Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trouble in 'Minnow' Land.....

While the much awaited Cricket World Cup concluded with much fanfare, some bad news lurkinground the corner let the steam off for some of the teams. The ICC’s decision last month to bar its associate members from participating in the 2015 World Cup came as massive jolt to the ‘minnows’ of the cricketing world.

The reactions around the cricketing fraternity have been mixed, largely tilting in favour of the ICC’s decision. The issue of the participation of these Associate members has been the topic for debate for quite a while now. Most cricketing brains the world over have in the past questioned the logic of putting up these teams against the top ranked ones on the world stage, as it leads to largely one-sided contests, barring the odd one off upsets and the end result is further humiliation for them and dwindling crowd interests in such games. Thus, when the survival of the One-day game is itself in question the ICC could most certainly do away with games which wouldn’t hold any significance and hardly arouse any interest which is perennial at this juncture to boost the sagging fortunes of the game. It is hardly any surprise then that most, including the current players of top teams, feel that the ICC’s decision is justified. The managements of the associate teams have expectedly voiced their disappointments with the ICC’s decision. It is another matter altogether that their dismal showing, barring Ireland’s performance, in the World tournament has done nothing to side with their concerns and if anything has further aided the judgment. However, their point isn’t completely off the mark as well. If these teams were not to rub shoulders with the Goliaths of the game at the world stage how are we to expect them to develop as serious cricketing nations.

Exposure is the only way forward for them. And isn’t it a fact that teams like Sri Lanka have come out leaps and bounds from their days of being a ‘minnow’ , to being a serious contender to the coveted World title. It was made possible only by their constant exposure with the best teams since the 1975 World Cup at the international level. Even Bangladesh, once considered a minnow, has improved tremendously over the years and has thus being awarded the Test status. Zimbabwe too was once in the reckoning as a good team, but politics and corruption spelled their doom. Teams like Kenya and Ireland have caused major upsets in previous World Cups. But the fact of the matter is that these ‘upsets’ are few and far between and more often than not, the result is a foregone conclusion.

So, is this the end of the road for these minnows with high ambitions of succeeding at the international level? One way could of course be to continue their participation in the T20 World Cup, that way they get to play top teams and the necessary exposition they require. As has been seen in the previous editions, where Zimbabwe and the Netherlands beat Australia and England respectively, the format allows the teams better opportunities to compete and hence boost their confidence. As for the 50 over competition they could be included in quadrangular tournaments, where the top two of the Associates would face some other top teams. This could be made a yearly affair, where the top teams keep rotating. Also there should be a play-off for the bottom two spots for participation in the top 10 of the World Cup teams, i.e. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh shouldn’t just get to walk in; they should fight it out in qualifiers with the others like Ireland and Netherlands who might very well tip them off to get the position. It remains to be seen how the ICC manages these teams in the future, as their exposure too is perennial for theirs and cricket’s development throughout the globe.

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