Sport is actually about being idealistic. … You have to have a very long vision. You can’t think about four year cycles. – Subash Jayaraman
When December turned to the Bottle Month I wanted to blog about the Bottle Month. But no. Instead I stayed up nights watching New Zealand and Sri Lanka play ODI’s and test cricket and went to bed at dawn when the paper arrived at my door. Cricket. The whole works. Lost count of how many. This went on into February it felt like and then more cricket. You know the one. Pool stages. Forty-two matches. Fourteen cities in two countries, Australia and New Zealand and teams and fans crossing the sea; often as Russel Arnold cooed in your ear commentating. All was well in cricket heaven and even better on earth while most of North America slept. For those of us sinners across time zones, living in two time zones with the price for heaven being paid in lost sleep, another blog post postponed and before I knew it the pool stages of the cricket world cup have now come to an end. Alas I’ve yet to write the post about watching cricket with strangers in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto two world cups ago. Did not get to that either. How to? Not when you spend your nights watching even more cricket. Delighted by minnows and associate teams and slowly falling in love with them. Well may be not slowly. Falling in love fast. Then the news the ordinary cricket world woke up to that in 2019 the CWC will have only ten teams and not fourteen. Essentially excluding associate nations.
Afghanistan is one of them. With Shapoor Zadran and his Shohaib Akhtar hair and airplane simulations which never failed to delight. The Irish are also associates, standing up to South Africa and the other excellent associate being the Scottish team with the splendid bat of Koetze. The journeymen from UAE without UAE passports and their day jobs the last of the associates this time around. And the lad from Ambalangoda – Guruge — a good bowler from Sri Lanka working in the UAE and thus playing for UAE.
The pool stages of this world cup have been a celebration of outsiders and second class citizens of the cricket world. The ICC’s inbred royalty play each other in repetitious games and tournaments over and over, over after over through the years until we get treated to the outsiders every four years or so. Yes granted in 2011 Canada and Kenya were awful embarrassments. But it was a laugh. Then we forget about them because the rest of the time the ICC ignores them along with the Afghanistans and Irelands in cricket. They rarely get to play the big, sorry, top teams. I loved Afghanistan so much and knowing the limits of the Sri Lankan team without Murali even fantasized an Afghan win over the Sri Lankans and guess what; that nearly happened. Sri Lanka got the scare of their lives. Sri Lanka won that game only by a hair’s breadth. What does this say about the associate teams that are hidden away from public view the rest of the time and the ICC cricketing hierarchy? Those not seen on TV and Internet cricket channels which are dominated by the big player nations.
Without the associates the pool stages of CWC15 would’ve been dull as ditch water. But instead they thrilled and their joy was infectious. They endeared and endured. They stood up to the big guns as the whole world laughed at England. And most of all they had so much fun and so did we watching them and cheering them on. Ireland has a good administrative structure; as does Afghanistan with a lot of support from Pakistan. But UAE is pretty well fly by night in that they have day jobs. And Scotland cricket is also well established. Thus these teams rose to the top and in a way it is UAE who are the heroes of the associates at CWC15 for having come this far with very little support. Then ordinary layperson like you and I heard that ICC royalty had cut back the teams to a mere ten for CWC19. No associates. They only want the big-timers. You know the big timers like England and even Zimbabwe. And the cricket world, no not the ICC, but the real cricket world who watch and love aren’t pleased one bit. We fear CWC19 with ten teams will be a big yawn. A petition is circulating to change this so associates get to play.
Much has been said about this injustice since this world cup started; not just to the teams but to the spectators; but most of all to cricket and its growth and the diversity of its players and the diversity of how it is played. According to Subash Jayaraman, a panelist in this podcast, ICC associate nations are being restricted by full test playing nations (such as England who no longer can play cricket for toffee) at the top of the ICC hierarchy. The ICC also takes back most of the money the ICC makes which gets redistributed back amongst the top teams and only about one eighth of the budget goes to the associates. The ICC is doing very little about developing the game and spreading cricket amongst the associates and in more countries; some of them already cricket playing nations.
The panelist/s also discuss Nepal, Papua New Guinea, for example and how they can do with a little or a lot of help from their big brother neighbours India and Australia. Unlike the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan where Pakistan nurtures and supports the Afghan team Australia nor India do zilch for their cricket loving neighbours who could do with a little help. And the other question to ask is if it is fair to leave it to the magnanimity of one ICC cricket team to help another when development and nurturing of cricket amongst minor cricketing nations ought to be inbuilt into the ICC’s structure and governance.
In this timely, informative, engaging and considered podcast by The Guardian Subash Jayaraman says that the ICC does not want more member countries with full member status because the top cricket nations don’t want to share more voting powers for fear that more votes will bring chaos; whatever chaos means. This is unjust and it is wrong for cricket when the world needs to see more Afghanistans. Nepal and Papua New Guinea, and Hong Kong to name a few. The more the merrier provided they strive for a good game. It is better for the world.
In the last segment the panel discusses the possible outcomes at the Quarter final knock off stages. A Sri Lanka win is not impossible if Sri Lanka wins the toss and bats first. Pakistan could possibly beat Australia because Pakistan is now in good form. Can Bangladesh beat India? Well not as easily as even a Gayle-less West Indies could beat New Zealand.
So while you fret and worry in the approximately sixteen or so hours before the first Quarter Final match between Sri Lanka and South Africa it is essential that we understand fully how and what stands in the way of associate nations that play well being seen in the world cricket arena. This is an excellent, considered chat that should be crucial knowledge for every cricket lover, cricket fanatic and cricket tragic at this stage of the tournament.
And then there is that problem of cricket broadcasters and their meddling in matches and the very game and how and where it is played. We all ought to be up in arms or be after the ICC with our bats raised. And you still have a few hours to mull over the slightly flippant but interesting precursor to the quarters. And as Subash Jayaraman says – Anything is possible.