The International Cricket Council (ICC) is, by its own assertion, “an international organisation with a global focus and acts at all times without prejudice, fear or favour”. If you want to giggle a bit more, there is also some spiel about wanting to build bridges between “continents, countries and communities”.
But in announcing the composition and format of the 2015 cricket World Cup, the ICC has now abandoned whatever progress it had made in encouraging new faces to Tony Greig’s proverbial party. It took just one faceless press release confirming that only 10 Full Members will take part. It’d be impressive if it wasn’t so contemptible…
The reaction to the news that the next World Cup will be an exclusive party for the ICC’s Full Members has been met with a wide range of (mainly negative) opinions, from deep gloom to incandescent rage. But the considered argument is not that Associates should be there by right; rather that they should at least have the chance to be.
It is the Irish who find themselves at the heart of a debate that looks as if it’s set to rumble on; Netherlands perhaps not far behind. After two successful World Cups in which Ireland have seen off Pakistan and England from the illustrious Full Member brigade, the reward is to sit on the side and shut up about it. Or switch allegiance.
I’m not one for paying much attention to ICC rankings. But neither, it appears, are the ICC. If they did, they’d note that current placement sees Ireland in 10th – ahead of Zimbabwe, who have been a Full Member in name only in recent years. If 2015 is meant to be the 10 best teams, it’d be done under the Trade Descriptions Act.
When the ICC told Ireland to jump, the response was “how high?” – Kevin O’Brien is on record as scoring the fastest century at a World Cup; Ireland posted one of the largest, successful chases in placing England’s tail firmly between Andrew Strauss’ legs. William Porterfield’s “kick in the teeth” reaction was putting it mildly.
No-one is going to pretend that Associates are on the brink of having a side capable of beating the likes of India and Australia; there are five ‘untouchable’ teams and England. But put New Zealand/West Indies/Bangladesh/Zimbabwe in an eight-way scrap with Ireland/Netherlands plus two, and tell me four to come out on top.
It would be easy yet disingenuous to say the four Full Members without a degree of careful thought. There are two very real places up for grabs amid the quartet of Old Boys from the ICC elite. And yet the kick up the arse that such a move would give world cricket has been removed, much to the delight of the weaker Full Members.
The most galling part of this whole episode, in my mind, is the way in which each of the 10 Full Members shafted the Associates and positioned themselves squarely on corporate dick in the process. It promises heavyweight clashes for the best and, for the rest, they get to stay in the Club despite wearing trainers and ripped jeans.
Even FIFA – of all the dubious cartels – paid lip service to smaller nations by giving a World Cup to a country with as little footballing pedigree as Qatar. Will the ICC give such a flagship tournament to the untapped territories of Spain or Brazil? Maybe Qatar, but only because the ICC could sit on their arses in Dubai a bit longer.
More eloquent and accomplished observers than I have also voiced disapproval at this piece of ICC Forward Thinking (you can’t have that, it’s probably a trademark). But for the next eight years, Associates like Ireland and the Netherlands – carrying the collective hopes of a 95-strong community – have no chance to fly that flag.
The ICC would have more credibility if it came out and said it wants Full Members only at the World Cup because no-one wants to watch Canada v Kenya again. But if an Associate team is found to be more deserving of a place ahead of Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, the ICC has no cause to say otherwise. Sport needs incentives; it also needs hope.
It’s a point I’ve already made before, but this is Orwellian foreboding at its worst – all teams are equal, but some are more equal than others. Welcome to ICC Farm…
Article by Pete Hayman