2012 Review

Marginalised and messy

Associate nations slid further away from the spotlight this year, and several look unlikely to make their way back

Martin Williamson

December 29, 2012

Comments: 29 | Text size: A | A

Andrew White and Andrew Poynter celebrate Ireland's title triumph, Afghanistan v Ireland, World Twenty20 Qualifier final, Dubai, March 24, 2012
Ireland are the Associate side with a shot at challenging the big boys © Getty Images

At a time when the international calendar is putting the game's big players and senior countries under increasing strain, with fear of burnout a real concern, it was inevitable that 2012 would be a year where Associate cricket continued to slide into the shadows. The halcyon days when the leading Associates aspired to become full-fledged members of the ICC elite are increasingly a distant memory.

It's not as if most of them have done anything wrong, but the demands of TV, sponsors and money-centric boards has left them scrambling for the scraps. The irony is that the explosion of T20, which presents the major Associates with the best chance of embarrassing the Full Member countries, has also left them more marginalised than at any time in the last decade. As lucrative T20s are added to Full Member tours, the opportunities for Associates to arrange fixtures with the bigger nations diminishes further.

There was no real change in the world order, with Ireland by some way the most professional and ambitious of the teams. Under the leadership of their impressive and forward-looking chief executive Warren Deutrom, they continued to press forward with ambitious plans, including their own domestic first-class tournament. They finished the year at the top of both the Intercontinental Cup and World Cricket League, the premier Associate competitions, and won the World Twenty20 Qualifiers in Dubai, where their only defeat came at the hands of Namibia in their opening match. In the tournament proper they were well beaten by Australia and eliminated by West Indies in frustrating circumstances when rain washed out their winner-takes-all group match.

Afghanistan, the other Associate at the World Twenty20 after finishing runners-up in the qualifiers, were also eliminated at the first hurdle, but they briefly threatened India and went home with more to show for their efforts than either Zimbabwe or Bangladesh. In the Intercontinental Cup they continued to sit on Ireland's tail but their ODI performances were less consistent. They continue to punch above their weight in terms of publicity, to the undisguised frustration of others, with one senior Full Member chief executive snidely referring to them as "Pakistan B".

Scotland and Netherlands both had enough success to keep them interested but fell short where it mattered. Neither qualified for the World Twenty20, their one tilt at the big time, although Netherlands only fell one match short. In a wretched summer Scotland had another disappointment when their highest-profile home game - against England - was washed out. They managed only one win out of 12 in the Clydesdale Bank Pro40 but Netherlands proved their worth with three wins in their first four outings and finished a creditable mid-table in their group.

Elsewhere Canada's off-field promotion improved but their results did not and they ended 2012 at the bottom of both Associate tournaments, the gulf between them and the leading countries even wider than it had been a year earlier. They finished third in their group in the World Twenty20 Qualifiers but were well beaten in the matches that mattered.

As lucrative T20s are added to Full Member tours, the opportunities for Associates to arrange fixtures with the bigger nations diminish further

Namibia, despite a small player pool, again impressed in the qualifiers, topping their group with seven wins in seven, only to be beaten by Ireland in the semi-final. They fared less well aside from that and face a frustrating 2013 as they are already out of contention in the World Cricket League and very much off the pace in the Intercontinental Cup.

One country going in the wrong direction is Kenya. A senior international administrator privately admitted that they had squandered a decade of substantial investment and had nothing to show for it. On the field their performances continued to be lamentable - and this despite the board continuing to retain a fully paid squad - and old and depressingly self-defeating off-field squabbles again surfaced. The election of Jackie Janmohammed, one of the faces of the old Kenyan Cricket Association, gave every indication that no lessons had been learned. She has a year to turn things round and the odds seem stacked against her.

Kenya will face a tough qualifying competition in 2014 for the following year's World Cup, and unless results improve dramatically they face losing substantial ICC funding. That would mean much of the internal structure falling apart.

The other country in a mess is the USA, but that is almost entirely down to poor governance and endless bickering. The announcement of a professional T20 competition starting in 2013 briefly ruffled feathers, especially in England, during whose season it would take place, but it soon became clear that the USA Cricket Association, which stands to benefit financially from the venture, was too intent on infighting and disqualifying most of its own stakeholders from participating in highly criticised internal elections to be able to push the concept. By the end of the year the USACA was not only an international laughing stock, largely thanks to the actions of its own executive secretary, but were turning off investors in droves.

For quite some time the ICC, with justification, seemed to see the USA as the market worth cracking. But the USACA managed to kill that vision and now the ICC pushes China as the land of opportunity. But despite a stream of upbeat stories, that remains a distant dream, with small pockets of success.

The sad reality is that Associate cricket is more marginalised than at any time in the last decade, and that is despite the sterling efforts of the ICC, both financially and logistically. The international calendar and the self-interest and greed of most Full Member boards leaves the Associates fighting over crumbs at the top table. If anyone can break down the barriers, it is Ireland, but if they don't, the future is even grimmer than it is now.

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

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Posted by ygkd on (December 30, 2012, 22:15 GMT)

@SirViv1973 - Yes, there are a number of stumbling blocks to the Olympic dream for cricket's associates, most notably the BCCI. However, I would make one point to illustrate just how much things can change. That is, by the time any Olympic re-entry comes around, it is possible team GB may not even be relevant in its current form. Without wanting to go into the politics of it, Scotland is holding a referendum on independence in 2014. The Saltires could therefore yet stand alone, as a direct beneficiary of re-entry. So, I believe it is unwise to presume too much based on the current situation. Even the potential co-inciding of the the Games with the English season is dependant on where the games are staged. As for the release of players, the Olympics (which I don't watch but many, many do) has such clout that I can't see this being a major problem, especially on a 4-year cycle. I think cricket missed a trick by allowing London '12 to come and go without it, while archery used Lords.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 20:13 GMT)

Was a sad sad day when we were told that Peru would not be getting a chance to improve on their second place in the South American Division III Champioships last year in COsta RIca as the ICC had decided to cancel future promotion promising tournaments as they were too costly. Costly my derriere...... As ever in this desperate capitalist environment we live in the big boys want to keep it all for themselves and forge the rest. You can see this in every avenue of life.

Posted by tatactg on (December 30, 2012, 16:53 GMT)


Why not ask Ireland to play 4 day first class matches against Ziim/Bang or their A teams home & away (with or without your hired aussie/Saffa/Kiwi imports - just think about it, a team demanding for test status riding on the coattails of hired players - something never happened before in cricket history) and judge the results - I am sure you will come back to the real world.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (December 29, 2012, 23:50 GMT)

@Ygkd, although I like the idea of T20 being an Olympic sport its not feasible. If a sport is to be included in the Olympics it should have all the best players & teams available to compete. It would be virtually impossible to have a team GB compete. The Olympics usually take place in Aug which would rule out all of Eng's centrally contracted players as they would be involved in a home test series at that time of year. Its also doubtful that the counties would be prepared to release players either. Whoever are touring Eng at the time would also be ruled out. I also couldn't see the BCCI going for it, plus with so much cricket being played its doubtful that too many other boards would be willing to let their top players go. The World T20 also generates a lot of money for the ICC so they are not just going to wave goodbye to that & allow a replacement competition to be run by the IOC.So sadly I think its a non starter.

Posted by Jonathan_E on (December 29, 2012, 20:18 GMT)

Zimbabwe and Bangladesh need to lose their Test status. They've had their crack at the top, tried, and failed. Let them drop back to Associate level.

Now it's Ireland's turn to be allowed a chance at a step up. Let's give them a match against England either as a warm-up or as an afterthought to the main series of a summer. A one-off match or even a 2-match series between Ireland and England as a warm-up to a 5-match Ashes series - or a 4-match series against the likes of South Africa or India - would be a great idea. It would get more crowds in than an early-season series against, say, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh ever would: not least because England would be playing against an opposition that actually wanted to be there.

And then, teams visiting England can play a match against Ireland on the way in or the way out, just like visiting teams visiting India used to play a match in Sri Lanka (or teams visiting SA would play a match in Zimbabwe).

Posted by Interzod on (December 29, 2012, 19:43 GMT)

@Christopher Talbot

"I think that Afghanistan should be allowed to 'warm up' teams going to play the likes of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh could gain some benefit being a 'warm up' as they have really gain ground on the big guns."

That's a great Idea IMO and could be expanded for others too. Rather than supplying a domestic team who no doubt play too many matches anyway. Gets the tourists a look at the home conditions and the associate sides some one day and FC experience. If you apply for an ICC position you have my vote!

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (December 29, 2012, 16:33 GMT)

I think the ICC and the people running the game in the USA missed a trick when they didn't promote the game as aggressively enough in the USA over the last 40 years as they should. With excellent cricket playing weather throughout the United States in the their summer and excellent infrastructure and sports facilities that the Americans have even better than in Australia and millions of immigrants from cricket playing nations who have become Americans you would think that Cricket would have taken off like nowhere else in the States. Yet that fact cricket is going nowhere in United States is I think one of the great missed opportunities of cricket. I think game of cricket is poorer for it that the people in charge of Cricket over there never sorted their mess out. As a result cricket in the States remains the property of enthusiasts who have a hit on weekends at their parks. Its a shame because I think normal Americans would love to get behind their team if USA had better governance.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

Stirling effort to leave Ireland stranded between the Full Members and the Associates? I think it's a pathetic effort quite frankly - the Irish have been every bit as dominant at this level as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka did before them, yet seem unlikely to ever receive Full Member status.

With a gutless non-approach by the ICC, neither offering a path for promotion or offering the olive branch of Full Member ODI/T20 status, the Irish could very well fall apart within the next 18 months. More worrisome, the likes of Stirling, Rankin and Dockrell will just bail and become part of the England lineup. Disgraceful indeed.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 13:21 GMT)

Love seeing the smaller countries having pops at the big boys. I reckon England should play Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland during the summer after the Ashes series in 20/20 or a series of ODI. This series could also include the Aussies as they are over here with both England and Australia travelling to the other 3 and playing in their backyard.

I think that Afghanistan should be allowed to 'warm up' teams going to play the likes of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh could gain some benefit being a 'warm up' as they have really gain ground on the big guns.

I also think the Olympics are a no go because it has already been rule of 2016 in Rio. 2020 OG are in Madrid, Toyko or Istanbul so it would be 2024 at the earliest.

Posted by Warm_Coffee on (December 29, 2012, 12:52 GMT)

In order for the future of Cricket to be bright and healthy, it has to spread to more nations especially the top associate nations where Cricket is played all the time in fact, countries like Canada, Ireland, Scotland etc already have clubs and Cricket is part of school sporting programs. Even a country like USA though Cricket is not popular by any means over there still generate the second biggest revenues in Cricket after India, even China are interested in Cricket now and starting to set up cricketing programs. When Netherlands beat Bangladesh earlier this year in the T20 match, many Dutch locals came out in support and happy that their team one so of course there is interest in Cricket because its an enjoyable game which unfortunately didn't get the same recognition as countries like India, West Indies and New Zealand who were new full member nations in 1926. Cricket may make a lot of revenue from the leading 8-10 full member nations in the short term but long term it looks bleak.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 12:49 GMT)

I can't see why the ECB can't get the England Lions to play against the Irish team say in the summer or even perhaps play in places such as the UAE to get used to different conditions. It would be a good idea to keep a close tie between the English and Irish. This would surely go towards their progression as a cricketing nation. Surely Zimbabwe or Bangladesh would play against them in their own backyard.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 12:36 GMT)

Totally disagree with this article otherwise from what I have been reading from this article, just shows Cricket as a whole is literally dying but totally disagree especially when more than a 100 countries play Cricket. If you remember Lord Woolf report, he strongly advised to add 2 more full members which clearly suggests ICC aren't doing enough to help the associate nations. Cricket needs more teams otherwise the 'World' Cup will just lose its value if its only played by a small number of teams 10 which doesn't deserve the title 'world'. There are just so many repeated matches in Cricket right now which is why most fans don't even turn up to watch and the coming back to back ashes is another one which will degenerate interest among the fans considering its too long. For me personally, if more nations like Ireland etc are not part of the elite in the future then Cricket will just lose interest especially amongst it fans.

Posted by nepcricfan on (December 29, 2012, 11:11 GMT)

there is not really much the associates can do when all they get is one international tournament per annum. and talking avout marginalising, are these the only associates that cricinfo cares about? some of these are already on the top echeleon of the associate world and they get a lot of cricketing opportunities compared to those countries which are, let's say, one or two division below them. and by no means are those countries any less of a cricketing force than these so called top associates. take for an instance, nepal managed to win the tournament that had afghans, beat USA twice in the same tournament in this year. And when those countries manage to get a sneak peek by the 'author', nepal miraculuosly has not even been touched upon. for god's sake even China gets a mention! this is really frustrating.

Posted by AdityaMookerjee on (December 29, 2012, 10:33 GMT)

If the many valued teams, who are members of the ICC by association, become Test status teams, then there will be a calendar, for tours, which will look a little like 1930, as Australia will play India once perhaps in four years, maybe more?

Posted by niyasindian on (December 29, 2012, 10:25 GMT)

It is sad to see the Icc is not doin anythn to help these associate and affiliated countries... They best thing they can do is taking necessary steps to include d t20 in Olympics............

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 9:29 GMT)

agree with the other comments saying this article is a bit downcast and depressing. obviously it's a high-level summary of sorts, but in the bigger picture cricket is developing around the world, and there's no doubt that in 10-20yrs more countries will be involved and some of the associates will be playing at impressive levels. to confine progress to a one-year "snapshot" is a bit misleading. i'm working in the Czech Republic trying to improve things (will take a while!!) but locally i'm aware of great work in Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, among many others, and it's a bit of a shame this is overlooked in this summary.

Posted by Narayan.Shastri on (December 29, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

All I can say is, ICC has a long history of not being proactive enough to spread and develop cricket to newer parts of the world. Cricket's governing body should take a leaf from the International Olympic Committee and try to provide good governance and work for the upliftment of the gentleman's game.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

Let "Minnows" play amongst themselves, who needs them anyway when we have the Ashes, the Ind-Pak clashes & the ODI World Cup !!!

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 7:54 GMT)

I agree with almost all of the previous comments. I have always enjoyed the novelty of seeing countries other than the established elite play. The best moments at the cricket world cup, for me, come in the first round; especially 2007 when Ireland and Bangladesh caused upsets, or 1996 when Kenya did it. T20 cricket should be all inclusive and should be the vehicle to expand the game round the world.

Posted by KingofRedLions on (December 29, 2012, 7:18 GMT)

@Craig Alstad - Williamson has been covering Associate cricket for years. Chances are, if he's saying the Full Members, not the ICC, are at fault for the position of the associates, he's right.

Posted by Sameer_cricfan on (December 29, 2012, 7:14 GMT)

Dunno why but felt slightly disheartened by the article... He repeatedly talks about "exclusive ten" but himself gets confined to the elite-six assosciates plus US & China... It seems no ckt conversation is complete without mention of these two no matter how bad their game is....Just like their is life beyond the test world, same goes with first and second tier Assosciates.... I know nobody gives a damn how much we cry our lungs out but these things frustate me more than Test countries disrespecting us......Nepal won the ACC trophy and finished above Afg but it is not even touched upon.. I am from Nepal and I cant remember when was the last time we played Ireland & co. , if it ever happend..... So how is it that we can grab his attention Cheers!!!!!

Posted by Winsome on (December 29, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

I agree with Craig Alstad. The problem is the way the ICC executive is set up. The full member boards - and only a few of them - control the schedules and all they appear to want is money for themselves. Untill the structure changes, and let's face it, it isn't going to anytime soon, nothing else will improve substantially.

Posted by msg90 on (December 29, 2012, 6:32 GMT)

I'm keen to see how countries like PNG, Vanuatu and others go. As someone that has worked closely and intimately with the Vanuatu team, I have a firm belief that they can go a long way. Perhaps not all the way to ODI status, but I believe they could make it to, and compete in, division 3. However, I'm also keen on Ireland and the Netherlands to keep going about their merry ways and improving as well. The more countries playing the wonderful game, the better!

Posted by Gizza on (December 29, 2012, 5:47 GMT)

@Nick Swason, cricket has plenty of places to grow. The problem is the elitist attitude of the exclusive ten. Both Afghanistan and Nepal are sleeping giants considering that cricket there is the most popular professional sport now. There are many countries where cricket is one of their favourite sports but have too small populations to be competitive like Bermuda, Namibia, New Caledonia (Fr.) and various islands in Polynesia. The interest is definitely there. I've seen comments on ESPNCricinfo from people of so many nationalities including Brazil, Nepal, Canada (not recent subcontinental migrant), Ireland, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Croatia among others. Keeping in mind that cricket is such a beautiful game, there is no reason why more people around the world can't fall in love with it. With the small countries where cricket is huge, there needs to be a way to use the untapped player pool such as Bermuda joining the West Indies rather than playing alone.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 5:29 GMT)

There has to be some lessons learnt from football. How can the FIFA World Cup have almost 30 teams out of which at least 20 can be touted to reach the next round, and here in cricket if 15 teams are playing, it can be assumed that only 4 teams are worthy enough to be in the next round. The rest are all there to fill the number. There is also a askew representation of continents and utter domination in the hands of some of the most powerful national cricket boards. Also the players of the associate nations are not preferred in country wise T20 leagues nor their domestic league (with an exception of England) India could do will by adding associate nation players or even a associate nation team to their line up so that the utterly disgraceful tournament will get a global perspective.

All said and done, all my words are SUGGESTIONS.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 5:09 GMT)

Proof positive- Cricket has no place left to grow.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 4:44 GMT)

Associate cricket is marginalized more so then ever....that is the most true thing in the Mr. Williamson's statement. However, despite the internal issues of some of the national associations,which need to be resolved. I find his statement that the ICC has done "sterling" efforts in order to allow associate members the opportunity to become full-member nations. The ICC's efforts with promoting and helping associate members the opportunity to become full members,as in Test playing countries is nothing but a laughing stock. And Mr.Williamson speaks from the comfort of having the exposure to top-fight cricket on a weekly basis, not so for us associate nations. Which in my opinion is the only real way of improving associate play. It's true, the national boards in some of the associate counties need to be sorted. But what really needs to be done is the ICC actually becoming a board for WORLD cricket, not just the former Commonwealth nations that already enjoy top-fight competition.

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