'What's the point of Associate cricket?'
Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, has launched a stinging attack on the ICC and the way it handles cricket below Test level.
The ICC has sunk millions of pounds into Associate and Affiliate cricket, and established several global competitions, but speaking to the Wisden Cricketer, Deutrom was unimpressed.
“What is the point of Associate cricket?” he said. “Ireland has proved itself head and shoulders above the rest of the Associate nations, winning all the available titles in every form of the game – four-day, 50-over and Twenty20. Yet we are bumping up against a glass ceiling. What does the ICC want us to do? How do we get from high-performance programme to the higher echelons of the world game? There is no road map for us. The issue brings to question the whole mission statement of the ICC High Performance programme: what is it preparing teams for?”
Deutrom has made no secret of his ambition to see Ireland play Test cricket, but he admitted there was little prospect of that happening in the near future. And, without that goal, he concluded, what was the point of the Associate merry-go-round.
“Three or four years from now there will be no new entrants in to the cosy club of full Test members. That is a significant frustration. It shows that despite the massive investment in the Associate programme, costing over £200 million over seven years, there is no stepping stone from No.1 of the Associate countries, into the Test world.
“Inclusion in the Future Tours programme gives guaranteed fixtures, which allows the CI board to put together a commercial package with some certainty. This makes it interesting for broadcasters, and then sponsors, ticketing and hospitality. Currently, we don’t know what next year’s fixtures are going to be. We are not saying that Ireland deserves to be a Test nation tomorrow but what steps do we need to take to get there?”
In a separate conversation, Deutrom told Cricinfo: “We are all aware that there is no established pathway to Test cricket for Associates, and ascension to the Full Member ranks by (for example) Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh appears to have happened rather haphazardly. For me, having top Associates playing the bottom-ranked Test teams is pure common sense and the first step in breaching the glass ceiling separating the Full Member and Associate world.”
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa