“What was there on a day-to-day basis to keep me motivated and keep me driven to want to keep going in the game? I was spending far more time on the training pitch and the nets and the gym than I was in between the stumps. As a professional cricketer, that was very frustrating,” – Preston Mommsen, announcing his first retirement from the Scotland national team
International cricket needs reform, and it needs it now. In June we all sat through one of the most pointless international sports tournaments of the sporting calendar. A relatively meaningless competition where the so called ‘best’ teams from around the world played for a trophy that we’ll have all forgotten about until it rocks up again in another four years; and no, we aren’t talking about the Confederations Cup.
The ICC Champions Trophy is a competition that has no place in the current cricketing calendar. One could argue that with the 50 Over World Cup and the World T20 in place, the last thing international cricket needs to keep the public interested is another tournament that is only open to eight teams. The current World T20 champions, and one of the most exciting teams to watch, the West Indies, were not even able to participate. Because you can only be a champion (sorry Dwayne Bravo) if you’re one of the top eight teams in the world. The Champions Trophy should be scrapped, and efforts should instead be focused on expanding the most popular format of the game (T20s) worldwide in order to sustain the future of the sport. The last thing this sport needs is more exclusivity from the full members of the ICC.
The ICC World T20 and 50 Over Cups are the only global world championships where snobbery and elitism is still prevalent. Associate nations are merely squeezed into a qualifying round before the full members enter the competition. Even two of the full members are crammed into the qualifier for good measure. Not only is this insulting to associate members, but it is also embarrassing for cricket in general that it can be governed so unfairly by the so called ‘big three’ (India, England, and Australia), who essentially run the sport, much to the detriment of any other cricketing nation. The editor of Wisden, Lawrence Booth, said that:
“Cricket is appallingly administered and is vulnerable to economic exploitation by the one country powerful to exploit it and the two countries prepared to lend their plans credibility… The boards of India, England and Australia had quietly crafted a document which claimed to safeguard the game’s future while more obviously safeguarding their own. In sum, the BCCI wanted an even larger slice of the ICC pie, and the ECB and Cricket Australia happily acquiesced, knowing their portion would grow too. The rest were assured they would be better off. And who could object to a world with more money for everyone? Here was a colonial style divide and rule. Here was the realpolitik of modern cricket. It was hard to read this any other way: the rich would be getting a whole lot richer.”
The fact that the Big Three (Australia, England and India) would be getting richer and that other members would not, is a farce. How can cricket expect to grow and flourish when associate members are receiving a combined funding amounting to just $211m compared to the BCCI’s $2.5bn. When considering this and the World Cups, it is clear that there is no level playing field for cricketing nations, with associates being humoured in being given a qualifying round including 2 full members. A more appropriate format would see, like almost every other World Cup in the sporting world, a group stage followed by a knockout round, where teams have an equal chance of qualification to the next round.
The top 12 teams would automatically qualify for the group stages, whereas the teams ranked from 13th-18th (associates) would have to play a league styled qualifying round that would take place between 6 and 12 months before the start of the actual competition.
Each team would play everyone else twice, which not only would allow for a fair chance at qualification for each team, but would also let each side play 10 T20Is which is much more than they currently get. The top four teams in the league would complete the World Cup draw, making up the fourth pot of seeded teams. The other three seeded pots would be the teams ranked 1st-12th split up into groups of four based on their rank.
The actual World Cup would see two games a day at the same stadium for each group. The group stages would thus take 12 days in total to complete, and with two games a day in the same stadium, fans would get their value for money and the host club/county would receive a (probably) much needed boost to their finances while potentially boosting interest and participation in cricket as youngsters are introduced to the game and encouraged to get involved.
The associate nations that qualify would be exposed to high quality cricket in a competitive environment that they do not currently experience, which eliminates the feel of elitism that currently exists in cricket. A win for an associate in a World Cup against a full member would be much more meaningful than, say, for example, a win against a full strength Sri Lanka side in a game that doesn’t even qualify as an official international match (Scotland beat Sri Lanka by 7 wickets in May). Associates would also have access to more money through television and sponsorship which would (hardly) enable them to improve cricketing provisions in their own country. The hardly is in place because of their already miniscule share of ICC funding and the dominance that the big three have on cricket.
After the group stages, there would be a normal knockout process, consisting of quarter finals, semis, and a final. There would be two quarter finals a day, again, in the same stadium, and then there would be a finals day, where the semis and final are played in succession at the same venue.
Article by Dhiren Naidu and Freddie Young