Spare a thought for the Associates

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Reuters

One of the things that teachers tell you in school when you are young is to never kick the ladder that helps you climb. It’s a pity that enough noise was not made against the effort to push the Associate nations out of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Forget the Associates, even full members like Zimbabwe and Ireland find themselves out of the equation with cricket’s showpiece event now reduced to ten teams.

Sri Lanka tried tooth and nail but their application for full membership was turned down time and again and many were the stalwarts who missed out on playing Test cricket. Australia and England had constantly vetoed Sri Lanka’s application for Full Membership but when they stunned a strong Indian side in the 1979 World Cup, securing a 47-run win in Manchester, they sent a strong message. Less than two years later, Sri Lanka were granted Test status. To their credit, 15 years after being granted full membership, Sri Lanka went onto win the World Cup.

Skippers predict most closely fought World Cup ever

The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 is ……….

Ten years on from now, it could be Bangladesh who would go onto win the World Cup. Teams like Afghanistan and Ireland have showcased enough skills to go all the way as well. Like them, others need to be given their chances as well.

Zimbabwe had done well across three tournaments from 1983 to 1992 and in the process beat Australia and England before being eventually granted Test status months after the 1992 World Cup. The big moment for Bangladesh came in 1999 when they defeated eventual finalists Pakistan.

In 2007 Ireland sent Pakistan home early and four years later surprised England at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. The burly Kevin O’ Brien looked like Kevin Pietersen that day as the Irish chased down a target of 328 with five balls to spare.

Finding the boundary looked like child’s play for O’Brien, who hit 113 off just 63 balls with 13 fours and six sixes. Since the heydays of Sanath Jayasuriya, no one has exhibited such effortless hitting. Ireland nearly made it to the quarter-finals as well in the last edition of the tournament but now find themselves in the doldrums.

For a player like Kevin O’Brien, who is 35, it is unlikely that there will be another World Cup and that’s not what the fans would want to see.

Don’t forget that one of the Associates went onto reach the 2003 semi-finals. Steve Tikolo’s Kenyans beat three full members, including Sri Lanka, in that World Cup.

All nations mentioned above whether it be Sri Lanka or Ireland, they have pushed their case for full membership having done well against the big boys. The question needs to be asked, where is the opportunity for them to showcase their skills now?

Australian dominance restored (2015)

A disappointing 2011 tournament, where ……….

Authorities seem to be content that teams earn their spots for the sport’s showpiece event through impressive numbers in their rankings.  But cricket is a game that goes beyond numbers. Kevin O’Brien going after James Anderson and little heard of chicken farmer Eddo Brandes running through England’s famous  batting line up or Collins Obuya’s leg-spin humbling Sanath Jayasuriya’s Sri Lankans were once in a life time moments and fans have been deprived of that in this World Cup.

The true spirit of the sport is that a minnow will go onto become a formidable force with frequent exposure. Ian Chappell wouldn’t have thought in his wildest of dreams when he told Jeff Thomson to go after Sunil Wettimuny and Duleep Mendis, that 20 years later, he will be doing the presentation in Lahore when Sri Lanka became World Champions.

People have been quick to point out the various benefits of a ten team tournament and how good it is for the sport. Whatever their arguments is, it appears that a financial windfall awaits the organizers of the tournament.

The 2007 World Cup was a flop because India made a first-round exit having played just three games. Whether they make the play offs or not, this time, India are assured of playing a minimum of nine games and that means the tournament will be a success financially.

Behind the bowler’s arm – Rex Clementine

Rex Clementine has played a long innings for ……….

Cricket is trying to shrink the World Cup at a point when sports like football are trying to expand. Two years ago, FIFA voted unanimously to expand the World Cup to 48 teams for the event in 2026 to be held in  USA, Mexico and Canada. Cricket certainly has to take a leaf out of football’s book.

Cricket authorities are doing their best to spread the game to places like China and USA. But without providing Associates an equal opportunity and a fair playing field, the game is going to struggle to expand.