but also limit that only to Full Members.

Calling a spade a spade …. the ICC basically is giving time to Zimbabwe and Bangaldesh to become heads and shoulders above the associates before the qualifying tournament gets underway for 2019…. then it wont be an issue, just like Australia will not have any problems competing with Kenya or Netherlands to qualify for a world cup today. We will wait for 8 years, give the weak Test teams the funding and the high class opposition so that they cant be knocked out from a qualifying competition ….

Now the only thing left is to change the name of the tournament to Champions Trophy, instead of a World Cup …. The ICC has shown that perhaps, depsite the change in their name in the 60s, they have remained an “Imperial Cricket Council” … No other tournament that calls itself the world cup has taken a decision like this one in which you dont have a qualifying tournament and basically kick out 4 teams because they are too weak, and include 2 handpicked ones which are also weak because , well , they are full members. Even a qualifying tournament was unfair given the funding and playing disparitites between the associates and the full members, but at least the existance of one would have not blocked out the associates completely.

Eight years ago, Kenya was a considered the best associate team …. 8 years of no high quality competition, no encouragement, no monitoring etc has led them to the dismal state that they are in today. In 8 years time, we will also be talking about Ireland in the same way. ICC didnt learn the most important lesson from the Kenya episode, that you have to take action when the time is right. Cricket in associate countries goes backwards very quickly if the right form of encouragement is not in place. The game in both Netherlands and Denmark, and to quite an extent, Kenya, is an example of that.

A kid in an associate country is told that he cannot play cricket at the highest level. Already he is not making any money out of it, and now he is told that he can not get the world stage either. His talent may deserve it (e.g O Brien, Dockerell, Hiral Patel, C Obuya etc) … but well …. we have some buddies in the full member club, who incidently were asked to vote on whether they wanted to be kicked out ….

Given that Ireland outrank Zimbabwe in the ICC ODI rankings, despite Zimbabwe being given more oppurtunities against Full members in 2010 than Ireland have been given for last 4-5 years, this decision seems even more foolish. Ireland lost by 27 runs against Bangladesh, a game that they should have won, and that might have propelled them into the quarter finals.

Absolutely pathetic. Truly one of those things that make me wonder why I write on this blog, if the people who have an obligation to spread the game act like it is a “members only” club. The ICC has shown that it is nothing more than a summarizer of what the Full Member countries want. It doesnt actually protect the game of cricket. It just baffles ones mind that the governing body of a sport can take a decision like this. Throughout this world cup, ICC has been saying the ODI world cup is the “one that counts”, as opposed to the T20 one. India are celebrating their vicotry “after 28 years”, not after 4 years (2007 T20). There is obviously a big difference between ODI and T20, and the ICC wants to sell it one way to the Test teams, and another way to the associates.

Categories: Cricket Development