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In (partial) defence of the ICC

April 8, 2011

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)

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