x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

World Cup 2015 decision to limit cricketing minnows 'a disgrace'

Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom leads the many voices of dissatisfaction from the 'minnows'.

UAE cricketer Saqib Ali, centre, says the World Cup is a major incentive for smaller nations to improve and build their team.
UAE cricketer Saqib Ali, centre, says the World Cup is a major incentive for smaller nations to improve and build their team.
The International Cricket Council's (ICC) decision to exclude the Associate and Affiliate teams from the 2015 World Cup has caused anguish among the non-Test-playing nations.
Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, described the decision as "disgraceful" and William Porterfield, his captain, said the move was an "embarrassment" and a "joke".
Holland and Canada, who took part in the World Cup that finished earlier this month, were similarly unimpressed.
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Their sentiments find an echo among the six nations participating in the World Cricket League (WCL) here in Dubai.
"It's really disappointing," said Charlie Burke, a former ICC East Asia-Pacific development manager who is now the head coach of the Hong Kong national team.
"It's disappointing that it was done on the eve of WCL Division Two as well. It felt like sort of a kick in the teeth and a bit disrespectful in a way."
"Yeah, it was a strange decision from my point of view, but that's what the ICC have done," said Greg Campbell, the national operations manager of Papua New Guinea.
"So we've just got to get on with it and find whatever avenues that we can go down and play cricket."
Saqib Ali, the UAE's premier batsman, shared the disappointment and said: "If you see any sport, any team, even if it struggling at the bottom of their sport, their target is always to qualify for the World Cup. It is a major incentive to improve, to keep building the team and investing time and money.
"Everybody wants to play the World Cup but I guess the ICC knows better and they must have their reasons. So we will just leave this with the ICC." Many different reasons have been offered for the ICC's decision, which was first discussed in October and finalised earlier this month.
"We have always wanted to try to be as compact as possible," said Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, after announcing the decision.
"That is not the only reason why it is a 10-team event. "We also believe that in 50-over cricket, there are 10 teams that will make for good competition. That is part of the reason as well." Deutrom, however, believes the decision was "purely about money and the protection of privilege".
Roddy Smith, the Cricket Scotland chief executive, elaborated further and told BBC: "Behind the scenes there are reasons to do with the commercial value and TV rights of the competition. "But the main reason is to protect Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who aren't too much better than the likes of Ireland, Scotland."
"How can they call this a World Cup when it is only being played between 10 teams," Clay Smith, a former Bermuda batsman, was quoted as saying in the Royal Gazette.
"The ICC has invested so much money into the Associate members to try to improve their standards, but it seems like some of the big boys of cricket fear being embarrassed by the minnows." Porterfield even warned the decision could "mean the death of cricket in a lot of countries . and all because a few full members are looking to make a few extra quid from the competitions".
For Burke, the major concern is the decision takes away the opportunity for Affiliate and Associate nations to play the bigger sides in the world which, in his opinion, is the only way to improve cricket.
"You can even see from us," he said."We've been stuck in Division Three for a number of years and we've now had the opportunity in Division Two. "You saw the opportunity to play sides that have been above us, how much we can learn from that. The same goes for these leading Associates to play against Test nations.
"In this sort of sport, that's such a mental game as well, you need to be challenged all the time. Even before this, I thought that the World Cup wasn't enough for Associate countries. Now they take even that away. I don't know, it seems we are going too far back."
To compensate for their decision of restricting the 2015 and 2019 World Cups to 10 teams, the ICC have expanded the World Twenty20 to 16 teams, giving six Associate or Affiliate members the opportunity to be a part of a premier world event every two years.
Burke welcomes that, but hopes the ICC will create a separate competition for non-Test playing nations to keep them interested. "Obviously there is still the World Twenty20, but yeah it's a bit of a shame," he said. "There's not a lot you can do about it, but it's not great for cricket. It seems like we have gone a few steps back making that decision and I am not sure if anyone really understands why they made that decision."
He suggested that an interim solution could be to make the WCL Division One an Associate's World Cup to give the smaller cricket paying nation a worthwhile competition in which to take part. "My guys were so keen on seeing how far we could get to qualify for a World Cup," Burke said. "So they have kind of lost that incentive a little bit.
"If they can make Division One something really worth playing for, some sort of world series or whatever they end up calling it, I think it will be worthwhile." The disappointment over World Cup decision aside, teams like Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea are excited about playing in competitions like the Division Two, which gives them the exposure and opportunity to improve. The top four teams from the division will also be eligible for the ICC grant and two teams will get a ticket to the Intercontinental Cup.
"If we get into the Intercontinental Cup, it will be really good for us," said Saqib. "It is the best cricket outside the Test playing nations. "Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Canada, Afghanistan and Kenya, these are all top teams. To play against them and to perform against them is a really good feeling."
"The guys are learning so much," said Campbell. "They learnt they can't play the PNG way, so they are adjusting to that. Shot selection on the day was poor. "They are learning that they have to change their way. It's not so much about their ability, it's about the cricket knowledge of the game and knowing their game."
Campbell is proud of the way his team have performed in Division Two, despite the lack of facilities at home, but the former Australian bowler believes they are suffering from a lack of competition playing in the East-Asia Pacific region.
"If you get to PNG and look at what they field on, what they play on, you would be amazed how they even got to this level," he said. "Because what they have at home, except for the main oval, all the parks are rocks and grass up to your knees. "The Under-19s are 11th or 13th in the world. So there is a great talent there coming through and the future of PNG is good, it's very bright, but we need to play a better class of cricket.
"We play in the East Asia-Pacific and in the tournament just gone, our U19, the top score they chased was 99. "We bowled Japan out for 39, Fiji out for 49, Indonesia out for 59 and Vanuatu for 99. So coming through, they are not learning that hard, basic cricket. "We don't seem that far away with our ability. We've got the ability, but it's just the cricket knowledge and knowing their game and playing the better players."
Hong Kong have a longer history with cricket and have good facilities. They also host a premier Sixes tournament and a competitive league. "Hong Kong has a really proud history in cricket," Burke said.
"It has been going on for over 160 years. We obviously run the world-renowned Sixes, which everyone knows about. We got three turf grounds; we got our Sunday league, which is our top league, nine teams involved. It's a pretty fierce domestic competition.
"We've got some very good players. Lots of overseas players come, players from England and everywhere. So it's a good competition.
"The juniors are starting to grow a lot more; we've got a lot more emerging squads and a lot more Chinese players are starting to get involved in the game as well.
"This has helped us coming into Division Two. If we can go the next step as well, we hope to even more promote and develop the game."
arizvi@thenational.ae

Full members

The governing bodies for cricket in a country or associated countries. Qualified to play Test matches, ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals:
Australia
Bangladesh
England
India
New Zealand
Pakistan
South Africa
Sri Lanka
West Indies
Zimbabwe

Associate/Affiliates

Not qualified to play Test Cricket, however ICC grants One Day International status based on their success in the World Cricket League:
Afghanistan
Canada
Ireland
Kenya
Netherlands
Scotland

Associate members

Cricket is firmly established and organised in these nations but they do not qualify for full membership. They are awarded T20 status and are eligible to play in the ICC World Cricket League:
Argentina
Belgium
Bermuda
Botswana
Cayman Islands
Denmark
Fiji
France
Germany
Gibraltar
Guernsey
Hong Kong
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Japan
Jersey
Kuwait
Malaysia
Namibia
Nepal
Nigeria
Papua New Guinea
Singapore
Tanzania Thailand
Uganda
UAE
United States
Vanuatu
Zambia