Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cricket's oldest Rivalry is Back: Auty Cup

What would be thought that will come into your mind if I ask you which is the first international match in any sports: Is it Football? What would be the oldest series in cricket: Is it the Ashes? Which 2 countries played the first International game of Cricket: Is it England and Australia?

These would seem the obvious answer to the 3 questions. 99% of the people would give that answer, but the story is different. The first International match in any sports was not played in football or hockey, it was infact in Cricket (Cricket lovers should be proud of this fact). Ashes is not the oldest series in Cricket (Yes it is the oldest official series) but the oldest series is the Auty Cup. England and Australia did not play the first cricket series. It was infact played between Canada and USA, and it was highly popular. he game was watched by between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators and around $120,000 worth of bets were placed. 20000 people in 1844 is like 200000 people attending a match now.

The series was played sporadically between the 2 countries. However over time with the American Civil war, baseball became a popular past time. Aggressive marketing in Baseball lead it to become a popular sport. Similarly in Canada, with Americans more concentrating on Baseball, they similarly shifted towards ice hockey. Also with ICC coming up as Imperial Cricket Conference, this came as a death certificate for cricket in both countries specially USA. The tours of England to USA reduced and increased towards Australia and then the Ashes was born.

The Auty Cup was held again after a gap of 16 years, when it was last time played in 1995. The winner this time was the same as first time i.e Canada. Canada defeated USA by 34 runs

The Auty cup is a 2 day match. To have a result in the two-day match the 2 innings are kept limited to overs. Each first innings was limited to 45 overs and each second innings to 40 overs.  There is no bowling restriction to ensure that it doesn't become like a 2 limited innings match.

Canada started their innings well and made 239-4 from their 45 overs. The USA reply started badly as they lost early wickets. The visitors were bowled out for 166.

In the second innings, having scored 231-6, the Canadians set the USA a formidable target of 305 in their 40 overs. The USA team put up a remarkable fight. USA got a lot closer than many would have expected. the Americans were bowled out for 270, losing by 34 runs.

Let us hope that we see a revival of the oldest sports rivalry and with time the profile of the game comes back to its old times of glory.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

East Africa's brilliant cricket Experiment

This world cup was a disaster for Kenya. From the highs of reaching the World Cup semi finals in 2003 to losing all matches "Badly" in the 2011 world cup was a real shake up. Over that came the news that team had many internal divisions. The World Cup in 2011 could simply be called a disaster for Kenya.

The problems were many. Cricket in Kenya was limited to few elite clubs in Nairobi and may be to some extent in the Rift Valley. The extent of Elitism was that Kenyan National team had no national ground it could practice on. They had to rent it from the Gymkhana Club. The game never actually reached the common man and this made an issue of a limited pool. This lead to Kenya being dependent on same set of players who started demanding salaries beyond their capability levels. This lead to player strikes, group-ism and all sort of problem. This was a dangerous cycle

Then the head of Cricket Kenya as part of complete shake up of besides other measures has initiated a process which I hope will bring many positive results. Cricket Kenya immediately after the world cup announced a 6 team franchise league both for OD and T20 format. Initially criticized for 6 teams as too many was silenced when it was announced that 4 teams are from Kenya and rest 2 from Uganda. This meant that the pool of players will be playing highly competitive domestic cricket besides the very few matches they get as international exposure. 6 teams across 2 countries meant that the pool of players is also optimally utilized.

The best thing of the league is that it involves 2 countries. This means that cricket Kenya have a better proposition to take in front of the Sponsors. This also means that this will bring in much wider interest in the league. It is also a replication of a similar successful effort in Rugby in which teams from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania play in one league. This also means that a chance to bring in more foreign players and more exposure.The results have been encouraging. Super Sport has agreed to telecast the final live besides providing regular updates for matches. One of the team already has a sponsor and hopefully many will follow

Over time I feel that this league should be extended beyond these 2 countries. Tanzania, Rwanda should be definitely added. If possible then Burundi and Zambia should also be added. Lets us give this league 2 years to stabilize and after that the final composition may look like Kenya- 4 teams, Uganda- 3 Teams, Tanzania 2 Teams, Rwanda, Zambia and Burundi:- 1 team each. If resources allow then Home and Away for all 12 teams else 2 pools of 6 is the next best option.

Again if successful similar experiments should be replicated in Ire+Scot, Neth+Belg+France, USA+Canada, UAE+Oman, Malaysia+Singapore and many more places. Lets hope this series comes out as a huge success and can be replicated around.