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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The ICC has been coming in for a fair amount of sniping of late as a result of teams being unable to take part in its events because of issues with visas. This is not about the game’s big boys, but Associates and Affiliates competing in lower-level tournaments.
Last month Sierra Leone were unable to take part in the ICC Under-19 World Cup Qualifiers because they could not obtain visas from the Canadian consulate in time; last week Morocco failed to make it to Malawi for a World Cricket League commitment after falling foul of officialdom in Qatar.
There have been those who have heaped the blame on the ICC. It should, so their argument goes, ensure this does not happen and put pressure on the various countries hosting events to, in some way, bypass the usual rules and regulations. It’s almost as if cricket is a special case.
The same people who were lambasting the ICC for not ensuring Sierra Leone were able to play in Canada have been quiet over the fact that almost a dozen players from Afghanistan and Uganda took the opportunity of playing in Toronto to abscond and seek political asylum. All those individuals have done is ensure it will be even harder for players for some countries to take part in future events.
In fairness, the ICC has not helped itself in the past with its posturing when the British government barred Zimbabwe officials. But that was a bigger fish in a bigger pond.
The reality here is it is down to each country to ensure its own arrangements are in place. It cannot be the responsibility of the ICC to chase up every visa application and transit visa to make sure they are all in order. It is not - and should not be - the job of the ICC, or any sporting body, to tell countries who they should let in or not.
The boards get good money from the ICC and it is not unreasonable to expect those boards to show a higher degree of professionalism in the way they handle things. Too often, sides are selected at the last minute, paperwork is left until far too late in the day, and officials are happy to heap the blame on embassies and consulates.
I chased up one such instance not too long ago where a board was making a great song and dance about visa delays meaning it was shut out of an event. It turned out that it had spoken to the embassy months before the event and been given clear guidelines, including the key one that it needed 14 working days for visas to be processed. In the event, the applications - more than half of which were wrongly completed - were submitted five days before they were needed. There are two sides to every story.
In short, some boards need to be more professional and to take responsibility for their own affairs. Most manage it quietly and efficiently. It is not for the ICC to mollycoddle the few who can’t get their acts together. Martin Williamson