Minnows have failed to give a good account of themselves in the early stages of the World Cup

 

By Madan Mohan

 

With abysmal performances from Canada and Kenya early on in the tournament, doubts about the future participation of minnows in World Cup cricket are already being raised.

 

It was perhaps the only way, unfortunately, that associate nations could get any attention in international cricket – for all the wrong reasons. And, in a fashion similar to Europe’s fate hinging on Iceland’s, it raises questions about future efforts to increase the spread of cricket.

 

If you make it harder for minnows to get to play in the World Cup, you are reducing their incentive to participate in international cricket. One has to bear in mind that some of these players who represent minor teams aren’t even professionals, so the incentive isn’t great to begin with and only the chance to represent the nation in a World Cup keeps them going.

 

I would not suggest that minnows should be welcomed with a red carpet to participate in World Cup cricket regardless of their pedigree. However, is it not true that with a less-inflated format, the presence of 14 teams wouldn’t actually hurt so much? In fact, in the event that one of these teams springs an upset, one might even have surprise entrant in the quarter-final or equivalent stage.

 

Like Zimbabwe in 1999, Kenya in 2003 and Bangladesh in 2007. Which, of course, is the sponsors’ nightmare and they would like to ensure that all established teams get through to the quarter-finals no matter how mediocre their performance is. There’s a word for it, it’s called inbreeding.

 

Maintaining a small and cosy circle of nations involved in the sport sounds comfortable and convenient in the short run, but in the long run, the game’s existence hinges on its survival in these limited pockets. Should the health of the game in even some of these nations suffer greatly, it would put a lot of pressure on the international game. Cricket has been hampered by a smaller following in terms of number of nations from inception and, curiously, administrators have also appeared reluctant to do something about it and increase its reach.

 

One could be sympathetic to the problem earlier because cricket was not a wealthy game. That is no longer the issue. Of course, it is a bit too much to expect a cricket board that barely manages to revamp congested stadiums in time for the World Cup to be interested in something that requires a little more foresight and vision and it is difficult for the followers to go where their leader doesn’t.

 

The game has endured tough times in West Indies for so long that it ceases to make news, but New Zealand seems to be drifting that way too. Lack of adequate international cricket due to a volatile political climate is bound to take a toll on Pakistan. Sri Lanka remains curiously unenthusiastic about playing outside home soil. In short, the health of this cosy club is by no means secure.

 

Moving to a 10-team tournament ought to be accompanied by both strengthening the game in these countries and affording more resources to associate members. Otherwise, the BCCI may see no need for a World Cup in a scenario where IPL continues to rake it in.  Sure, it’s an extreme and unlikely scenario, but think about it. Of course, it’s anybody’s guess whether the ICC really does expand to International Cricket Council.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)