Sunday, March 18, 2007

Minnows, Giant Killers, Spoilsports?

So I have been proved wrong. India turned my anxiety expressed-in-jest to genuine concern, and convinced us that the Bangladeshi success against the Kiwis in the warm-up game was no fluke. And Ireland knocked out the other subcontinental giant, Pakistan, to enhance their reputation further after the Zimambwean tie.
But I still stick to my guns. I will request my readers to go through the link below (also published in the Hindustan Times), where Ian Chappell writes sense, as usual.
What has the ICC achieved with these giant-killing acts? Maybe, Sony Entertainment Television will now lose more money with deal re-negotiations (they are already in a cost-minimising mode), a regular backer of the game in the subcontinent Pepsico will have second thoughts, and the super-earning Indian international cricketing superstars will come down to the pedestrian levels of their other sporting counterparts.
Ireland might qualify for the Super Eights at Pakistan's expense, but do they have the infrastructure or the support systems to play meaningful Test cricket? Remember should be the ultimate aim. England also might lose to Canada today to get knocked out, but what will it do for the victors, who are playing with a 40-year old ex-West Indian international cricketer. Spreading the game eh?
India's case is more precarious. Frankly, if they win against Sri Lanka on Friday, and hope for favourable results in other Bermuda matches, then life carries on as usual. They take these points to the Super Eight, and the win against Bangladesh is consigned to history. But if they lose, or do not qualify? I think close to a billion dollars will go down the drain. Makes sense, a per capita of a dollar for a broken heart.
Global cricket is driven by the new liberalised, resurgent India Inc. But it is a bit of an artificial entity, as the commercial prowess is not exactly coorelated with the cricketing achievements. It is a frenzy driven by a one stunning tournament victory a quarter century back (the '83 World Cup), the presence of one world-beater (Tendulkar) for much of the last decade, and in the new century, the coming-of-age of a few geniuses in batting (in spite of the pathetic system to breed them). And this artificial market can easily collapse when the subsequent generation will struggle to meet the feats of their predecessors.
International cricket is a golden goose which is being killed by the administrators. There are just too many meaningless matches taking place, quantity at the expense of quality. And with the vagaries of global climate change (cannot think of any other reason), pitches are becoming uniformly easy, so that whenever India and Pakistan come across anything different, they simply shut shop.
It will be absolutely fantastic for the game if Bangladesh and Ireland qualify for the Super Eight, maybe joined by other minnows. But again I ask, what did Kenya's semi-final appearance in the last World Cup do to further their credentials in the cricketing circuit? Bangladesh is at least a Test-playing nation (undeservedly so), but will Ireland be one in this century? Hope so!
Commerce should not dictate the game, but it does. And it is only such results which can force the administrators to wake up and smell the coffee.


Amit Bajaj said...

While I completely agree with you (in spite of a few inherent contradictions in your article), I'm not too sure about Chappell. I didn't understand what he meant by "never once has a minor cricketing nation defeated a major side, nor have they ever come closer than being on the same field in these lopsided contests". After disagreeing with Holding on 1 associate member, he goes on to suggest 2 as the appropriate number - that's more a personal whim than anything sensible. Quite a few of his other points are sensible, but then they are hardly new.

Amit Bajaj said...

One idea:

Each test playing nation adopts one associate. This will bring a certain sense of ownership for the test team and public support for the adopted in the parent country - diplomatic benefits come. Or we could work on a return-of-favour basis. Imagine the Dutch football league adopts India and in return we take care of their cricket.

Abhigyan said...

That's actually quite a smart idea, unlike a few of ur other schemes (??).

And since I wrote the article in a lot of angst, let me clarify what I meant.

Football is played by more than 100 countries, and their premier tournament is restricted to 32, after a gruelling qualifier. Tennis has close to 1000 professional players, but the Grand Slams (and other major tournaments) are restricted to the top 100 odd-players. In Golf, similarly you qualify for tours, like Jeev has done so for the Majors this year.

Cricket is played on a consistent basis by eleven nations (inc. Bangladesh, Kenya, Zimb). But the supposedly MAIN tournament is played by 16. And with the warped scheduling, one bad day in office for India and Pakistan, can ensure Ireland and Bangladesh make qualifying for the semi-finals that much easier. After all, in 2003, our semi-final against Kenya was a lot simpler than the Aussies against SL. And maybe its far-fetched, it prepared them for the big final much better, as we saw.

Cricket needs to expand, but where your biggest tournament loses gloss and value, am not sure this is the right way to go about it.

xanjukta said...

oh... i forgot..this is cricket season.. write on!!!