Ireland, Namibia, Canada, Kenya, Bermuda, Scotland, Netherlands, USA, UAE are some of the top associate nations who have played at the Cricket World Cup over the years. But have they really proved their worth? Do the names John Davison, Steve Tikolo. Odoyo, Niel O’Brien among others ring a bell? Probably yes. But for most it doesn’t. Over the years they have just made the numbers at the World Cup. Or so to say they are the ‘World’ in the World Cup.
Canada has played many a time in the World Cup sine 1979. Kenya came on onstage in 1996 and defeated West Indies in Pune in one of the biggest upsets of all time. Scotland and Netherlands have been regulars too. Namibia and Bermuda have come in once each. John Davison of Canada smashed a 67 ball century against them in the 2003 World Cup. Ireland shocked Pakistan and Bangladesh and tied a game with Zimbabwe during the 2007 World Cup to become the first Associate Nation to ever enter the second round at the ICC tournament. With a magnificent 119 by Ryan Ten Doeschate of the Netherlands they posted a score of 292 to run England pretty close in the 2011 World Cup. But all these performances have mostly been flashes in the pan.
So what’s the problem with these teams? Why do they get hammered all the time? Why are there so many one – sided matches? Is this good advertisement for cricket? Do these players not get any support from their respective countries and boards?
Interestingly Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka were associate nations too at one time. Bangladesh got test status after defeating Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup. But since then they have seen disasters most of the times. Zimbabwe had one of the best teams at one time but have gone downhill since the black and white player dispute because of the overall situation in Zimbabwe due to the Mugabe regime. Sri Lanka have been the best of them all since winning the World Cup in 1996.
Other than Scotland and Ireland and to an extent Netherlands, there is not much domestic strength to choose players from. Take Canada, USA, UAE etc. These teams have a lot of Asian players who have a day job and play cricket too. But there are no leagues, no players, no money nothing. And all that these players have to do to earn is to do a day job. Sometimes they do play the Intercontinental Cup (The 4-day matches tournament between the associate nations), the ICC Qualifiers and something here and there. But there is not much infrastructure or interest in the game among the local population. Until that happens, these nations will suffer.
Moreover most of these teams play their big brothers only once every 4 years. And the result – Get THRASHED! The public interest goes down. There are too many mismatches in the World Cup and the entire event becomes a joke of sorts.
I will discuss two different cases here. Both are as different as chalk and cheese. Kenya reached the 2003 World Cup semifinals after a walkover in the Super Eights. From there they have gone downhill to become the worst associate nation today. From corruption to poor grassroots development, they have suffered at every level. Ireland was a team of a plumber, a physical education teacher and people with many day jobs. In the 2007 World Cup they had two professional cricketers. Today they have 2 who don’t play professional cricket. Consider the vast difference.
Other than building the interest in the sport, generating the resources (money, infrastructure) etc. the ICC should develop a calendar or a way to make these nations play the big guns of World Cricket much more often so that they don’t get thrashed each and every time. In reality they don’t seem to have a plan on the way to make an associate nation a power in cricket. In that aspect ICC’s move to increase the number of teams in the Twenty20 World Cup to 16 could make it more interesting.
Consider this – An associate has a better chance of defeating a test playing nation at Twenty20 which is more of a lottery format than the 50 over game. And when T20 is the future of cricket, then why not? I believe that 8 spots in the World Cup 2015 should go to the main nations and the remaining two need to be competed between the top associate nations along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. You really can’t remove the World from the World Cup. I am including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe because I strongly believe that they still don’t belong to the top level.
Do you think Associate Nations should be a part of the Cricket World Cup?