Saturday, June 02, 2007

Zimbabwe's loss, Associates half-gain

The ICC Cricket committee's recommendation that Zimbabwe be held back from Test status until they can prove their ability against the top associates is almost a really good step for World cricket. Almost, but not quite.

It preserves the sanctity of Test cricket by ensuring that only teams good enough get to play it, and in the structure of the International game, this is necessary to keep the purists and traditional cricket lovers happy. It gives the top associates a chance to prove themselves against Zimbabwe - a side with Test experience and a longer history in multi-day cricket that any of the Associates.

It also allows countries like England, Australia and New Zealand the opportunity to sidestep the political ramifications of playing Zimbabwe and handing that moral dilemma down to teams such as Scotland and Ireland, but that is an argument to be left for another day.

At a pure cricketing level, this measure (if adopted by the executive) will mean that once they prove themselves good enough, Zimbabwe can step back up to Test cricket. What it does not do is provide a similar chance for an Associate team to make that same step. This should have been the perfect opportunity for the ICC to put in place a system whereby the most deserving team could earn itself a Test spot, instead they let the ball slip through their fingers.

Had they wanted to show they are serious about expanding the game, the ICC should have said that the winner of the 2007/8 Intercontinental Cup will be promoted to Test cricket for a period of 2 years - the period of the next Intercontinental Cup. At the end of that time, the lowest ranked Test side would then host a series against the new winner of the Intercontinental Cup with the winner retaining Test status for another two years, and so on.

This would in effect mean that the top 11 cricket playing nations would always be the ones playing Test cricket. No dilution would occur to the records and the high standards of Test cricket would have been safeguarded. For Associates, it would provide that final bridge to top flight cricket. It would provide an incentive for players from the Associates to stay with their countries rather than defecting to England and would significantly raise the stakes of the Intercontinental Cup making it more attractive to sponsors and hence providing increased funds for cricket growth on a global scale. In an ideal follow on, there would then be a third division introduced for the next tier of nations with a similar a promotion/relegation system. It is high time that performances on the pitch were allowed to determine who gets to play Test cricket rather than old-fashioned prejudice and politics. The ICC say they want to continue expanding the game. This is the perfect opportunity for them to actually deliver on that rather than offering empty promises.

4 comments:

Rich Burley said...

I don't see much value in a promotion-relegation system to Test cricket, primarily because it takes such a long time for teams to get established at that level.

If Ireland were promoted from the end of 2008, for example, they'd have 2 years of mixing with the big boys and plenty of investment, however they'd be very unlikely to make any impact at that level. Then they have the possibility of losing it all again for another team to go through the same process.

Better to increase the profile of the Intercontinental Cup, then wait for a team to achieve dominance in that, mixed with a maturing multi-day domestic competition and lots of popular support at home, and then give a new team a chance. I'd say that applies to Zimbabwe too.

Chemosit said...

What this system is trying to do is mean that the investment is not wasted. Two years at Test level may not be enough, but it is better than none, and they would always have the chance to defend that place at home.
It still makes it very hard for teams to cross the gap, but it makes it possible.
Maybe the timeframe should be 4 years with the amount Intercontinental Cup played on a home and away basis over that period.
I am not for one moment suggesting this is as a final model, but some sort of avenue MUST be opened up.

Anonymous said...

thats a smart idea but i think they should be given more time
zim should return 2 test status as it would give the associates some chances to earn points against the big boys (in this case zim a small big boy! )
and also that some consideration should be given to better teams like kenya, ireland, and scotland,
come on- zim recieved $12 MILLIon from icc but ireland recieved $1mill and they are a HANDS DOWN better team as they stayed in the wc alomst a month longer than zim... and so this poses a problem 2 development of cricket, as zim a sub-associate team is given so much money and god knows where its going and ireland and other teams with much room for growth are unable to recieve the much needed funds to make their players full time which would inevitably increase the quality of the players...

another thing is
what ICC should do is this
a tri series between
WORLD XI TEST TEAM
WORLD XI ASSOCIATES
WORLD XI AFFILIATES

and do the same with u-19's
i mean its obvious the test team will win it, but this will help boost cricket from the countries players are selected....
and it would help grow cricket, and it should take place in a place like bangladesh or sl, the subcontinent would be the best place 2 host a huge cricket tournamnet...
cheers!
ashwin

Nathan said...

Rich Burley has pointed out a major problem with relegation systems. In some sports, it's not a big deal as development is faster, but in Cricket, it takes many years to be a regular in the Test circuit.

A better approach is to have an overlapping system, so that the top associates get to play against the Test sides, and are given enough time to improve.

The top-ranked associate should play against the bottom 3 test sides over a 2-4 year period. The next ranked associate plays the bottom 2 test sides, etc... Meanwhile, the Intercontinental Cup could still continue as it is.

This solves the problem of not enough time, and it doesn't swamp the test sides with extra tours. It also doesn't require a Test side to give up its position!

-Nathan