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

World Cup 2015

ICC avarice dooms Associates to the wilderness

The leading countries' reluctance to give up their larger shares of the ICC's cake has come at the cost of spreading the game

Martin Williamson

October 21, 2010

Comments: 99 | Text size: A | A

Ravindra Jadeja picked up two wickets, Sri Lanka v India, tri-series, 3rd ODI, Dambulla, August 16, 2010
As long as India and the other powerful teams are kept smiling, that's enough for the ICC © Cameraworx/Live Images
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The recent announcement of a restructuring of the bloated international calendar by the ICC was an opportunity to restore sanity to the world game. Instead, all it has confirmed is that the battle within the ICC between the money men and those with a genuine interest in the world game is over. As expected, the bean counters have won.

The 2015 World Cup will have 10 teams, and while ICC officials say that no final decision has been taken on how these teams will be selected and that there might be still be a chance for Associate members to participate through a qualifying tournament, there is little likelihood of this materialising.

The working party that made the recommendations was made up of David Collier (England), James Sutherland (Australia) and N Srinivasan (India) with no Associate representation, and only David Richardson of the ICC there as anyone remotely independent. With a sub-committee like that it's no wonder this decision was reached.

The headline news regards the World Cup, a distended tournament, which, lest we forget, was brought to its knees in the Caribbean in 2007 largely as a consequence of the ICC's dreadful management. Instead of tackling the root causes of the malaise the ICC simply culled four of the six Associates to ensure there could be no repeat of the commercial disaster that came from India's early exit.

In 2015 the ICC will go a step further and remove the Associates altogether. While fans might have hoped this will mean a leaner event, the depressing news is it won't. The reality is that the number of matches will come down by one, from 49 to 48. But there will be more cheer for the commercial arm of the ICC because there will be more games involving the lucrative teams.

In a bid to deflect flak, the ICC claims no decision has been made about the structure of the 2015 World Cup, offering a flickering hope of a qualifying tournament that might allow Associates to win through to the finals. Sadly this just won't happen. It appears a stalling exercise to assuage critics until the dust has settled.

When I raised qualification involving Full Members as a possible suggestion a few years ago, at the time Zimbabwe cricket was imploding, I was told by a senior ICC official it would never happen. The reasons, he said, were two-fold.

Firstly, the Full Members would never agree to a structure that could result in them missing out. In a straight qualifying competition involving countries at the bottom of the ODI table, at least three Full Members could quite realistically be beaten by leading Associates and so miss out on the World Cup. While financially the ICC would ensure they would not lose money - for example, India's and Zimbabwe's earnings from the 2007 competition were massively more than Ireland's, though the first two made early exits and Ireland made the Super Eights - the implications for sponsorship and local exposure would be considerable.

 
 
The only way Associates might return is if those controlling the finances stop pretending and just state that certain countries - probably no more than three or four - have to play in any tournament, leaving the rest to scrap among themselves for the other places
 

While it seems a ludicrous suggestion at the moment, India were as recently as 2005 eighth in the ICC's ODI rankings. It is possible that by 2015 a major country could again be out of form and risk getting sucked into a qualifying event.

Given pressure from within the ICC as well as from media partners, who signed a colossal TV rights deal, led to a restructuring of the 2011 competition, neither would be willing to accept anything that might, however remotely, risk the commercial appeal of the World Cup, especially in the massive subcontinental market.

So for all the rhetoric about expanding the game - and to be fair here, there are many within the ICC who genuinely believe in this vision - a glass ceiling has been lowered into place, which ensures Associates will probably not be able to play again at a full World Cup.

In defence of the ICC, six Associates, as was the case in 2007, was too many. While Ireland made the headlines, others, including Kenya and the dismal Bermudans, were totally outclassed. A qualifying system between the top Associates and the worst Full Members would be fairer and would have also ensured the competition could genuinely be called a World Cup.

The two small pluses are that the emergence of Twenty20 means the Twenty20 World Cup, generously expanded to 16 teams, will give Associates a chance to bloody a few noses every couple of years. But the top Associates have not welcomed this, as it all but ensures their remote chances of attaining Test status, which could only come through impressive performances in 50-over games, disappeared. The other gain is that the unloved Champions Trophy might be consigned to the dustbin.

The only way Associates might return is if those controlling the finances stop pretending and just state that certain countries - probably no more than three or four - have to play in any tournament, leaving the rest to scrap among themselves for the other places. At least it would be more honest than the situation we have at the moment.

The Associates have been fighting a battle for recognition they were never likely to win. For all the pretence of the ICC being a democratic organisation, most people know the game is now run by three countries who are hellbent on keeping an increasing share of the pot between themselves. However much they might claim to have the interests of cricket at heart, the revamping of the World Cup has exposed that as a sham.

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

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Posted by Bensti on (October 24, 2010, 1:30 GMT)

Most people with any sense of moral judgment can see that disconnecting 500,000 players and an estimated 20 million fans in the 95 Associate and Affiliate countries is heartless and designed only to benefit the wealthy. It's sad to think that the privileged few are filling their pockets while cricket's unsung volunteers in many Associate and Affiliate countries cut bat shapes from trees and have to beg for second hand equipment. It should be, and quite rightly is, the dream of every cricketer in the 95 Associate and Affiliate nations to play in the World Cup. For many coaches, players, fans and administrators, that is the incentive that drives them on onwards. Meanwhile, in five of the 10 Full Member countries, cricket is on the decline, whether it be due to spot-fixing, terrorism and internal strife, poor administration or faltering attendances despite the millions of dollars they afford themselves. The emerging nations offer the game some optimism in the future. Or at least they did

Posted by Vaughanforever on (October 23, 2010, 15:05 GMT)

Expansion of the game at Test level would be an appalling thing to happen. It would ruin the game. Wave goodbye to all Countries playing each other regularly, say hello to bastardised records as you regularly see mismatches. Say goodbye to traditional series being played regularly, say hello to even more pathetic 2 match series. Welcome to teams at the top of a distorted world league who happen to have played loads of poor teams at home, goodbye to Test cricket actually being a test.

Expansion is totally undesirable and completely without need or point.

Posted by   on (October 23, 2010, 14:31 GMT)

The ICC are a joke, they haven't learnt anything from the 2007 World Cup. Far too many games - just what is wrong with having 4 groups of 4, top 2 qualify for the quarter finals - no ridiculous Super6/8. It could be run in less than a month. If India/Pakistan gets knocked out early - TOUGH!! I can't see the point in having a World Cup AND Champions Trophy - get rid of the Champion Trophy. Have the World Cup every 4 years, and the Twenty20 every 4 years, but have them seperated by 2 years; so we have a global tournament every 2 years.

Posted by AK47_pk on (October 23, 2010, 14:23 GMT)

associate members need a body of their own to show the icc that cricket is not going to be limited in just few countries.....and i can clearly see this happenning in near future nd i,ll only blame INDIA AUSTRAILIA ENGLAND ND SOUTH AFRIQA for that cuz these countries dnt want others to have a say in ICC...they are so scared that if there are more members, they lose their say nd autharity in cricketing matters...

Posted by yousaf465 on (October 23, 2010, 13:43 GMT)

And those three countries are ... Australia, England, and India ? ? World cup should be a open tournament, similar to Football world cup. Every team including the top ones should be playing a qualifying round

Posted by   on (October 23, 2010, 11:07 GMT)

now this is the cricinfo I remember ... these are the articles that are deserving to be published. The real issues that are facing the game. I hope other reporters actually start reporting too instead coming up with their world XI's.

There's a lot going on in the world of cricket. What with cannibalizing of itself by money-hungry organizers and bodies.

It's great for a game to have such a rich heritage as cricket, but if all that amounts to is fantasy world xi's and not effectively used to support the growth the game world wide, all this game will continue to be is a small insignificant frat house that no one really cares about and eventually alienate those who do.

Posted by   on (October 23, 2010, 10:27 GMT)

Martin you have highlighted very important issue relating to the participation of associates at internetional level. Shame on ICC for excluding the associates in future ICC event apart from 20/20. This is a clear indication that ICC wants to keep top level cricket to a closed circuit circumstances with no regard to expansion of cricket on an international stage. I suggest that ICC cricket world cup should be re-classified as a closed event and as the move by ICC does not reflect the game being played on an international stage such as football, atheletics, and many other sporting displicines which reflect a truly world wide participation. ICC does not relect these values and seriously needs to look into much wider. No wonder cricket is not considered for Olympics, Commonwealth Games because it does not have a world-wide participation. The ICC needs to wake up from its colonial slumber and seriously promote the game world-wide.

Posted by jackiethepen on (October 23, 2010, 8:48 GMT)

Avarice IS dooming cricket because the businessmen with TV deals foremost are ruining the game. It is cultural corruption. But it hasn't been helped by the cynical cricketing media who all jumped on the bandwagon of attacking the last World Cup. There were highlights and lowlights but the former were ignored. But there was a general desire to slag it off because of the financial mismanagement and the early exit of India and Pakistan. It is time the media shook off the idea that cricket is only interesting played between the top countries. Some of the best games were provided by Ireland in that tournament and cricket has cracked on in that country since. Businessmen never understand that cricket is not a product that doesn't change but a sport which is always changing. The media downplayed a cracking Test Series in 2008 between New Zealand and England, games which swung amazingly between the sides. We are paying for that kind of boredom - if they are that burnt out let in enthusiasts.

Posted by Jim1207 on (October 23, 2010, 2:59 GMT)

I agree with the concern of the author, I respect his articles the most here. But his point is basically flawed here in this article. When would associates get total exposure and international stature just by playing and getting thrashed every four years in world cup playing 2 or 3 matches?! The key is give them "Test Status" which only would bring more countries playing Cricket, not giving "chance" to them to play few pointless matches. It would take 20 world cup matches and 80 years for an associate country to play only world cups and become international team if not at all given test status. And, when the future of ODI world cup is not even sure in 2020, why are we discussing now about their inclusion or lack of it! I appreciate ICC decision for not giving these "chances". But I condemn ICC for not immediately giving test status to more than average associates and make them play official Test matches with Bangla, WI, NZ, Pak, Ind or whoever comes to the bottom of the rankings table.

Posted by tfjones1978 on (October 23, 2010, 1:11 GMT)

Reformating maybe good for cricket as long as the full members are required to qualify. The changes could be like this: (1) Test Championship of all full members and 1 temp position (that rotates amongst top associates), 2 or 3 tests * 20 series plus Finals. (2) ODI Championship includes 12 to 16 ODI teams ("all ODI teams") with top 8 qualifying for ODI WC and final 2 spots qualifiers 9th to 12th vs 17th to 20th. (3) T20I WC will expand to 16 teams (4 by 4) and most likely expand beyond. My recommendations are that (1) Any unofficial match, Country A or Associate team played against any of those three categories over 3+ days are called "Test A" matches, backdated to when Country A's started (2) No more warm ups against states/counties/etc, only against those 3 categories, with preference to Test A's against Associates. (3) ICup & IShield replaced by Test A tournament which includes 10 full member A Teams and 10 associate teams over 4 years (until assoc becomes full member).

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Martin WilliamsonClose
Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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