Thursday, 27 December 2012

5 events in Associate Cricket which changed World Cricket

 There have been many incidents in Associate Cricket if which went in opposite order would have changed the whole world order in Cricket. Many of these incidents will come as a surprise to the Youth of Cricket who know Cricket as just probably 6-7 Good Teams and 3 Minnow Test teams whom they will not see their country play and perhaps a Kenya and a Ireland or maybe now have got a glance of Afghanistan.

Perhaps the events that will be mentioned below if had happened, then the whole scenario of World Cricket would have been different. Although there can be many more but I have listed the top 5, and like a curtain-raiser I will go from No 5 to No 1.

5. Argentina not Invited for ICC Membership
This name would perhaps bring most number of surprises. Very few people know that Argentina was once considered a decent cricket team of the level of probably New Zealand at that time. Argentina had the largest population of English outside Britain. When ICC was formed it was formed as Imperial Cricket Council and membership was limited to British Empire only and Argentina was not eligible. With passing of time the game simply went into decline
If Argentina has been an ICC member then the game surely could have some footing just has been the case with Rugby and Hockey in Argentina. It would have also meant Spanish playing cricket country widely opening the Cricket market and Cricket could have been much bigger game but alas!!
This could have been a picture of a major cricket team talking in Spanish-Ola
 4. Canada postponing Test Membership
Another shocker for you :) . Well in the 1950's ICC made up it's mind to offer Test Cricket to Canada. After all Canada was a major Commonwealth Country and cricket had a long history here. However Canada felt that it would need some more time to develop it's cricket and guess what that time never came and the boat was missed.
Imagine if Canada had been a Test Nation, it would have meant Cricket would have been a major game in North America and perhaps a lot of influence on sports in USA too. Did we miss a Canada- West Indies Rivalry for the future.
Imagine Canada playing against Australia in Boxing day Test

3. Ireland WC Victory over Pakistan
Pakistan one of the favorites of the tournament. Ireland, virtually an unknown team. It is St Patrick's day, an Important day for Ireland and many Irish fans in the ground. Pakistan was bowled out in 130's and that was a shocker, but Ireland began to crumble. That was not long to be, Ireland stumbling but crossed the finish line and created history.
They never knew their hard earned victory would bring misery for Associates
 This should have made ICC happy with cricket improving but it had the exact opposite impact. ICC for next world cup cut the teams from 16 to 14 and the process of Elitism gained hold. This was to be further strengthened when ICC almost made a decision to make 2015 WC a 10 Test Playing World Cup only but the team which started it actually came to rescue when it chased down England by magic effort of Kevin O'Brien.

2. Cricket missing out in Olympics
Cricket was only played once in Olympic with Great Britain taking the gold and France taking the silver. This event was never repeated.
Do we need to say anything on this
 Imagine with cricket in Olympics would have meant that many countries would have taken the game and much more money and support from the government for Cricket. Well it is a chance missed and ICC still does not want Cricket in Olympics!!!

1. Imperial Cricket Conference- USA not invited 
Cricket at one time was very popular game in USA, but as everything British was opposed hence was cricket. However cricket remained a strong games in various pockets like Philipdeplhia, New York and some areas and continued to thrive there. The game surely needed support in form of exchange of games with England and other countries.
But what happened, ICC never invited USA as it's member and game went into a big slide. Imagine with US the biggest sports economy involved in the game, it would have put game in a different league.
Obama could have been No 1 fan of Lara!!!!
 I many times imagine what the game would have been with Argentina, Canada & USA playing the boxing day test with Australia or fighting a T20 olympics game with China. Well only if & buts were true.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Club + Domestic League way forward for Nepal and Afghanistan

South Asia is the power hub of cricket and in South Asia two nations Nepal & Afghanistan are really rising very quickly. These 2 nations if go the right way can surely join the likes of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe or New Zealand soon.

Afghanistan has already established itself to be a top Associate / Affiliate Cricket Nation, which has rapidly progressed from Div 5 to Div 1 within a span of 4 years. Nepal also if going the present way can soon be seen playing the 2015 World Cup and getting an ODI status.

These 2 Associate unlike most Associate have a population crazy about cricket but like most of the associates the both countries are reliant on a small pool of players. Over that the playing XI depends on few stars to take them to victory. This is a very dangerous situation. When these stars fade away then the team can go in a downward spiral.

This was the case with Kenya who had got a good set of talented players in their ranks but without a domestic structure the replacements never came and now we all know in what state Kenya is.

Having known that a domestic structure is very important the question comes on the aspect of funding. Both Afghanistan Cricket Board and Cricket Association of Nepal are not rich enough or have funding like Test Nations to for a full comprehensive domestic structure. So how do we overcome the 2 dimensionally opposite issues

Typical village in Afghanistan & Nepal. Majority of population in these countries live in villages and essential for strong cricket team.
 To look for the answer we need to understand the demographics & geographical factors of both the countries which are quite similar in many aspects. Both the countries are mostly hilly regions with major cities located in broad valleys. Both the countries consist mostly of villages spread across the country with a few major cities. Afghanistan has cities spread out across the country while Nepal has it concentrated towards the Central and Eastern Parts.The Village is a very strongly knit unit in both the countries, where it is like a family and is headed by a Sarpanch in Nepal and a village elder in Afghanistan.

In such a scenario the to have a spread across the country it is very important to have players from the villages. India increased massively in strength when players from smaller cities started to come (Like the Captain Dhoni) against older days when most of the players came from bigger cities. India also has majority of Population in rural areas, and involving them surely is helping

Right Burkhashi in Afghanistan and Left Elephant polo in Nepal. Village level tournaments are already been organized in both the countries.
 Hence to reach the villages we need a club structure. By Club I do mean not a club like in England where some old folks are sitting drinking beer playing cards and watching a cricket match, with gentlemen claps. A club is a simply a team which can be formed by a village or some locality in the towns. It is not a concept which is something very new. It already happens in both the countries where the villages come together and play in some sort of tournaments. In Afghanistan Burkhashi the national game is a example of the same, while in Nepal, Elephant Polo or local soccer matches or volleyball matches keep happening

The Point is about making such tournament more structured and monitoring them in an efficient way. To start with such tournaments can easily be financed. Firstly to start with to register a club a nominal annual fee can be charged. When we have such a local club tournament a minor entry fee can be can be charged from each team. Then secondly local sponsors can be roped in. The local tournament normally have local sponsors and these need not be the exotic ones like Pepsi etc but can be a local business, who would want the tournament to be named after his late Father or some big shop or some local business. It is a great point to maximize the reach in local areas.

Hence the local club tournaments can not only be made self sustainable but rather can earn some small profits out of them. However based on local tournament you can unearth some good players but will not be able to give them good exposure. For that a Domestic Set up is essential

The Domestic Set up should be based out of provinces or major cities. These countries ideally should not have more than 6 to 8 teams in the domestic set up. These can be regions like West, North etc or Based around major cities. Each domestic set up should have a catchment areas in which all the local clubs will be registered to it. Hence the domestic team say a Kabul or Kathmandu may have clubs from the city and the surrounding villages. It will choose its player roster from these clubs. For Financing it will have some income from clubs, conducting tournament and then would receive certain funding from ACB or CAN. This would help it in paying some money to the domestic players who then would give more time for the domestic tournaments.

The Domestic tournament can be conducted with 2 day, 1 day and T20 matches spread around the playing season and ensuring that it is played on the weekly off days. The team play half of the matches in it's home ground and would travel for rest of it's matches. This would mean that people can work on weekdays and play cricket on weekly off days throughout the year rather than playing for 2 weeks and not playing for rest of year. This continuity would definitely improvement fitness and mental ability of the players

This Club + Domestic structure ensure that a good set of some 90 to 160 Players will be playing some quality cricket at domestic level, earning a small money from it while maintaining their regular lives and jobs. The Clubs would help in providing a constant stream of talent for the teams and a good player has a fair chance of making it into the national team

All these things might look very easy but it would definitely need a lot of effort from the boards and definitely dedication. If the system is implemented soon the quality of team can definitely improve many fold and we may see these teams challenging the best. Let's hope for it and see it happening soon.