World T20 should include more Associates - Cullinan
The ICC World Twenty20 should expand to accommodate more Associate teams, according to Daryll Cullinan, the former South Africa batsman. Cullinan is at the World T20 qualifiers as a consultant to Namibia, who have won their first three matches, including a surprise victory over Ireland in their opening game. He said the shortest format of the game provides the best opportunity for Associates to play top-level cricket.
"It is important for the teams to have the chance to qualify for global events," Cullinan told ESPNcricinfo. "T20 cricket is unpredictable and is a very good platform for Associate countries. There are players who can take the game away from the opposition. In fifty-over cricket, it is a lot harder, as the better teams have a chance to recover. In T20 cricket, there isn't a chance to recover, so they can be a lot more competitive. I would support the idea of six teams playing in the next T20 World Cup."
Only two of the 16 teams at the current qualifier in Dubai will progress to the main event that will be staged in Sri Lanka in September. Initially, six teams were due to be included but after the ICC decided to keep the 14-team format for the 2015 fifty-over World Cup, they reduced the number of Associate at the twenty-over event to two. They have promised the 2014 event will have more teams.
Cullinan believes this is the best avenue for the Associate players to get exposed to cricket in its highest form. "Associate teams need to be realistic that Test cricket is probably out of their reach," he said. "They may be able to have a good team of players and compete, but over an extensive period you need a greater depth of players and a culture of cricket, and that can take a long, long time. I'm not saying it's not possible, but it will take a lot for it to happen."
An important factor that could assist in developing cricket in Associate countries is the involvement of former players like Cullinan, who has eight years of international experience. Often, it's nothing more than good luck or coincidence that links a former international to these countries. In Cullinan's case, he went to university with Namibian Cricket president Francois Erasmus and knows the chief executive, Graham McMillan, who is former team-mate Brian McMcmillan's brother.
"It is important to expose people to Associate cricket," Cullinan said. "I've been exposed and it has far exceeded my expectations. The more people from the highest level who can see this, the better."
Cullinan said his role has two aspects - to work on cricketing technique and mindset as some of the players are better than currently think they are. "Skill is a factor but confidence and experience are things that can be improved,' Cullinan said. "The players need to be seeking bigger challenges outside of Associate cricket because if they get a bit more competitiveness, such as competition for places in a side, that will improve performance."
One possible avenue for Associate players to gain experience are the T20 leagues currently popping up around the world. "If Associate players perform well, with the amount of Twenty20 cricket around the world now, there is no reason why these guys can't attract IPL interest for example," Cullinan said. "With all the T20 leagues around the world, the door is open to all the players and it would be good to give these players to regular high standards of cricket."
Ryan ten Doeschate is one of the Associate players who has had success in twenty-over leagues. He plays for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL and has had stints in the Big Bash League, the HRV Cup in New Zealand, the Stanbic Twenty20 in Zimbabwe and South Africa's MiWay T20. Meanwhile the Bangladesh Premier League has a rule requiring that each team have at least one Associate player. "There needs to be greater understanding of what is happening in the Associate countries," Cullinan said, "be it players or administrators, so they know what is happening and what talent is involved."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent