The ICC announcement that the 2015 World Cup would be restricted to the 10 full members, with no possibility for the Associate Nations like Ireland, Netherlands and Afghanistan to qualify has been widely denounced, and the ICC full-members have been branded cynical, greedy and self-serving. The latter accusations are transparently accurate, but I don’t think the decision is as bad as it first looks.
Frankly, the game needs money and that means television money. This isn’t true just for the full members, it’s also true for the associates who have some significant structural problems. Kenya’s team seems to come almost entirely from a handful of cricketing families, Canada’s squad contained barely a single player born in the country, and the Netherlands too is increasingly dependent on second-generation Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans with domestic development having been hit hard by the loss of televised cricket. While the incentive of participation in a World Cup every 4 years would boost their domestic structures somewhat, I’m not sure it will do more than direct handouts of cash from the ICC. There is no money available within the associates that can compare to that available from deals with Indian TV.
Also, I remember a lot of talk over the last couple of years that 50 over cricket is a dying format, and I confess that despite a handful of tight matches and the glow from home success I’m not convinced the World Cup has proved otherwise. It’s not going to be abandoned because TV likes the advertising opportunities, so let’s be cynical, greedy and self-serving, rake in the TV cash for the 50 over product, and use it to support test cricket in the countries where it isn’t otherwise financially viable (almost all of them) and to promote coaching, development and so on everywhere in the World – including the Associates.
The T20 World Cup has been expanded, and that is an opportunity for the associate nations to shine and T20 remains the best hope of winning audiences not brought up on cricket. I adore test and championship cricket and would take it over limited overs any day, but I don’t think we can expect that from people who didn’t have years of inculcation with the game to learn and love the nuances.
All of this is predicated on the Full Members self-serving, greedy cynicism being limited to ensuring their participation in the World Cup and maximising the TV money available. So, the ICC has to use the money it raises to invest in the Associates, the full members have to nurture neighbouring associates (rather than pinching their players). The ECB could reduce the number of championship matches to 12 per season by going with a 3 divisions of 7 structure that included Ireland, Scotland and the Dutch. Afghanistan could compete in Pakistani domestic cricket, Bermuda, Canada and the US could do the same in the West Indies.
None of this is impossible, and would go some way to rendering this seemingly indefensible decision one that might actually benefit world cricket.
Wouldn’t expect any fans of Irish cricket to agree though, and if you share their opinion then there is a petition against the changes…
(Mike Selvey has made a vaguely similar argument, which will teach me to procrastinate for days over writing this)
Predictions for Division 1. Division 2 is trickier, I think. One or two players having a stellar season can make all the difference. But, here goes:
Kent. Very poor seasons from Key and Jones meant that the runs that normally keep Kent in mid-table weren’t there. Along with Van Jaarsveld they should get plenty in division 2. A breakout season from Sam Northeast would help too. The bowling is poor and they are utterly broke but the batting should keep them going. 2nd
Essex: Owais Shah is the big signing. He had a poor season last year, but is usually at his best with something to prove. Ten Doeschate is the other star quality in the team. Bopara and Cook’s availability may not be required, but they are both likely to get some action. Foster will score runs again back in Division 2, and the bowling is fine at that level too. 1st
Glamorgan: A winter spent in-fighting with Dalrymple and Tom Maynard departing was not what the club needed. Mark Cosgrove averaged 50 last season, but he’s only playing T20 this one, with Alviro Petersen in as captain. Petersen looked average against India this winter, and has no experience here. I’m sceptical. On the positive side, Wagg is a very strong addition and Allenby means we have a lot of depth. If James Harris continues to develop then Glamorgan will have their first strong seam attack for years. In the batting, Maynard was promising and Dalrymple offered experience, but both also averaged sub-30 last season. Stewart Walters should be able to match that. Intangibles may be what drag us down to 6th
Leicestershire: Another club riven by in-fighting and without a pot to piss in. But Andrew McDonald is a great choice as overseas player, James Taylor will get one more season of run-scoring before he gets in the England team, moves to Notts or both, Nathan Buck should do well too. Greg Smith will once again miss much of the season while at university, which is a shame after he topped the batting averages last season. Nixon, Hoggard and Henderson provide the solidity. 3rd
Gloucestershire: Already weak batting will lose more with Porterfield moving to Warwickshire. Marshall and Franklin can’t do it on their own. Hussain, Kirby and Ireland’s 130+ wickets have gone too. In come a bunch of kids. They won’t win owt with that. Jon Lewis will need to roll back the years. 8th
Northamptonshire: A side that may have just made the step from experienced to ageing. Not enough quality to compete for promotion in a season where the quality looks higher than last. 7th
Surrey: If Tremlett is available regularly, the him, Arafat and Dernbach should take a lot of wickets. Suspect he may not play all that much, though he’ll surely play more than Kevin Pietersen. Beyond that, the bowling is anaemic. The batting is OK if Ramprakash continues to score runs. If, at 41, his productivity dips then they have problems. 4th
Middlesex: Some very good recruitment. Rogers, Collymore and Ireland should all improve the team. Could really do with Finn and Morgan not making the England test team though, as there isn’t much depth. 5th
Derbyshire: Khawaja and Guptill should replace Chris Rogers’ runs but Peterson and Wagg’s allr-round contribution will be difficult to cover. A few new arrivals, but they mostly seem more journeymen in a team already packed with them. 9th
The Cricket World Cup wasn’t enough to rouse this blog from dormancy, but I can’t resist a preview of the new County Cricket season.
Nottinghamshire: Their seam attack is getting on a bit, and Broad and Swann are unlikely to be available that much. David Hussey will score plenty of runs but I don’t think they will be as strong as last season. 4th
Somerset: Very strong batting, and with Kirby and Hussain adding depth to the bowling. If not now, then when? 1st
Yorkshire: Batting seriously weakened by Rudolph’s departure, and unlikely Lyth will be as productive as last season. Lots of good bowlers, but Shahzad and Bresnan are likely to play less than the 15 matches they managed between them last season. Mid-table. 5th
Lancashire: Batting last season was held together, just, by Prince and Chanderpaul, so a slight surprise that they go with a bowling all-rounder in Maharoof. Chapple and Keedy will keep on taking wickets, but the batting will have to improve massively. 7th
Durham: Cursed with injuries and inconsistency last season. If they get their best team out this season they will be a force. Paul Collingwood should be able to play a major part this season, which will be a big boost. Hope to see Onions back fully fit. 2nd
Warwickshire: Batting is shite, and Younis Khan’s county record doesn’t suggest he’s the man to salvage it. Bell and Trott will play less than they did last season. Bowling has lost Imran Tahir, and can’t see Neil Carter matching last season’s Indian summer, particularly with injury problems too. If Chris Woakes bowls well, then they’ll probably lose him to England. 8th
Hampshire: If they can get remotely close to their first choice bowling attack on the field, then Hampshire would be fearsome. The odds of Kabir Ali and Simon Jones both being fit simultaneously are slim, but de Wet has come as a Kolpak and in Imran Tahir and the hugely promising Danny Briggs the best spin bowling will be on the south coast. The batting is solid and Johannes Myburgh should make it more so. 3rd but could do better.
Sussex: Won Division 2 at a canter but Collymore, Martin-Jenkins and Arafat took over 120 wickets between them, and they’ve all gone. Amjad Khan is useful (when fit) and Naved-ul-Hasan and then Wayne Parnell are good choices, but those are big shoes to fill. Batting still depends on Murray Goodwin, but he’s 38 now. This season could be a slog. 6th
Worcestershire: Not good enough. Imaginative overseas signings won’t be enough. 9th
An excellent performance by the Belgian guys, led by David Peeters, in the final, combined with some pretty poor shooting from the Dutch men meant that the Netherlands needed their female players to step up in order to win the game – and they did just that with 9 goals, and plenty of penalties won. In the middle third of the game, when the Dutch forgot they had that option, Belgium pushed them very close, and only with 6 or 7 minutes left did it become apparent that a huge shock was going to be beyond them.
In the other final matches, after the close games in the semi final round, these matches were fairly comfortable wins for the Czech Republic for 3rd place, Catalonia for 5th, and Portugal for 7th, but it remains the case that there is very little to separate the 2nd tier of countries – it wouldn’t have taken much to change for the Portuguese to finish 3rd.
Saturday saw a series of very tight matches, with Hungary beating Poland for ninth, Wales edging out Ireland for 11th (a potentially significant result as it makes the Welsh first reserve for the World Championships, in case any European side drops out), Slovakia were too strong for Serbia and the Scots finally won a match in overcoming Turkey to avoid the wooden spoon.
Final Rankings and top scorers for each sex:
- Netherlands (Bakker 49/Tims 13)
- Belgium (Cleyman 47/Vandenberghe 15)
- Czech Republic (Sladek 31/Jonakova 10)
- Germany (Dulfer 27/Holtkotte 15)
- Catalonia (Castillo 24/Aloma 8)
- England (D Brooks 25/Dawson 9)
- Portugal (Costa 32/Antunes 23)
- Russia (Kazachov 38/Davydova 13)
- Hungary (Benkovics 15/Nagy 26)
- Poland (Rubinkowski 33/ Jozefaciuk 9)
- Wales (Wilkins 28/Bennett 9)
- Ireland (Conroy 30/Rowden 4)
- Slovakia (Mendel 19/Walova 19)
- Serbia (Bojanic 16/Jankovic 19)
- Scotland (Brayne 21/Whittaker 15)
- Turkey (Akta 14/Sel 10)
It’s become a commonplace assumption to fear that some countries international sides are being undermined by the financial rewards from T20 franchises – particularly the West Indies where Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard choose not to sign national contracts to allow them the opportunity to sign lucrative contracts with sides in India, England and Australia. But West Indies has been in crisis for some time, the regional federation is perennially short of money, and loyalty to a West Indian side (as opposed to the nation states that constitute it) is not always reliable. Bravo, for example, says his first loyalty is to Trinidad and Tobago.
However, the one country where I could not see T20 supplanting the national side was Australia, where the pride in wearing the ‘Baggy Green’ is obvious. So I was genuinely surprised to read from Greg Baum that Mike Hussey had wanted to leave the Chennai squad in the T20 Champions League squad early in order to prepare for the Australian tour of India, the toughest tour in contemporary cricket – and was prevented by Cricket Australia. To quote Baum:
So was history turned on its head: for the first time, a player wanted to make Test cricket his priority, but was forced by his board to persevere with frippery. The word ”franchise” was invoked, which explained everything. The ICL is a lucrative business, and CA has a 25 per cent share in it. It was not one of CA’s finest recent moments.
Hussey arrived in Chandigarh two days before the first Test, and had a poor series. Doug Bollinger arrived at the same time, and broke down in the first Test. Australia lost the series. But its ICL revenue stream was saved.
”Michael had nothing but the best intentions of preparing for and playing for his country as his absolute priority,” said CA chief executive James Sutherland, ”but there was a fine balance between a high-profile, elite club T20 competition and preparing for international cricket.”
The recent chaos in the IPL, with Rajasthan and Punjab’s franchises having their contracts terminated, and the new franchise of Kochi being threatened with a similar sanction may bring about a hiatus in the global march of IPL led T20 dominance, and the ICC really needs to take advantage of that to thrash out an international schedule that protects important test cricket series, while allowing windows for T20 tournaments that don’t force cricketers or their associations to choose between money and international cricket.
The carrying of victories from the first pool stage combined with the results today mean that many of the semi-final line-ups are known with a game to spare.
The Czech victory (in the 6th minute of Golden Goal!) means that they and the Belgians are in the semi-finals, along with the Dutch. The last place remains to be decided, following Germany’s victory over Russia, which leaves the possibility of both countries, along with England finishing on 3 points. Goal difference in matches between the sides would then be crucial.
Currently that stands as Germany +1, Russia +1, England -2. So Russia would need England to win by either 1 or 2 goals, a 4 or more goal would put England through, and any win (or a golden goal defeat) would be enough for Germany. A 3 goal margin of victory for England would mean that they would be tied on goal difference with Russia, but would be eliminated on head-to-head following Russia’s win over them in the first stage.
Ireland and Hungary are both in the 9th-12th place semis, with a game between the two tomorrow to decide seeding. They will be paired with Poland and Wales, who won against Turkey and Scotland respectively. Tomorrow’s games will simply decide which team will play which. The Polish victory was fairly straightforward, but the Welsh had to come back from 12-7 down just after half-time, to come out 18-15 winners.
As predicted, the top 8 seeds all won through into the A section for the second group stage, without too many headaches. The key results though were the ones that will carry through into the second group stage. Russia beat England 26-24, and the Czech Republic won 20-17 over Portugal, results that will mean that the English and Portuguese have it all to do in order to reach the semi-finals. The Dutch and Belgian victories over Germany and Catalonia will also carry through, but unless there are some huge shocks, that shouldn’t be the decisive factor in qualification.
In the B Section, Wales, Poland, Hungary and Ireland take victories into the second pools, though Ireland only get 2 points and Slovakia 1 from Ireland’s golden goal victory – the most dramatic game of the tournament so far. These pools look very even though, and all the teams will still feel they have a chance of qualifying from them and keeping World Championship qualification alive.