Thursday, July 05, 2007

A modest proposal

This article from Cric Info proposes the perfect solution to two major problems in world cricket. I thoroughly enjoyed it and agree with the solution. If cricket interests you, you will probably enjoy it too.

ICC could aid the Associates
A modest proposal to aid the minnows
Neil Drysdale
June 25, 2007

Trent Johnston: 'We are amateurs with jobs and families to worry about and it is always going to be tough' © Getty Images
Craig Wright and Trent Johnston, the Scottish and Irish captains during the World Cup in the Caribbean, may have experienced different fortunes at the tournament, but both are unequivocal in the belief that their countries will only progress up the cricketing ladder with hard cash, not soft soap.

Last Friday, Wright declared that his troops may have hit a "glass ceiling" and risked slipping backwards, without "significant financial assistance." Then, within 24 hours, following his team's emphatic defeat by India at Stormont, Johnston issued a resonant cri de coeur. "We have got to put professional contracts in place, so that players can get back to the standard we set in the West Indies, when we had a schedule of 24/7 cricket," he said. "Without that, we are amateurs with jobs and families to worry about and it is always going to be tough."

The issue of how best to develop the emerging nations remains a taxing dilemma for the ICC, which meets this week in London. Yet there is one obvious solution to the present monetary shortfalls faced by the likes of Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Kenya. Namely, that the sport's governing body should kick Zimbabwe out of international cricket, withdraw its annual payment of $10m to the ZCA, and tell Peter Chingoka, the chairman of the latter organisation, that it is grotesque that he should expect to be subsidised indefinitely.

At a stroke, the move would finally demonstrate that the ICC has some connection with the real world and recognises that questions of morality and ethics should not be left solely to the politicians. After all, the reigning global champions, Australia, have already refused to tour Zimbabwe, with the support of their prime minister, John Howard, and it seems probable that the West Indies A squad's imminent visit to the African country will also either be cancelled or feature such a depleted Caribbean party that any subsequent matches staged in Harare or Bulawayo will be rendered meaningless.

In which light, what do Zimbabwe bring to the table to justify their Full Member status? Even in purely cricketing terms, they are a second-rate proposition, without the likes of Henry Olonga, Heath Streak, the Flowers, Andy and Grant, and Sean Ervine. But, in the wider scheme of things, their continued participation in international cricket is abhorrent: a glaring contradiction of all the social, political and multicultural values which are supposed to be enshrined in the ICC's constitution, but which have been left to wither on the vine under the inadequate stewardship of the council's chief executive, Malcolm Speed.

It should be obvious to even the most blinkered ICC placeman that if cricket is to expand beyond its present pool, it has to invest in missionary work

It shouldn't be forgotten that cricket is fairly trivial in the grand picture of discussing Mugabe's myriad crimes. And yet, the ICC is struggling at the moment to properly finance its associate members, a state of affairs which will doubtless be raised at Lord's over the next days, as the panjandrums pick over the bones of the calamitous World Cup, which finished in darkness but not before sufficient light had been shed on the organisers' collective blundering to ensure that the event will be remembered with derision.

From which perspective, if Speed and his colleagues decided to call an abrupt halt to Zimbabwe's presence in the ranks then that $10m could be the catalyst for professionalizing the game in Scotland, Ireland and beyond.

I spoke last week to Roddy Smith, the chief executive of Cricket Scotland, and he estimated that half-a-million pounds a year would guarantee that his organisation could place 12 to 15 players on contracts, as well as pay for any foreign tours which the Scots are keen to pursue. Given that the Irish are in a similar position, we can conclude that a £3 million leap of faith by the ICC would allow both Celtic nations to establish a full-time structure for the next three years, at which stage they would have to demonstrate to the authorities that they have forged commercial and local authority partnerships within their own territory as a means of moving towards self-sufficiency.

Nobody, least of all Smith, is asking for hand-outs, but it should be obvious to even the most blinkered ICC placeman that if cricket is to expand beyond its present pool, it has to invest in missionary work rather than simply be content to throw the minnows a couple of ODIs every summer.

Heaven alone knows, the ICC badly requires an injection of credibility. What better way than by expelling Zimbabwe, whose politicians have sparked anarchy for the sport ever since 2003? And by rewarding those nations with ambitions to transcend the goldfish bowl and advance into the big pond.

Neil Drysdale is a freelance journalist and author

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