The expanding one-day world
Martin Williamson spoke to Matthew Kennedy, the ICC's Global Development Manager, about the six countries who will be able to play full ODIs from January 1 and the effect this will have on the international game
What happens on January 1 and how does the ODI world change?
From January 1 2006, the ICC has approved that the top six Associates of Kenya, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Bermuda and the Netherlands will all have ODI match status whenever they play each other or a Full member.
In that respect, as well as the Associate vs Associate ODIs which these teams will play in Regional ICC events and bi-laterally arrange around Intercontinental Cup fixtures and the like, the ICC is working together with all Full members to create a schedule of Full member vs Associate member ODIs within the current draft six-year International cricket schedule which is being considered. This has specifically concentrated on the first three years (from May 1 2006 to April 30 2009 and aims to achieve - at the least - the following;
To this end, the inaugural Ireland vs England ODI in Ireland on June 13 2006 has already been achieved and announced. In the same summer, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka will hopefully be able to tour a European ODI Associate around their existing visits to England, with details currently being finalised. It is anticipated that a full schedule of all Full member v Associate member ODI events/matches in the lead up to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 will be able to be announced relatively early in the new year. The plan is for these to comprise anywhere from two to five-match series, as well as possible tri-series, involving two Associates and a Full member all playing each other twice before a Final.
Once the pre-CWC 2007 schedule is locked-in we will work on firming-up the post-CWC schedule through to April 30 2009. Our current draft plans in this regard can obviously be greatly affected by any tour changes made by the Full members within the Future Tours Program which is yet to be finalised.
Are the six Associates ready?
There is no doubt that the Associate cricket world is as well prepared and resourced in the area of national teams and high performance as it ever has been, although the fact is that the Full members are obviously always striving to continue to improve as well. Therefore, the gap is never constant and that is the challenge which we are working hard to best face together with the Associates in a well-planned and enthusiastic manner.
The current top six Associates qualified for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 ahead of countries like Namibia and UAE who have both recently played ODI cricket versus Full members in ICC and ACC feature events. This illustrates that the competition is now very tight at the top of the Associates' group and this is a good sign. The performances of Associates such as Ireland and Scotland v Full members in "friendlies" over recent years, and going back to Kenya at CWC 2003, has provided a good indication of standard and potential. The ability to play first-class multi-day International cricket in the ICC Intercontinental Cup over the past two years - as well as participate in the expanded activities, funding and support which the ICC High Performance Program now provides - has also been crucial to raising standards.
In reality, to strongly compete with the Test nations they need the regular experience of playing meaningful matches against them more often and that is what this initiative better provides.
How will the LG ICC ODI Championship table work? Will all matches between the 16 rank equally?
The following ranking system has been approved in-principle by the ICC Executive Board after detailed consultation with David Kendix. The ranking system initially involves two ranking tables - an Associate table and a main table. An Associate will need to move through three stages:
1st Stage Ranked amongst the other Associates yet to fulfill the criteria for being ranked amongst the Full members on the main table.
2nd Stage Has a rating on the main table but not a ranking as it has not yet played enough games during the rating period against teams on the main table.
3rd Stage Is ranked in the main table.
In order to move from Stage 1 to Stage 2:
a) Two of the qualifying matches result in victory over a Full member; or
b) One of the qualifying matches results in a victory over a Full member and more than 60% of those qualifying matches played against the other top 6 Associates have been won.
In order to move from Stage 2 to Stage 3, a team should have completed at least 10 matches over the period covered by the rankings against other teams who have ratings on the main table. This number is being reviewed and may be reduced to eight.
Thus, in direct answer to your question, only once the Associate qualifies to be on the main table will the matches rank equally. Before that, it is only the rating (as opposed to the ranking) of the Associate which is affected. You will know that the ranking system takes into account the strength of the opposition.
Please also note that the Board has decided that Kenya will be treated slightly differently in that it will retain its position at Stage 2 of the process. Kenya thus retains its current rating and once it plays sufficient matches, it will get a ranking on the main table.
Will the Associates be eligible to take part in tournaments such as the VB Series and the NatWest Series?
Yes, there is no reason why not.
With so much importance on the top six and the top 10 for World Cup/Champions Trophy qualification, how will the ICC make sure that those on the periphery - especially Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - play the best of the Associates?
The support and commitment to this Associates' ODIs scheduling concept within the proposed six-year program by all Full members has been very positive thus far. If all current draft event plans come to fruition, the presently lower ranked ODI Full members will actually play more matches over the three years versus the Associates and this is seen as appropriate, and has not been disputed.
Is there not an actual disincentive for those countries to play the best of the Associates?
We would hope not and see no difference to when Full Members play Associate members at the World Cup, for example. The Full members have shown serious commitment - in various ways - to global development since the start of the ICC Development Program in 1997. The aim is to now "step this up a notch" in playing access terms from the start of the next International program from May 1, 2006 with a semi-formalised ODI schedule for the best Associates. If any issues arise in this regard, they will need to be taken before the ICC Executive Board for consideration at the time.
So all Full Members countries have to play all the Associates in the four-year-cycle?
No, these matches are not a part of the, or any, set "Future Tours Program" requiring a certain number of tours, matches, etc. They will be add-on matches to the FTP within the overall draft six-year International cricket schedule that will be achieved by finding cost-effective opportunities for Full members to play the Associates during established available gaps in the program, e.g. either before or after an existing Full member FTP tour nearby or as a stand alone support tour to an Associate member of their relevant Region.
Aside from the $500,000 over four years, what else is the ICC doing to help bridge the gap between Full Members and Associates
It is worth highlighting that the $500,000 to each of six teams for CWC 2007 is a major progression from $125,000 to each of just four teams for CWC 2003. This is a very significant new investment by the ICC in the developing cricket world which has enabled us to pursue initiatives such as this schedule of Full member ODIs for the best Associates. Combined with further funding and support under the ICC High Performance Program headed up by Richard Done, the ICC also assists the leading Associates in various other ways. These include, but are not limited to;
Is there a risk that success/failure in ODIs will add to pressure on the ICC to add/remove Test status? We would suggest that performances in Test cricket and the ICC Intercontinental Cup would be the main indicators towards standards in the multi-day form of the game. There are no provisions for a Full/Associate member overlap of competition in this regard and the set priority of providing this increased exposure in the area of ODIs is reflective of the appropriate focus for the Associate cricket world at this stage of its evolution. That is not to say that this important step may not play an important role in the emergence of a strong multi-day cricket country, which would be great.
I believe the elevated status of the Associates is on a four-year cycle. So, if at the end of that Kenya are fifth, they could still be asked to re-qualify via the ICC Trophy while Zimbabwe, say in 13th, would not? And possibly, the fifth-best ODI country might lose that status?
As you know, all Full members are afforded both Test and ODI status and the approval of this initiative does not change that. What we have been able to achieve - which we think is fantastic for the global development of the game - is that the top six Associates every four years also have the opportunity to have ODI match status. The fact that the Associates are tested via an on-going qualification system of the ICC World Cricket League to achieve this - which is open for all our Associate and Affiliate members - sits very comfortably within the principles of the developing cricket world If any issues arise in this regard, they will need to be taken before the ICC Executive Board for consideration at the time.
Under existing ODI rules, matches have to be televised and have third-umpire referrals. Does this apply to matches between Associates?
No, this particular playing condition will not compulsorily apply to ODIs involving the Associates (unless the host - or in the case of ICC events - ICC wants it to apply). This approach is consistent with a previous provision that was written into our regulations in respect of ODI matches involving Kenya when it was a sole designated ODI nation.
Will matches between Associates require the same level of ICC officials as ODIs do now? If so, won't that increase the burden on existing officials?
Yes, save in respect of non-televised matches, where a TV umpire is obviously not required. ICC will not increase the burden on the Elite Panel officials as we will either increase the number of officials on the Elite Panel or simply appoint members of the International Panel to these matches or both.
Will the ability of players to represent an Associate while qualifying for a Full Member - for example, Ed Joyce - be altered by the new status?
No, as per the current situation, a player qualifying for a Full member will continue to be able to represent his Associate member right up to the point that he is actually selected for the Full member.
There was talk of a mini World Cup between the six associates. Have those plans come to anything?
The top six Associates will come together for an all-ODIs event between themselves every four years in Division 1 of the ICC World Cricket League The first such tournament will be held in Kenya in January 2007 and will therefore be a key part of the next World Cup preparations of these teams.
What are the main benefits the new structure will bring to the game?
We believe that the key to the ICC Development Program is to use the resources it has been assigned and abilities it has to provide new and meaningful opportunities. This significantly increased access to ODI cricket definitely achieves that in a big way. As it develops over time, this major move will give the ICC, the countries concerned, and the cricketing public the opportunity to do all of the following for the first time;
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo