My continued disgust with the ICC

I remain baffled, yet not surprised, by the confirmation that the ICC is reducing the number of places at its centerpiece global championship to 10 teams, 8 of which are guaranteed to be Full Members.

The ICC cited their reasons for the cut as a combination of shortening the competition length and reducing the amount of mismatches, even though both theories have been blown out of the water both off and on the field respectively.

Yet, the ICC somehow believes that reducing the amount of teams at its showpiece event is going to contribute to its supposed goal of making cricket the #1 sport in the world. What?

I've spent more time than I should defending the sport on various message boards. I point out that the India vs Pakistan World Cup match drew a higher viewing audience than pro gridiron's Superbowl. I indicate that despite the sport being relatively concentrated in Commonwealth nations, it's more popular on an individual basis than any team sport outside of soccer and basketball (and I'm pretty sure basketball vs cricket is a tight affair, some people may argue cricket is more popular). I point out that if cricket wasn't a big deal, the likes of Pepsi and LG and other global brands wouldn't be long-term sponsors.

However, no more. I can in no conscience support a "World Cup" that exists only to protect the interests of a select number of cricket nations and treats the vast majority of its members as second-class.

It is a shame that none of the other Full Members showed any dissent. Maybe the fear of losing bilateral series with the Big 3 nations overcame any desire to show objection to the process. Maybe they were content to not risk losing to Ireland or Holland in future tournaments.

It's sad that the likes of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and even Sri Lanka couldn't say, "Wait, we were once trying to get in the Big Dance, why should we shut the door on those trying to follow our footsteps."
It's sad that the West Indies, at the risk of fragmentation, didn't want to keep the door open for other small countries or territories to qualify for global competition without going through flaming hoops.
It's sad that the ECB is content to let Scotland and Ireland remain feeder programmes for England to pilfer their best talents.

It's also sad that the leading Associates haven't been more vocal with objections. Sure, we hear the outrage from individual players like Ed Joyce, Gary Wilson and Kevin O'Brien, but that's not enough. The actual cricket boards haven't been vocal, is this so they don't risk getting their (already limited) fixtures against Full Members reduced? What about those Associates with little to lose? The ones who'll never play against a higher tier nation and get pennies worth of funding?
The Essel group's venture, whatever it is, I wish them well, but I sadly don't see anybody showing the guts to break away from ICC-sanctioned events. Cricketers in Papua New Guinea or Namibia will continue their progress only to butt up on a glass ceiling with a crack big enough for maybe one at a time, every couple of years, to squeeze through (and possibly fall back down even faster).

It's not even like there's room for cricket to grow in current Member countries. Cricket's saturated in India and Pakistan. What sports are growing there? Soccer and basketball. It's already diminishing in the West Indies, and is only hovering around in England. In Australia and South Africa, it's one of three or four major team sports and isn't making any further inroads. It *has* grown rapidly in Afghanistan and a number of South Asian countries, however. It could shoot through the roof in China, but the ICC doesn't want the sport in the Olympics, so that possibility is dead in the water. Cricket's popularity can only shrink from this decision.

I'd encourage any young players from an Associate Member country with athletic talent to take up soccer or rugby instead. The barriers to national success aren't as high, unless you live in India, England or Australia. It makes no sense to dream of global success in a sport that does not want you to sniff it.
When the 2019 ICC Full Members Invitational starts, it will feature *more* matches and take a *longer* period of time to conclude. There will certainly be more dead rubber matches and we'll probably have even more blowout contests (of course in 2015 most of the blowouts were between Full Members anyway). TV audiences may be high, especially for the extra matches featuring India. But it can only go downhill from there, without the interest from outside the 'traditional' cricket nations, that may choose to embrace Rugby's or Basketball's World Cup that actually allows teams to qualify via a fair process.

1 comment:

John Meffen said...

And now that the two leading Associates, Afghanistan & Ireland, have been left out of the World Cricket League, they will no longer have regular fixtures, coming up to the next World Cup qualification, because none of lesser teams are going to risk giving them ranking points.

The 'big three' made sure that the FTP [Future Tour Programme] was dropped, just before Ire & Afg were brought onto the full ODI Rankings, but this left them in limbo, there is simply no money in it for anyone.

I give up.