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An Insult to the Associate Teams

16 March 2011.

Between them the Associate teams scored 523 runs on Sunday. Unused to facing top class bowling or playing in front of large crowds they still managed to give an excellent account of themselves. Nor were they playing the weaker sides. Canada reached 261 against the Kiwis. Kenya attained 262 against mighty Australia.

And still narrow-minded, short-sighted numbskulls resent their inclusion in this Cricket World Cup (CWC). And still those feeding off the game deny them an opportunity to take part in the 2015 CWC. No other game is as exclusive as this self-destructive, badly-managed recreation.

Let these people fix the match-fixers, let them confront corruption in their own ranks and then let them open their mouths. Let patronising English reporters whine less about Ireland fielding a couple of settlers and more about a national team that hardly contains any locals at all. Let pampered scribes rejoice more in the achievements of emerging nations and grizzle less about having to watch them flounder once in a while.

Afghanistan national cricket team

Afghanistan national cricket team at the conclusion of the first innings of their World Cricket League Division One match against Ireland at the Hazelaarweg Stadion, Rotterdam.
Photo © Harrias, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

These people make a fat living from the game yet remain clueless about its position. When will they realise that cricket grows or dies? When will they celebrate its extraordinary achievements? By no means is it impossible that the semifinals of this enjoyable, albeit absurdly slow moving, CWC will bring together teams from predominantly Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist nations. Or it might feature white, brown and black, sometimes these days in a single team.

Cricket is not a post colonial indulgence. It is a glorious melting pot held back by dimwits. Do they know that the game is underway in schools in Morocco? Or that Rwanda is rising?

Scorned game

Rugby is scorned as a game of muddied oafs, yet it is wiser than cricket and more deserving of survival as soccer spreads. Consider some of the results from the 2007 RWC.

Argentina 63 v Namibia 3, France 64 v Georgia 7, South Africa 59 v Samoa 7, South Africa 64 v USA 15, Australia 91 v Japan 3, New Zealand 76 v Italy 14, New Zealand 108 v Portugal 13, New Zealand 85 v Romania 8.

Has not Italy just recorded its first ever Six Nations victory? Did rugby collapse because some of these matches were one-sided? Evidently rugby is run by people with a vision that reaches beyond dollars and television contracts.

Every four years imaginative games give aspiring countries a chance to try their luck on the greatest stage, a prospect that helps to inspire officials and players as they undertake the hard slog. Cricket has many such people. A lot of them work with the ICC. Alas few of them sit at the high table with the smug millionaires.

The case of Kenya

As it happens, Kenya is not a particularly good example of development and the ICC has rightly been reluctant to give it extra funding. After reaching the semifinals of the 2003 CWC the Kenyan Board became self-serving. In fact the team had been lucky and was sustained by a few families. Only in the last year or so has the position improved. Most of the current players are either old or young. A decade was wasted.

Not that it’s been easy in Kenya. Six cabinet ministers have just been indicted by the International Criminal Court after a defeated government refused to cede power and instead went on a killing spree.

Canada is another matter. After years of allowing expatriates to dominate the locals, belatedly set about building the game. Now most in the national team speak with Canadian accents. Local television has started to take notice. That ought to be the policy everywhere. Investment should be reserved for countries intent on developing the game.

Far from belittling attempts to spread the game, cricket followers ought to celebrate its increasing determination to grow beyond the confines of its past. Already much has been achieved, not least:

1. Afghanistan has attained ODI status;

2. Sierra Leone reached the final stage of U-19 World Cup qualifying;

3. Papua New Guinea has increased playing numbers from around 3,000 to about 50,000;

4. Cricket is starting to take root in Iran, Bhutan and even Myanmar. It is rising in Nepal;

5. The emergence of women players, umpires and coaches in Iran;

6. Victories for Argentina, Japan, Vanuatu and Indonesia at U-19 level;

7. The Netherlands beating England at Lord’s;

8. Ireland’s continued improvement;

9. China building a cricket stadium and successfully hosting the Asian Games;

10. Japanese women winning bronze at those Games;

11. An Associate country cricketer – Raymond Haoda of PNG – becoming the first non-full member cricketer to top the wicket-taking table at a U-19 World Cup.

Cricket ought to think long and hard before denying these nations the prospect of competing in the 2015 or subsequent CWCs. Don’t you think they know that T20, the alternative presented to them, is a mere swipe? Don’t you think they know they have been insulted?

This article was written for The Hindu.
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