More on mercenaries in Associate Cricket …

March 31, 2012 6 comments

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.

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Categories: Cricket Development

Mercenaries in Associate teams

March 7, 2012 2 comments

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.

Categories: Cricket Development

“Everytime I walk onto the field as captain of Japan is a special moment for me”

April 26, 2011 1 comment

A concise, but informative interview with Masaomi Kobayshi in the run up to World Cricket League Division 7 in Botswana.

I must say its great to see mainstream sites such as Cricinfo taking a greater interest in associate level cricket.

Categories: Cricket Development

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