ICC should learn short game lessons
I t is hoped the International Cricket Council has learned some lessons from the proliferation of 50-over games before the cricket world is saturated with its latest limited-over reincarnation, Twenty20.
Judging by the success of the inaugural world tournament in South Africa, which has many of the things the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean did not, it is full steam ahead for the shortened version. It has many things going for it for the general public – all over in three hours, plenty of big boundary hitting and it broadens the game’s appeal to a bigger base.
But the ICC need to be mindful of not killing the goose that lays the golden egg after the 50-over game spawned countless mind-numbing tournaments, usually among the teams from the sub-continent, that had little going for them apart from the opportunity for Indian bookmakers to fix matches.
That could arise again with Twenty20 with its even more hit and miss nature – who would know if a player is trying to get out for a low score?
The ICC should ensure the tournaments it runs are meaningful. Countries should play fewer 50-over fixtures, which are losing their appeal, perhaps just three-game series instead of six or seven, with a three-match Twenty20 series.
A balance between the half-day game and day-long contest seems sensible as the ICC comes to terms with the almost instant explosion of Twenty20. The chance is there, though, to pare back 50-over events without threatening the players’ livelihoods, for they would earn similar match fees.
The worry is the ICC is already promulgating a league series which does not directly involve countries but a mish-mash of players from different countries in various teams.
That is just shamelessly seeking to cash in on the sport’s quick fire success, admittedly under pressure from the emerging rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) set-up, without thinking the issue through. Often less is more but there is the need to take the new game around the world.
Instead of a “club”-style leagues concept why not promote a Continental Championship which features teams from Oceania, Asia (2), Europe, Americas and Africa. There should be a maximum of players from one country, say eight, thus several players from other regions in the continent must be included.
Asia would be allowed two teams because it has four test-playing nations and that would appease the television giants of the subcontinent. Perhaps Pakistan could team with near neighbour Bangladesh while India link with Sri Lanka.
West Indies would dominate the Americas with a Canadian influence while England would make up the bulk of a European team complemented by players from Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands. South Africa would be backed by Zimbabwe and Kenya.
A tournament could be played in each of the six regions with a round-robin and then semis and a final. Points would be carried through like sevens rugby to find a champion.
Already there are Africa and Asian confederations operating – why not formalise the whole thing?