Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ICC entrenches the decline of world cricket

After a memorable 2011 Cricket World Cup, culminating with a great match between India and Sri Lanka, the ICC has once again shown its inability to see the big picture for the sport. The ICC has chosen to cut the number of teams from fourteen to ten - effectively freezing out the top Associate nations until 2019. This is despite the Associates providing some of the most entertaining matches and individual performances of the World Cup.

The traditional arguments that have been put forward by the ICC is that the Associates provide too many one-sided matches and that their inclusion increases the length of the already lengthy World Cup.

Both of these assertions are demonstrably false (and I have written previously on how the ICC can address the issues that lead to these assertions).

As we saw in this year's World Cup, the Associates provided some of the most entertaining cricket of the tournament - including the Netherlands putting together a total of 292/6 against England, pushing England to the last 8 balls of the match and Ireland's win over England. Although in some of the other matches the Associates were given a thrashing, the same could be said of Bangladesh- losing to the West Indies by 9 wickets (221 balls remaining) and South Africa by 206 runs - and Zimbabwe - losing to New Zealand by 10 wickets (99 balls remaining) and Sri Lanka by 139 runs. Even some of the stronger teams in the competition went down by big margins on occasion, for example Pakistan was defeated by New Zealand by 110 runs early in the competition.

The length problem is false too, considering that the ICC's broadcast contract guarantees a Word Cup of a certain length.

So the only conclusion that can be reached is that the ICC's decision is merely to entrench the interests of the test-playing nations to ensure that none of them are knocked out of the competition by the Associates. In other sports this would be tackled by those teams actually out-playing the Associates, but it seems that the ICC is intent on ensuring that incumbency defeats talent. As the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, Warren Deutrom, stated:

"It's a betrayal of the principles of sport and the principles of meritocracy and a level playing field. Surely the principle of sport is that if you are good enough you should have the chance to be involved. You have an Associate member who has been out-ranking a Full Member [Zimbabwe] for most of the last four years, who has got through to the Super Eights of the 2007 World Cup, and who has been genuinely been recognised as having performed even better at this one, yet on the back of those performances it [the ICC] has been seen fit to reduced the number of participants at the World Cup."
The true tragedy of the ICC's decision is that it will deny an entire generation of Associate players access to the premier ODI competition, most of whom will probably seek qualification with incumbent sides (particularly England, which is likely to deplete the Irish, Scottish and Dutch sides). In addition to the loss of players, the ICC's decision will also starve Associate nations of sponsorship. This will likely leave the Associates in the 2019 competition lacking in player depth and susceptible to the tired old arguments about one-sided competitions. This self-fulfilling prophesy will undoubtedly be used by the ICC to vindicate this decision.

William Porterfield, Ireland's Captain, was succinct, describing the ICC's decision as 'an absolute  joke'.

And indeed, if you were to look at the ICC's statement of values and see the following:

  • Openness, honesty and integrity
  • Excellence
  • Accountability and responsibility
  • Commitment to the game
  • Respect for our diversity
  • Fairness and equity

in the context of the decision to bar the Associates from competition, you could be forgiven for agreeing  that the ICC is a parody of a sports administration.