Calming Down, Moving Forward
Russell Degnan

Needless to say, I am extremely angry at the decision to exclude associates from the next world cup. Not because I have a great love of the world cup. I even suspect it may be the well-deserved death-knell for the 50 over game, given in four years time T20 will have not only the larger domestic and international crowds, the larger tv audience, but the larger, more inclusive world cup. But there is a principle at stake, one of natural justice and good governance.

The news that the size of the world cup would be reduced was not surprising, albeit disappointing; the news that there would be no qualifiers, for the first time in 40 years was a shock. Even coming from the ICC, the most elitist, money-obsessed governing body in world sport. The righteous indignation from almost every corner of the globe shows how far wrong the ICC is, but that indignation needs to be channeled, if something is to be done.

Here are my thoughts on that...

1. Help create and join a formal supporters group

If people are to make their wishes known, blog comments are not sufficient (pity, but true). The ICC and its members respond to marketing surveys, formal presentations and shows of strength. A supporters body that surveys its members, expresses its opinion, and has a voice can challenge not just the administrators, but the past cricketers whose love of the game is not in doubt, but whose decisions are not always very good. Cricket's administrative turpour is, after all, not just limited to this decision: meaningless fixtures, unequal scheduling, financial inequality between members and the vexed question of test expansion are all far more serious and important. It is well past the time when the game's supporters made their voice heard.

2. Protest widely.

Writing and petitioning the ICC is important, but realise tht the ICC executive is comprised of the ten full members, and three associates. By all accounts, this decision was instigated by Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board, as a way of raising more money - notably because India will play more games. The decision to remove qualifying was a political one, taken by the other full members to protect their place at the tournament. It was greedy and shameful, but also rational. Cricket is a pyramid however. Cricket Australia is not a commercial entity but a representative one, of the state boards, their clubs, and those clubs cricketers. Make your voice heard at every level of the pyramid. Write to your county/state and national organisation. Ask them why they voted against the wishes of the vast majority of the people in the sport they represent.

3. Protest where it hurts

This decision was a purely commercial one. Modern cricket boards seem only to respond to commercial imperatives. Protesting sponsors can exact some leverage, but nothing hurts more than the revenue stream of the boards themselves. For a long time now, people have complained about bloated ODI series and pointless games. More recently there has been comment that associates ought to be given more opportunities, at the expense of those pointless games. If we are to make ourselves heard, we ought to show that our spectating cannot be taken for granted. We should boycott the 4th ODI in every bloated series, don't attend, watch, tweet, blog or comment on the game. If enough people did so then the administrators will take notice. For reference, here are the proposed 4th ODI games in the next several months:

Sun May 1st: West Indies vs Pakistan - Bridgetown
Mon Jun 13th: West Indies vs India - North Sound
Wed Jul 6th: England vs Sri Lanka - Nottingham
Sun Sep 11th: England vs India - Lord's

The last is by far the most important.

4. Support associate cricket

This is most important of all. Although things have improved substantially in the past 12 months, it still seems sometimes that CricketEurope fights a lone hand for the associate cause. If associate cricket is to grow it needs market value, which means attention. The cricket might be of a lower standard, but it is meaningful and competitive. Ask your tv provider to broadcast associate games, attend tournaments in your vicinity, blog and comment on what happens in them. Associate cricket won't grow if people don't take some interest in it. The World Cricket League 2 starts on Friday in the UAE. At stake, for the top two sides is a place in the Intercontinental Cup: for the top four, the World Cup qualifiers some sort of ICC competition. Outside the ICC world cup and a small handful of bilateral series, these are the most meaningful and competitive matches in world cricket.

Update: The most frustrating thing about this decision is it comes on the back of a World Cup that seemed to garner more attention in cricket's most important secondary markets than any previous edition. From Wright Thompson's pair of colour pieces on subcontinental cricket to comments by associates of Faraz Sarwat that this was the first time they'd taken in the sport. The second of those, by Cathal Kelly is worth quoting from:

[I]t’s antithetical to basic sporting values. The games we play reflect a common human value — inclusiveness. The idea that no one but a select few may play in a given event is an anti-sport philosophy. Who wants to join a club that won’t have them?

Never mind that it’s hallucinatory to think that any sport can remain in permanent stasis. Ask the Americans about basketball.

Mainly, it’s just sad. I was only beginning to appreciate one of the world’s best loved pastimes. Now a few short-sighted bureaucrats have decided that they’d rather I didn’t care after all.

World cup participation is not a sufficient condition to grow a sport in an emerging nation, but it sure helps.

Idle Summers 6th April, 2011 22:45:56   [#] 

Comments

Calming Down, Moving Forward
I think your point #4 is the one that gets lost. A year from today, few will talk about Ireland and none will talk about Canada.
Devanshu  7th April, 2011 00:32:02  

Calming Down, Moving Forward
Great stuff - really interesting, and I also find your 20-team WC idea fascinating and very persuasive. Have linked to your site.
Tim  8th April, 2011 10:41:33  

Calming Down, Moving Forward
Devanshu, if Ireland or Canada are worth watching in a world cup where they mostly lose, then I think they are worth paying a lot more attention to when they play competitive and closely fought fixtures. The just concluded group stages of the WCL2 were a hundred times more interesting than either group of the WC.

Tim, thanks. Will do likewise.
Russ  15th April, 2011 09:32:59