Perhaps a bit out of place for a football blog, but I’m going to do it anyway. Cricket is probably my second favourite sport after football (perhaps tied with rugby union), one that I will quite happily get up in the middle of the night to watch if the mood takes me (see Ashes 2010-11 for a prime example).
The recent Cricket World Cup also had me glued to Sky Sports whenever I could (which unfortunately wasn’t all that often, given the during work start times for most of the matches). Undoubtedly the highlight of this Cricket World Cup, and the last for that matter, for the neutral, have been the performances of the wonderful Irish team.
In 2007 (I hasten to add, their first World Cup), they somehow managed to salvage a tie against Zimbabwe when the Zimbabweans needed 15 runs from 36 balls to win the match. This was followed by a momentous 3-wicket victory against Pakistan (which knocked the former winners out of the tournament on St Patrick’s Day), followed by a creditable performance, which included a victory against Bangladesh, in the Super 8s. In short, they made what was a long, boring World Cup actually quite interesting.
2011 was no different, the characters from 2007 (Trent Johnston and Niall O’Brien among many others) being bolstered by talented young fellas plying their trade in the English county game, such as Paul Stirling and George Dockrell. It was a similarly triumphant story for a relative minnow of the game. An unfortunate 27-run defeat to Bangladesh was swiftly followed by an astounding 3 wicket win against England, which also brought about the fastest World Cup century and the highest World Cup run chase. They followed this up with a creditable 5-wicket defeat to India, and a 6 wicket win against the Netherlands, achieving the third highest World Cup run chase to boot.
And, finally getting to the point, how have they been rewarded for the 2015 World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand, given the relative shaking they have given the cricket world in the last 4 years? The answer is with sod all.
The ICC voted in Mumbai on Monday 4 April to confirm that the 2015 World Cup would be a closed shop, open only to the 10 “elite” cricketing nations. This despite the fact that that “elite” includes Zimbabwe, who are beginning to find their feet again (though not exactly harking back to the Henry Olonga days just yet), but are currently below Ireland in 11th in the ICC’s One Day International rankings. Yet Ireland have no way at all of qualifying for 2015, whereas the Zimbabweans have been given a free pass to the tournament. The ICC’s method of making up for this utter injustice is instead to say “oh but the T20 World Cup will be extended to 16 teams.” To which I would be tempted to say – so what.
The ICC’s alleged aim has been to move cricket away from its traditional strongholds and develop the game in other countries. One wonders what kind of incentive this attitude is meant to provide. Irish cricket has clearly come on leaps and bounds since 2007 and this showed through their performances in this year’s World Cup, partly because of great performances from talented youngsters like Paul Stirling and George Dockrell. The chances of those two, and other upcoming Irish talent, actually playing for Ireland come the World Cup in 2015 are incredibly slim.
In bringing this abhorrent situation about, the ICC have chased the shiny dollar (in this case mainly the rupee provided by the BCCI), and in doing will undoubtedly halt the spread of the game at a high level, which is supposed to be their ultimate aim. I suppose it should in some way be heartening, but at the same time utterly demoralising, that maladminstration at a global level isn’t endemic solely in football.