African countries benefit from Afro-Asia format change
The Afro-Asian Cup, the second staging of which took place in Bangalore in June last year, looks likely to undergo a radical overhaul of its format.
The event has raised valuable funds for the African Cricket Association and the Asian Cricket Council, but it has been less than a hit with audiences and has been roundly condemned as an unnecessary burden in an already packed international calendar. The third Afro-Asian Cup was initially scheduled to be held in Kenya in June 2008 but Cricinfo was told several weeks ago it was unlikely to go ahead.
But while there had been speculation the event would be ditched completely, it is now reported that the organisers are to propose a new format which would involve matches being on a country basis rather than continent v continent, as is the case now.
There is already an Asia Cup - the itinerary for the 2008 event in June was revealed earlier this week - and to run alongside that there would be a new Africa Cup. That would be likely to feature South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, as well as other countries such as Namibia and Uganda. The winners from the two continents, and possibly the runners-up as well, would then progress to the finals.
A source close to the event told Cricinfo that the appeal of the revised format was that it would include more countries and appealed far more to local sponsors and broadcasters. What’s more, the emerging African countries have been after more meaningful international cricket, and for them this will be a godsend.
It seems that the choice for the organisers was change or bust. The emergence of the IPL – and to a lesser degree the ICL and Stanford 20/20 – on top of the burgeoning Test and ODI merry-go-round means that the international calendar no longer has time for the Afro-Asia Cup as it was. More regional tournaments with a quick in-and-out best-of-three final anytime during the year seems to appease both organisers and sponsors, and it can be scheduled to fit in one of the increasingly rare gaps in the international schedule.
The proposal is due to be put to the next meeting of the Afro-Asia Cup Council early in March.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa