Friday, 11 March 2016

Stop gatekeeping cricket

Friday, 11 March 2016
Here's the thing: I wrote something similar to this a year ago. And I'm still angry. Another global tournament has rolled around, and once again associate teams are being treated as second-rate nations. A mere inconvenience before the big boys join the tournament. It's hardly even a surprise.

Today was a heartbreaking day for associate teams at this World Twenty20. Rain was the only winner, completely washing out Netherlands v Oman and cutting Bangladesh v Ireland short before a result could be achieved. It meant both the Netherlands and Ireland were knocked out of the competition after just one full game. What chance can a team really be given to impress anyone, if that's all it takes to knock them out? Or is that the point - a pat on the back and a 'thanks for coming, we can take it from here'?

But the sport doesn't belong to anybody. It's not one group's job to act as gamekeeper and keep the rest out. William Porterfield summed it up in the post-match press conference today:

It doesn't happen in any other world competition. Every other sport grows their competition. 

Cricket doesn't. Cricket does its best to maintain the status quo, stop it from growing with excuses of promoting competitiveness. Money has the loudest voice at the table, with what sells best to the broadcasters having more influence than the growth of the game. God forbid a test nation is knocked out early at the hands of an associate. The effect their underachievement might have is obviously far more important than what progress the associate team is making.

But look, look at the achievements associates have made. Look at Oman - in the fifth division of the World Cricket League - springing an upset over Ireland in their very first match at an ICC global event. Watch that catch by Zeeshan Maqsood and say it wasn't a special moment. Look at Afghanistan, and how they have every reason to think themselves with the upper hand when they take on Zimbabwe tomorrow for a place in the next stage of the tournament. Who would have thought that they could have risen so quickly through cricket in such a short space of time? And sure, both Netherlands and Ireland will come away from this tournament disappointed, but both have shown again and again that they are worthy of a place, an opportunity to compete with the others.

And yet they will barely get that chance. Opportunities are becoming more and more limited, what with World Cups cut down in sides and few chances to play full members in between. Money seems barely to reach them either. How then can you have that chance to improve to the point where those in charge will deem you as 'competitive'? The standard of associate cricket gets better and better, but still the gap widens.

I suppose it's all there in the names. Full members, associates, and affiliates. There's the hierarchy, the list of priorities. Test status, ODI status, T20I status. Because a match played by a team without the right status obviously doesn't count as a full international, doesn't deserve its place in the record books. Sure, associates lose more matches than they win against full members, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve their chance. That they haven't earned the right to be there. Watch Peter Borren today, and say that they don't matter.

But cricket is guarded by its elite, ring-fenced so nobody leaves or enters. The gatekeepers do their job, put their interests first, look after what they see as the good of the game. Me, I think there's a brilliant sport, a sport that I love - and why wouldn't you want it to grow stronger, more accessible, reach further? Associates deserve better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Two Short Legs © 2014