Sixteen teams too silly
Stabroek News
October 6, 2003

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The Cricket World Cup is like the Olympics of cricket. Unlike the athletics Olympics though where only the best athletes in the world compete, the Cricket World Cup includes some of the most woeful teams on the planet. And now there is even an International Cricket Council (ICC) proposal to increase the number of these low grade teams. Where is the sense in all this? The ICC argues that it is part of ‘spreading the game globally’.

That is nothing more than a sham. Consider that Canada first played in the World Cup in 1979. Twenty-four years later they still have to load their team with an Australian, a New Zealander and a barrage of West Indian rejects to make up a ninth rate team. The ICC is taking cricket fans worldwide for a ride with this witless excuse for the inclusion of more teams in the World Cup.

Cricket has forever been revered as a game of ‘glorious uncertainties’ but the ICC is steadfastly pursuing a policy to remove any uncertainties the game may still retain. When you cause Australia to have to play a team of casual Sunday afternoon cricket pretenders like Namibia or the Netherlands where is the ‘glorious uncertainty’ in that? There is none. You are assured of the result even before the umpire calls play.

Honeymooning ICC president Eshan Mani, in defending the proposed increased number of teams from 14 to 16 for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, said that the increase will not dilute the competitive edge because teams like Kenya, Canada and Namibia put up good displays.

Let us look at this so- called good Canada team. True that they won their first World Cup game against Bangladesh, the newest Test side, but as Lynne McConnell wrote...”the performance of the Bangladeshis over the rest of the tournament does put that achievement into context.”

Also we must not forget how Bangladesh gained their premature Test status. It was as a result of the then ICC president, Jagmohan Dalmiya’s quest to ensure stringent political control over the ICC by having increased support at the ballot from Test playing nations.

He had Bangladesh firmly in his pocket, and was guaranteed their vote once he had paved the way for them to be granted legitimacy in the world of Test cricket. Enough said about the quality of Bangladesh and their readiness to bear the burden of being labeled a Test cricketing nation.

This year, Canada produced the lowest score not only in World Cup history but One-Day International history when they were blown away by Sri Lanka for 36. That entire match, scheduled for 100 overs, lasted for a mammoth 23.2 overs in total. And, as contenders in our Red Stripe Bowl during last week, when they were poised to essay an upset win, they folded like meek cats for a pathetic 69 against Windward Islands which is still a minnow in our regional cricket.

Instead of Canada getting better, they are clearly getting worse. In 1979, when they first competed, the North Americans registered a lowest score of 45, at the World Cup, they reduced that by nine runs. Not a single batsman made it into double figures, six of them did not score.

Of the five lowest totals in World Cup history four are by the minnows. Canada’s 36 and 45, Scotland’s 68 against the West Indies in 1999 and Namibia’s 84 against Pakistan this year. This is the same Namibia that Mani is telling us put up a good fight.

Kenya is a more worthy unit and can even displace Bangladesh in the World Cup even though politics played a part in them ending up in the Super Sixes last time around.

Allowing teams such as Canada, Namibia and Holland in the World Cup is akin to asking a primary school team from the Essequibo Coast to compete in the Red Stripe Bowl. It is not development, it is demolition. It is not encouraging young players from those smaller cricketing countries it is damaging their morale. Would they want to show up only to be punching bags for the likes of Australia, India and the West Indies?

If the ICC wants to play a tournament of sustained quality cricket with 14 teams what they need to do is select the top ten teams based on their official rankings. Then for the other four teams they should allow the top four ranked teams to field `A’ teams. So for example, if Australia, South Africa, England and Pakistan are the top four ranked teams, as is the case now, they will each be allowed to select an `A’ team to compete in the tournament.

Nine times out of ten `A’ teams from these countries would easily humiliate the no-name teams which are now allowed to compete in the World Cup.

Of course the ideal situation would be to select only the best teams in the world and play more cricket among those teams.

As the lesser teams develop to an appreciable standard only then should they be included. They should not be included under the whimsical formula of ‘spreading cricket worldwide’.

For cricket to be spread and developed worldwide, the none traditional cricketing countries have to be assisted in sustaining a high level of junior and senior local cricket. That is the only way that countries like Canada, Namibia and the rest will be able to give the cricketing giants a true run for their money.

Until that is done the ICC will continue to dupe us into thinking that playing these `curry goat cricketers’ in the World Cup is a good thing.

The premier cricketing tournament in the world should be reserved for the premier teams of professional cricketers, not for pretenders who only play cricket for fun, two months per year in lazy afternoon matches.