Associates April 13, 2007

An amateur solution in a professional world

Martin Williamson has written an article which highlights the pressures players for Associate countries face as they compete with the budgets of the Full Members.
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Martin Williamson has written an article which highlights the pressures players for Associate countries face as they compete with the budgets of the Full Members.

In expanding the game, the ICC has, rightly, offered more matches to the Associates. On top of any ODIs they can persuade Full Member countries to give them, as well as tournaments they arrange among themselves, they participate in the Intercontinental Cup, the World Cricket League and the four-yearly ICC Trophy. But that expansion has not taken into account that the players remain amateur.

The flaw in the ICC's plan is that the increased demands have not been backed by additional funding. In the year ending April 30, 2007, Scotland were scheduled to play 46 days of cricket (including warm-ups for tournaments) as a national side; the numbers for the other Associates are similar - Bermuda 45, Canada 43, Ireland 42, Kenya 37, Netherlands 24. That does include time spent preparing, travelling and acclimatising.

The direct funding they receive for that from the ICC amounts to US$215,000, of which $125,000 is not actually handed over to the boards but is retained by the ICC and used to offset other costs, such as paying for coaches and hosting training camps. Compare that with the lowest-ranked Full Member, Zimbabwe, who will receive around US$10 million with no requirement to account for how it is spent. In the same period, they had 37 days cricket scheduled. That really puts into perspective Ireland's achievement in Jamaica.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jeremy on June 24, 2007, 14:21 GMT

    It is not the ICC's responsibility to fund the domestic professional cricket in member countries. If their own people won't do so, then why should anyone else!

  • Alex on April 18, 2007, 8:35 GMT

    People! Be realistic, will you. Rant against authority all you want. The ICC clearly botched this World Cup, and they've clearly mishandled the situation in Zimbabwe. But, cricket will never thrive amongst the Canadians - or the Dutch - or Americans. It won't. Understand this. The ICC is not to blame for retiring 24-year-old Dutch cricketers. The ICC can't turn water into wine.

    Maybe Daan Van Bunge retired out of shame for gifting Herschelle Gibbs six sixes, the last two especially. The people who rail against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are the same people who are now interested in turning Netherlands and Ireland into ODI nations. Does this make sense?

    Maybe the ICC, and I think Cricinfo would agree, should focus on maintaining the status quo.

  • Abhay Natu on April 17, 2007, 20:48 GMT

    Do not agree entirely with the article. What is the difference between a 24 year old Dutch player and a 24 year old first class player in a second tier (in terms of money, Sri Lanka, WI, Bangladesh)? Both are staking their careers and livelihoods on their cricketing prowess. If they succeed, they can make money and support themselves. If they fail, they have to fall back on an alternate career. No different in these countries than The Netherlands, Ireland, Kenya, Canada or what-have-you's. Perhaps, the decision to switch to an alternate career is hastened in associate countries than in SRL, BAN, CAN.

    Throughout the history of the game, only the affluent have made a mark on it. Mostly because only they could afford to play the game, proficient at it or not. Do not believe me? Take a look at the old English roster. Except for some 'professionals,' (few and far between) you will find names like Lord This or Sir That more often.

    Bottomline - nothing's changed. ICC will not change it unless they let go of the 'all-money-must-flow-through-our-books' attitude. Depending on somone's (ICC) generosity will not spur the game in associate countries. It will have to come from within.

  • Patrick de Leede on April 17, 2007, 15:09 GMT

    Brilliant article. Finally someone who recognises that amateurs make huge sacrifices in order to pursue their dreams.

  • nick mac on April 17, 2007, 0:21 GMT

    What else can be expected of lawyers and accountants? More interested in money now not later. Why should a countries population pay for the building up of a sport that benefits so few? If the ICC wants new nations in this competition then it should be in the business of installing those bits and pieces that are needed for it to work.

    After all, the ICC will be the main benefactor out of any success. Should they not be the ones to take the gamble on infrastructure costs? Cricket does not need 100,000 seat stadiums to be a success, especially so in budding nations, when a 2000/20,000 seat ground would be more than ample. I am hoping places like Ireland get it together, the game needs these nations to survive and give variation. Surely the multitude of governing bodies of each of the main playing nations could do there bit by including a minnow nations main players within their state/county/regional games on a rotational basis, working as training facility for these nations.Same for the ground staff and the umpires.

    The ICC makes more than enough to cover the costs involved as do the England/Australian/Indian and possibly Pakistan/S.African boards. I think this would bring these nations up to speed alot quicker than we are seeing at present.The boards of these nations should include the players/coach, and must have open accountability for all moneys spent.I dont understand why the difference is so vast in financing..eg.215thou vs.10mill?

    As for Zimbabwe, they shouldn't be getting a dime unless it can ALL be assured its not going to the hands of Mugabe! Funding that fool is the last thing cricket, or anything else should be apart of.

    I shudder at the thought of all the money wasted on largesses in the WEST INDIES,(new stands/grounds) when the rest of the game there is in dire straits.New stadiums wont make a team great, but those same resources may have done a bit to get the kids back into the game, instead of soccer/ basketball.

  • James Cumberland on April 15, 2007, 17:29 GMT

    I wonder how much of the money Zimbabwe received actually went towards cricket, and how much went into the coffers of Mr. Mugabe, if the ZCU did not have to account for how the money was spent?

  • Mark Warburton on April 15, 2007, 14:57 GMT

    I found your article to be bang on and find it addresses the Canadian situation directly.I feel that the growth potential for cricket in this country is huge if handled and promoted properly. if you think back to early years of hockey, lacrosse and even baseball, amateur teams rode buses and brought the games to the community and received the gate(ticket sales) as payment for the entertainment.It seems too simple but it is a start. I have attended four day matches at our I.C.C. approved ground and paid only to park.I for one would not deny any of the participants a decent days pay to lighten their load and encourage their performance

  • Don Talon on April 15, 2007, 12:33 GMT

    This world cup has been as much about race as it has about anything. I live in the westindies and from the get go - as far back as 2005 -the locals considered it a 'white people world cup.' The prices were set to squeeze the life out of the tourist who they predicted were goin to land on these shores in the thousands and spend lots of English pounds and the like..which didn't happen.

    I wonder if this article would have been posted if an equaly talented black Kenya or bermuda player had chosen to retire...the answer whould have been no.

  • Kavin on April 15, 2007, 11:43 GMT

    Thought-provoking article, asking many important questions, and the comments are also very interesting with good ideas. As a cricket fan, I want to see the game continue to grow and develop around the world; however, not in the way that is presently being pursued by the ICC which is doomed to result in continual mediocre cricket outside of the top teams.

  • ASIF on April 15, 2007, 11:06 GMT

    I guess lots of U13, U15, U17,U23 cicket going on in Europe. ICC must decide which countries they are gonna give priority. For example, they have given DENMARk & NAMIBIA a nod to HPP. SO they have to decide if the young players from these countries take cricket as a profession or not. The Associates are there for the love of the game. You can't make them decide on important issues.

  • jeremy on June 24, 2007, 14:21 GMT

    It is not the ICC's responsibility to fund the domestic professional cricket in member countries. If their own people won't do so, then why should anyone else!

  • Alex on April 18, 2007, 8:35 GMT

    People! Be realistic, will you. Rant against authority all you want. The ICC clearly botched this World Cup, and they've clearly mishandled the situation in Zimbabwe. But, cricket will never thrive amongst the Canadians - or the Dutch - or Americans. It won't. Understand this. The ICC is not to blame for retiring 24-year-old Dutch cricketers. The ICC can't turn water into wine.

    Maybe Daan Van Bunge retired out of shame for gifting Herschelle Gibbs six sixes, the last two especially. The people who rail against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are the same people who are now interested in turning Netherlands and Ireland into ODI nations. Does this make sense?

    Maybe the ICC, and I think Cricinfo would agree, should focus on maintaining the status quo.

  • Abhay Natu on April 17, 2007, 20:48 GMT

    Do not agree entirely with the article. What is the difference between a 24 year old Dutch player and a 24 year old first class player in a second tier (in terms of money, Sri Lanka, WI, Bangladesh)? Both are staking their careers and livelihoods on their cricketing prowess. If they succeed, they can make money and support themselves. If they fail, they have to fall back on an alternate career. No different in these countries than The Netherlands, Ireland, Kenya, Canada or what-have-you's. Perhaps, the decision to switch to an alternate career is hastened in associate countries than in SRL, BAN, CAN.

    Throughout the history of the game, only the affluent have made a mark on it. Mostly because only they could afford to play the game, proficient at it or not. Do not believe me? Take a look at the old English roster. Except for some 'professionals,' (few and far between) you will find names like Lord This or Sir That more often.

    Bottomline - nothing's changed. ICC will not change it unless they let go of the 'all-money-must-flow-through-our-books' attitude. Depending on somone's (ICC) generosity will not spur the game in associate countries. It will have to come from within.

  • Patrick de Leede on April 17, 2007, 15:09 GMT

    Brilliant article. Finally someone who recognises that amateurs make huge sacrifices in order to pursue their dreams.

  • nick mac on April 17, 2007, 0:21 GMT

    What else can be expected of lawyers and accountants? More interested in money now not later. Why should a countries population pay for the building up of a sport that benefits so few? If the ICC wants new nations in this competition then it should be in the business of installing those bits and pieces that are needed for it to work.

    After all, the ICC will be the main benefactor out of any success. Should they not be the ones to take the gamble on infrastructure costs? Cricket does not need 100,000 seat stadiums to be a success, especially so in budding nations, when a 2000/20,000 seat ground would be more than ample. I am hoping places like Ireland get it together, the game needs these nations to survive and give variation. Surely the multitude of governing bodies of each of the main playing nations could do there bit by including a minnow nations main players within their state/county/regional games on a rotational basis, working as training facility for these nations.Same for the ground staff and the umpires.

    The ICC makes more than enough to cover the costs involved as do the England/Australian/Indian and possibly Pakistan/S.African boards. I think this would bring these nations up to speed alot quicker than we are seeing at present.The boards of these nations should include the players/coach, and must have open accountability for all moneys spent.I dont understand why the difference is so vast in financing..eg.215thou vs.10mill?

    As for Zimbabwe, they shouldn't be getting a dime unless it can ALL be assured its not going to the hands of Mugabe! Funding that fool is the last thing cricket, or anything else should be apart of.

    I shudder at the thought of all the money wasted on largesses in the WEST INDIES,(new stands/grounds) when the rest of the game there is in dire straits.New stadiums wont make a team great, but those same resources may have done a bit to get the kids back into the game, instead of soccer/ basketball.

  • James Cumberland on April 15, 2007, 17:29 GMT

    I wonder how much of the money Zimbabwe received actually went towards cricket, and how much went into the coffers of Mr. Mugabe, if the ZCU did not have to account for how the money was spent?

  • Mark Warburton on April 15, 2007, 14:57 GMT

    I found your article to be bang on and find it addresses the Canadian situation directly.I feel that the growth potential for cricket in this country is huge if handled and promoted properly. if you think back to early years of hockey, lacrosse and even baseball, amateur teams rode buses and brought the games to the community and received the gate(ticket sales) as payment for the entertainment.It seems too simple but it is a start. I have attended four day matches at our I.C.C. approved ground and paid only to park.I for one would not deny any of the participants a decent days pay to lighten their load and encourage their performance

  • Don Talon on April 15, 2007, 12:33 GMT

    This world cup has been as much about race as it has about anything. I live in the westindies and from the get go - as far back as 2005 -the locals considered it a 'white people world cup.' The prices were set to squeeze the life out of the tourist who they predicted were goin to land on these shores in the thousands and spend lots of English pounds and the like..which didn't happen.

    I wonder if this article would have been posted if an equaly talented black Kenya or bermuda player had chosen to retire...the answer whould have been no.

  • Kavin on April 15, 2007, 11:43 GMT

    Thought-provoking article, asking many important questions, and the comments are also very interesting with good ideas. As a cricket fan, I want to see the game continue to grow and develop around the world; however, not in the way that is presently being pursued by the ICC which is doomed to result in continual mediocre cricket outside of the top teams.

  • ASIF on April 15, 2007, 11:06 GMT

    I guess lots of U13, U15, U17,U23 cicket going on in Europe. ICC must decide which countries they are gonna give priority. For example, they have given DENMARk & NAMIBIA a nod to HPP. SO they have to decide if the young players from these countries take cricket as a profession or not. The Associates are there for the love of the game. You can't make them decide on important issues.

  • Jeremy Nirmal on April 15, 2007, 5:10 GMT

    This article really sum up what genuine fans of cricket have been seeing since the world cup began. It all goes back to how cricket has spread worldwide. By deciding not to develop the game beyond the commonwealth about a hundred years ago, Cricket shot itself in the foot. Cricket certainly has the potential to be a huge sport in most of the world. With the ICC not seeing the right way in which funds can be distributed this will definitely keep cricket as a sport which only matters in 10 countries.

    Someone needs to pressure the ICC into making cricket a truly global sport. The only way by which this can be done is by starting at the grassroots level. This is the only way in which a strong cricket governing body can be created in other nations. The ICC needs to have shorter tours among Full members and think about more matches being arranged with Associates and Full Members involved. This will improve the associate members quality of cricket over the years and therefore lead to much more public support. What Ireland did in the World Cup definitely shows the potential that the Associates have in Cricket. All they need is more matches. This will prompt the governments to give more funding to Cricket. We saw this in Bangladesh after the 2003 world cup. The government spent large sums of money to build stadiums nationwide and improve training facilities. This has led to a more consistent Bangladesh team.

    Beating India and South Africa was definitely no fluke. They exploited the conditions and looked professional. Ireland did the same when they played Pakistan and both Ireland and Bangladesh nearly beat England because they did not lose their concentration and exploited the weaknesses in the opposition and used the conditions to their advantage.

    All that the associates need is more support from the ICC. Part time cricketers are not the answer to nations producing better quality cricket.

  • Rya on April 14, 2007, 19:09 GMT

    ICC is clueless to what to do, to expand cricket. ICC calls itself a not-for-profit organization, but there only intention is to make profit and cut down Associates funds.

  • my name on April 14, 2007, 18:51 GMT

    just to let you know that i am 18 yrs old & i live in Canada and actively play cricket here so this is my view. It can be judged that ICC needs to invest more money here but i believe that the government should stand up too and start with a consistent money plan. Every year the CCA (Canadian cricket association) should get some money so they can at least hire people on good contracts... right now, what i have heard, Canadian players got $76 a day to play in world cup and this is called heaven when compared to other events. me working at a fast food restaurant for 8 hours a day could make more money than these people. So the bottom line is that every government needs to step up and empty there pockets with whatever they can give us.

  • aftab on April 14, 2007, 17:54 GMT

    Nice article raising questions regarding funding. As we see nowadays money plays very big role in cricket,but in its distribution lies inequality.

    India no doubt has got one of the richest cricket boards in the world as we see more nations are keen in playing with them to raise their respective income.But in that way lacks the spirit of game.

    So the ICC should take necessary measures in removing inequality regarding distribution of funds. So that at least associate countries can have players paying full attention to cricket rather than looking for some other job for livelihood

  • Andrew Maina on April 14, 2007, 13:43 GMT

    What kind of crazy organization hands out ten million dollars without requiring an explanation for how the money will be used? If the ICC's idea of global development is throwing money helter skelter without some kind of guarantee that it will be put to fruitful use then its no wonder that the game is riddled with all sorts of scandals involving money . Zimbabwe on the one hand is losing its best players at an alarming rate over allowances while the administration seem to be more interested in filling their pockets than managing the game. Kenya's own national team has only just recovered from financial disputes dating back to the 2003 world cup and on top of that more than a few of crickets leading players have been fingered in connection with their association with bookies. If the ICC wants to ensure the game truly benefits from the mountains of cash that it gets from TV revenues sponsorships and the like it must take greater interest in how its members spend its money

  • Canuck on April 14, 2007, 13:22 GMT

    Excellent article and I agree fully with all the views. I am a Sri Lanakan living in Canada and I personally know a few who actually represented the country in Cricket. Almost all of them have now given up hoping to represent Canada in the future. While majority of them are old and have a reason to do so, few younger player are also reluctant to continue at that level, simply for the reasons Martin has written. Apart from not getting leave from their employer, and paying their way to play the league games there’s also the injury factor. No employer or unemployment/disability board would even take them to consideration, unless they were hit by a puck, instead of a leather ball.

    Apart from those reasons there are other factors that dictate the cricketing future in a country like Canada, and ICC and others have to realize this. I am not surprised that countries like Kenya do well as Associate members, because the public interest is there. Canada is for most part a country that's crazy only about Hockey (ice hockey that is) and every other sport takes a back seat to this, including Major League Baseball, Basketball and Football (both versions). Cricket is mostly played by the immigrants, although signs are there that it's been included in some school programs and young players are picking the game as well. But we also have the issue of the weather over here, as 6-8 months of the year is not suited to even walk out side let alone play a cricket match.

    There are also other factors that prevail over here, such as accountability of the governing body of the game, to both the public and different levels of government. Public watchdogs that would take a stance on issues regarding all matters of other major sports, do not care much about Cricket in Canada. I know this for a fact as a former Canadian player, who toured with the team is no longer even considered for selection or to be included in the governing body simply because he stood up to the board and the Management, inquiring about the funds they received from ICC. Most of the players including my friend, did not see much of the funds coming their way. I realize such issues are common even among the full member nations, but at least the general public do get to know about it via media and can do something about them. Same cannot be said over here since majority doesn’t care about the game except for the few cricket hungry devoted immigrants, whose voice seems to be muted.

    So imagine giving that kind of funds to a body like that. I am not against promoting cricket in Canada, but I think ICC have to take a closer look at things and make sure the funds go to the right place. They need to make sure the governing bodies are accountable especially in associate countries like Canada.

  • romain on April 14, 2007, 12:36 GMT

    Hello, I am Romain Blachier from France and I am agree with the fact that the ICC don't use correctly its money.For example, as an associate country of second or third rank (we play in the same division as Germany or Guernsey or Jersey) we've got the same money from the ICC as, for example,the very small place of Gibraltar gets...

    To get back at the main subject, when you see a team like Ireland and when you know that lots of them are amateurs as pros teams like no less than Pakistan or Zimbabwe couldn't beat them and when you see that these two last teams earn far more money than the Irish, it looks that there's a problem...

    ICC should help more the emerging nations.Also governments have to give to these guy a social status as we've got in France for people who compete in high-level competitions as amateurs to help them melting professional and sporty career.

  • P.Satish Kumar on April 14, 2007, 8:30 GMT

    The ICC will never hear. If they could do what is so obvious to all of us then the game would have been much better run and organised.

    The problem is the ICC was never designed unlike FIFA to be global. So they really can't think beyond the 10-odd countries playing regular cricket.

    Time and again there have been wonderful suggestions from various quarters on ways to lift the standards of the Associate and generate interest in the sport but all to no avail.

  • Alex on April 13, 2007, 23:48 GMT

    The article certainly painted a picture of amateurs who make great sacrifices to play international cricket. I do hope they're having a better time playing in the World Cup than most of us are having watching it, or more specifically watching them.

    As perilously screwed up the situation is in Zimbabwe, like it or not, they have (or will soon have again) Test status, two international Test grounds, and a domestic structure. What do Ireland have?

    What I would like to know is how much commitment, if any, has been secured from the government of Ireland to develop cricket. Why is it the responsibility of the ICC to pay the salaries of professional Irish cricketers if Ireland itself isn't committed to professional cricket - credible grounds, domestic structure, central contracts, and the like.

    I don't think it's the responsibility of the ICC to turn Ireland into a professional cricketing nation, despite their global cricket initiatives. Besides, there would be fewer players for England to cherry-pick!

    All that being said, good article.

  • Jim Halpert on April 13, 2007, 21:38 GMT

    Honestly, brilliant piece by Martin but it's high time someone seriously talks to the ICC about this. We can write and talk about it all we want, but it's time someone made a difference - we need some high profile figures - ex-players, commentators, officials to put pressure on the ICC and we may just see results that would further enhance our beautiful sport.

  • Manu Sharma on April 13, 2007, 20:52 GMT

    A very good and important piece indeed. In this day and age, one cannot think of playing professional sport part-time - the commitment required to achieve competitive levels is just too high. A professional sports(wo)man has to be able to earn a living by playing the sport.

  • Stephen Brenkley on April 13, 2007, 19:11 GMT

    Really good piece, pertinent and timely. It asks key questions to which answers must be given.

  • bart singh on April 13, 2007, 16:16 GMT

    This article is spot on. The question is : what will the ICC do to rectify the inequity , how can they justify giving Associates countries $125,000,yet Zimbabwe gets $10,000,000.

    I would like to see Martin Williamson forward his article to the ICC & pose the question to them. "What are they willing to do to correct the situation?"

  • Sean on April 13, 2007, 13:43 GMT

    For 18 years i played cricket on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. First as a young boy, then as an adult. My mates and i would sit around after our games and talk about the mighty 80's Windies, Australia's rebuilding efforts under the captaincy of Allan Border; Botham, Dev, Hadlee, Willis, Gower, Imran, Azha and all the other players who enthralled us with their feats and talents. I try to help my 13 year old son to understand what it was like watching Boon scratch and paw for 50 runs; the awe at watching Garner and Marshall and Holding rip apart a full batting order; 6 centuries and 4 fifties in Adelaide in 1983. But those days have gone now. We are in the era of professionalism and the ICC is doing nothing more than destroying the game i have loved since i was a little boy. Overcrowded schedules, meaningless tournaments and so-called 'championships' have done nothing more than fill the coffers of the ICC so it can build grand offices in Dubai and count the money in its accounts. Corruption is a bigger problem than ever. Dalmiya and his cohorts started all this mess and Malcolm Speed has done nothing but pander to the whims of the Indian and Pakistani boards. Cricket Australia, rather than build the game by putting money back into the grass roots has followed suit and allowed the schedules to blow out. I truly do hope that someone see's what is happening to our game and does the right thing to promote it and develop it, to bring back the character of the game and not let history judge it on the events of the last 10 years........but i seriously doubt it will happen.

  • Sumit Sahai on April 13, 2007, 13:09 GMT

    I'm not too sympathetic with this line of argument. Almost every first-class cricket player in even the full ICC members is a part-time cricketer holding another job in the off-season. Hundreds of Indian cricketers juggle jobs and cricket every season, with limited financial incentive from their employers. The same is true of first-class players in West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even New Zealand. Only in England and Australia do first-class cricketers have financial security, only the very best cricketers elsewhere are able to be fully professional.

    The only way forward for the associate nations is to keep playing as often as they can, and if in doing so, they have to rotate their players due to employer pressures etc, then in the long run, it might even be good for their game, as the experience will trickle down further although the results might suffer occasionally.

    Eventually, the fittest will find ways to survive. Players might become professional by getting contracts to play in English county cricket, or in the newly floated Indian league. The financial freedom would then allow them to take up flexible or part-time jobs out-of-season, and as their game improves, their team will be more successful and get more money from the ICC. Yes, it is a bit simplistic, but not improbable.

    To expect the ICC to dole out largesse's so that players in associate nations can give up their day jobs will only ensure that they never want to retire and end up stifling growth, a problem not unknown among some full members.

  • Noman Yousuf Dandore on April 13, 2007, 11:47 GMT

    Absolutely correct! ICC has to spend more money to support these Associates and I am sure if they get more money, they will not only be able surprise the Elites but they could also lift the game to more of a global sport level rather than just a limited Commonwealth past-time. And with recognition, a new audience base will come into existence (we have the example of Ireland in front of us), which will attract new sponsors thus bringing in more money to the game. This explanation should lure the money-savvy heads of the ICC to spend more money on these Associates, as they will definitely get their investment back with some interest. And for us tragics, the game of cricket will become much more interesting and competitive with new entrants challenging the old powerhouses.

    Cheers!

    Noman Yousuf Karachi!

  • Trevor on April 13, 2007, 11:44 GMT

    Couldn't agree with this article more. The idea of having to qualify to be added to the world rankings also seems strange to me. I would have thought that any nation that plays another nation in a recognised international game would automatically qualify for world ranking points. This would then be a much better way of measuring the progress of the minnow nations and also help to really understand where those nations that are considered to between somewhat in-between (Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Kenya) really are as they would be also having to keep above teams such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland etc.

    As far as funding goes, the ICC could provide funds on two basis'; ranking as at 31/12 each year (or similar) and special additional payments for nations that have made a marked rise in ranking since the previous year. This would provide incentives for all nations to achieve to their maximum level at all times and remove some of the meaninglessness from many current ODI games. In addition, it would also be far fairer as all nations would be competing on a level playing field and be rewarded on a consistent basis.

    Obviously additional payments would also need to be made to those countries playing test matches, but again their really isn't any reason why all countries shouldn't be able to play test match cricket if they so desire as well. I can't see how it would devalue test cricket as teams performances would only be measured against the teams they have actually played. Just because Western Samoan soccer isn't as good as Brazil's doesn't mean that people view soccer as less relevant when Western Samoa (or other smaller nations) play.

    It would be in the interests of the mid-level nations (Zimbabwe, Bangladesh) to play the better of the up and coming nations to ensure thet their rankings styed above those nations and if the other nations continually beat them and moved up the rankings then the next teams in line would also have reason to play them. The way that the current rankings are worked out would ensure that teams that continually played much weaker opponents were unable to progress to far up the tables. Most other international sports already operate on a similar basis:

    - Soccer - every country that plays an international match gets a ranking. - Tennis - although individual, ranking extend far below the elite players and people progress to better paying and higher profile events based on their rankings. Just because the #1000 ranked player won't ever get into a position to play Roger Federer doesn't mean that he can't be ranked on the same basis.

    Finally, a system like this would appear the most likely to actually promote the game across the world because any country that decided to embrace cricket has a clear path to navigate towards becoming a significant player rather than the somewhat contrived method currently that has allowed Zimbabwe to maintain its test status and Kenya to be given ODI status even though it hasn't met the criteria any of the other associates are required to meet at present.

    All in all I think there are some relatively simple solutions to the whole question of associate nations if the idea of propagating world cricket and supporting emerging nations is anything more than rhetoric.

    Finally, as an Australian, there is nothing I like to see more than emerging nations making their way onto the world stage in a meaningful manner (other than Australia smashing the English), similar to the progress the Socceroos have made in recent years. For the sake of shaking up the status quo I just hope Ireland can claim one more scalp before the cup finishes.

  • Aju on April 13, 2007, 10:57 GMT

    The trick is to start slow and steady. The ICC should reserve the best booty to the best players in the Associate countries. Firstly, the benefits of playing for the national team should be made obvious - better match fees, better accommodation on tour, better practice facilities - the whole razzle dazzle. At the same time, inject the cricket with small doses of professionalism. Starting off with too many teams will ensure that the quality of competition will not improve. To start off, selection to the national team could be could be from an ICC-funded domestic league of maximum four clubs: the fifty best players in that country. Professionalism should not restrict itself to the players either. Groundsmen, umpires, selectors should also be paid. And if these labours bear fruit, the league could be expanded.

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  • Aju on April 13, 2007, 10:57 GMT

    The trick is to start slow and steady. The ICC should reserve the best booty to the best players in the Associate countries. Firstly, the benefits of playing for the national team should be made obvious - better match fees, better accommodation on tour, better practice facilities - the whole razzle dazzle. At the same time, inject the cricket with small doses of professionalism. Starting off with too many teams will ensure that the quality of competition will not improve. To start off, selection to the national team could be could be from an ICC-funded domestic league of maximum four clubs: the fifty best players in that country. Professionalism should not restrict itself to the players either. Groundsmen, umpires, selectors should also be paid. And if these labours bear fruit, the league could be expanded.

  • Trevor on April 13, 2007, 11:44 GMT

    Couldn't agree with this article more. The idea of having to qualify to be added to the world rankings also seems strange to me. I would have thought that any nation that plays another nation in a recognised international game would automatically qualify for world ranking points. This would then be a much better way of measuring the progress of the minnow nations and also help to really understand where those nations that are considered to between somewhat in-between (Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Kenya) really are as they would be also having to keep above teams such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland etc.

    As far as funding goes, the ICC could provide funds on two basis'; ranking as at 31/12 each year (or similar) and special additional payments for nations that have made a marked rise in ranking since the previous year. This would provide incentives for all nations to achieve to their maximum level at all times and remove some of the meaninglessness from many current ODI games. In addition, it would also be far fairer as all nations would be competing on a level playing field and be rewarded on a consistent basis.

    Obviously additional payments would also need to be made to those countries playing test matches, but again their really isn't any reason why all countries shouldn't be able to play test match cricket if they so desire as well. I can't see how it would devalue test cricket as teams performances would only be measured against the teams they have actually played. Just because Western Samoan soccer isn't as good as Brazil's doesn't mean that people view soccer as less relevant when Western Samoa (or other smaller nations) play.

    It would be in the interests of the mid-level nations (Zimbabwe, Bangladesh) to play the better of the up and coming nations to ensure thet their rankings styed above those nations and if the other nations continually beat them and moved up the rankings then the next teams in line would also have reason to play them. The way that the current rankings are worked out would ensure that teams that continually played much weaker opponents were unable to progress to far up the tables. Most other international sports already operate on a similar basis:

    - Soccer - every country that plays an international match gets a ranking. - Tennis - although individual, ranking extend far below the elite players and people progress to better paying and higher profile events based on their rankings. Just because the #1000 ranked player won't ever get into a position to play Roger Federer doesn't mean that he can't be ranked on the same basis.

    Finally, a system like this would appear the most likely to actually promote the game across the world because any country that decided to embrace cricket has a clear path to navigate towards becoming a significant player rather than the somewhat contrived method currently that has allowed Zimbabwe to maintain its test status and Kenya to be given ODI status even though it hasn't met the criteria any of the other associates are required to meet at present.

    All in all I think there are some relatively simple solutions to the whole question of associate nations if the idea of propagating world cricket and supporting emerging nations is anything more than rhetoric.

    Finally, as an Australian, there is nothing I like to see more than emerging nations making their way onto the world stage in a meaningful manner (other than Australia smashing the English), similar to the progress the Socceroos have made in recent years. For the sake of shaking up the status quo I just hope Ireland can claim one more scalp before the cup finishes.

  • Noman Yousuf Dandore on April 13, 2007, 11:47 GMT

    Absolutely correct! ICC has to spend more money to support these Associates and I am sure if they get more money, they will not only be able surprise the Elites but they could also lift the game to more of a global sport level rather than just a limited Commonwealth past-time. And with recognition, a new audience base will come into existence (we have the example of Ireland in front of us), which will attract new sponsors thus bringing in more money to the game. This explanation should lure the money-savvy heads of the ICC to spend more money on these Associates, as they will definitely get their investment back with some interest. And for us tragics, the game of cricket will become much more interesting and competitive with new entrants challenging the old powerhouses.

    Cheers!

    Noman Yousuf Karachi!

  • Sumit Sahai on April 13, 2007, 13:09 GMT

    I'm not too sympathetic with this line of argument. Almost every first-class cricket player in even the full ICC members is a part-time cricketer holding another job in the off-season. Hundreds of Indian cricketers juggle jobs and cricket every season, with limited financial incentive from their employers. The same is true of first-class players in West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even New Zealand. Only in England and Australia do first-class cricketers have financial security, only the very best cricketers elsewhere are able to be fully professional.

    The only way forward for the associate nations is to keep playing as often as they can, and if in doing so, they have to rotate their players due to employer pressures etc, then in the long run, it might even be good for their game, as the experience will trickle down further although the results might suffer occasionally.

    Eventually, the fittest will find ways to survive. Players might become professional by getting contracts to play in English county cricket, or in the newly floated Indian league. The financial freedom would then allow them to take up flexible or part-time jobs out-of-season, and as their game improves, their team will be more successful and get more money from the ICC. Yes, it is a bit simplistic, but not improbable.

    To expect the ICC to dole out largesse's so that players in associate nations can give up their day jobs will only ensure that they never want to retire and end up stifling growth, a problem not unknown among some full members.

  • Sean on April 13, 2007, 13:43 GMT

    For 18 years i played cricket on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. First as a young boy, then as an adult. My mates and i would sit around after our games and talk about the mighty 80's Windies, Australia's rebuilding efforts under the captaincy of Allan Border; Botham, Dev, Hadlee, Willis, Gower, Imran, Azha and all the other players who enthralled us with their feats and talents. I try to help my 13 year old son to understand what it was like watching Boon scratch and paw for 50 runs; the awe at watching Garner and Marshall and Holding rip apart a full batting order; 6 centuries and 4 fifties in Adelaide in 1983. But those days have gone now. We are in the era of professionalism and the ICC is doing nothing more than destroying the game i have loved since i was a little boy. Overcrowded schedules, meaningless tournaments and so-called 'championships' have done nothing more than fill the coffers of the ICC so it can build grand offices in Dubai and count the money in its accounts. Corruption is a bigger problem than ever. Dalmiya and his cohorts started all this mess and Malcolm Speed has done nothing but pander to the whims of the Indian and Pakistani boards. Cricket Australia, rather than build the game by putting money back into the grass roots has followed suit and allowed the schedules to blow out. I truly do hope that someone see's what is happening to our game and does the right thing to promote it and develop it, to bring back the character of the game and not let history judge it on the events of the last 10 years........but i seriously doubt it will happen.

  • bart singh on April 13, 2007, 16:16 GMT

    This article is spot on. The question is : what will the ICC do to rectify the inequity , how can they justify giving Associates countries $125,000,yet Zimbabwe gets $10,000,000.

    I would like to see Martin Williamson forward his article to the ICC & pose the question to them. "What are they willing to do to correct the situation?"

  • Stephen Brenkley on April 13, 2007, 19:11 GMT

    Really good piece, pertinent and timely. It asks key questions to which answers must be given.

  • Manu Sharma on April 13, 2007, 20:52 GMT

    A very good and important piece indeed. In this day and age, one cannot think of playing professional sport part-time - the commitment required to achieve competitive levels is just too high. A professional sports(wo)man has to be able to earn a living by playing the sport.

  • Jim Halpert on April 13, 2007, 21:38 GMT

    Honestly, brilliant piece by Martin but it's high time someone seriously talks to the ICC about this. We can write and talk about it all we want, but it's time someone made a difference - we need some high profile figures - ex-players, commentators, officials to put pressure on the ICC and we may just see results that would further enhance our beautiful sport.

  • Alex on April 13, 2007, 23:48 GMT

    The article certainly painted a picture of amateurs who make great sacrifices to play international cricket. I do hope they're having a better time playing in the World Cup than most of us are having watching it, or more specifically watching them.

    As perilously screwed up the situation is in Zimbabwe, like it or not, they have (or will soon have again) Test status, two international Test grounds, and a domestic structure. What do Ireland have?

    What I would like to know is how much commitment, if any, has been secured from the government of Ireland to develop cricket. Why is it the responsibility of the ICC to pay the salaries of professional Irish cricketers if Ireland itself isn't committed to professional cricket - credible grounds, domestic structure, central contracts, and the like.

    I don't think it's the responsibility of the ICC to turn Ireland into a professional cricketing nation, despite their global cricket initiatives. Besides, there would be fewer players for England to cherry-pick!

    All that being said, good article.