Is the ICC talking enough about its associate members?

The Associate countries need more support from the apex body to even compete with the full-member nations.

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Scotland. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Umaima Saeed
UMAIMA SAEED

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Earlier in January, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the winners of its annual awards. Institutionalised by cricket’s apex body in 2004, the awards recognise the best performances in international cricket from the bygone calendar year. A total of 19 awards under various categories are given out – one among which is ‘Associate Player of the Year Award.’ The other 18 are concentrated around the full-members.

The governing body shares a press release which carries the names of the awardees. Publications then get into a rat race – each wants to carry the press release before the other in order to get maximum views. When you type ‘ICC Awards’ on Google, as many as 3,20,00,000 results are displayed in 0.47 seconds. Browse the ICC’s official website, and you will see a dedicated page on these awards – its history and names of previous winners.

There is also another page on the website – ICC Development – where you will see a separate tab for ICC Development Awards. The awards are described as ‘a celebration of the growth of cricket in the ICC’s 92 Associate Members. The awards recognise the outstanding work undertaken to grow cricket on a daily basis by individuals and groups around the world.

Unlike on the ICC awards page, the development awards page shows no history of past winners. When you type ‘ICC Development Awards’ on Google, you get some 65,50,000 results in 0.38 seconds. That is 25 million fewer results than what Google shows for the mainstream ICC awards.

The numbers are a clear indication that the other category of awards are not much talked about. The talking can only begin from the ICC – which knows its associate members and their proceedings the best and is supposed to act as their media head. To put it in brief, the ICC does not talk about its associate members as much it should. There is noise every now and then, but is it loud enough?

Scotland Cricket’s Biggest Heartbreak

Scotland’s hopes of playing in the 2019 Cricket World Cup were washed away by rain in Harare. The showers spoiled a promising run chase and saw West Indies progress into the quadrennial event. Kyle Coetzer’s team was chasing 199 for victory after a fine bowling performance. They were 125 for five from 35.2 overs when the clouds turned dark.

With heavy downpour not letting play resume before the 5 pm cut-off time and no reserve day scheduled, West Indies won by five runs via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method. But that was not where the Scots suffered a heartbreak.

It was when a well-set Richie Berrington was wrongly adjudged LBW on 33 in the 32nd over off Ashley Nurse’s bowling, that the turnaround happened. As per calculations, if Berrington had been saved by the Decision Review System, and Scotland had lost only four wickets, they would have won the game.

This was not a bilateral series. Scotland missed the World Cup. No DRS, no reserve days and the associates had nobody to confront. There were no raised fingers – a common sight among international cricketers when umpiring howlers take place. As a result of West Indies’ controversial win, this was the first-ever Cricket World Cup which did not have a single associate country playing.

The ICC did not comment on this. Neither does their coverage of the World Cup qualifiers have any mention of this. Scotland may be awarded the Spirit of Cricket Award when the ICC Development Awards are given out in June this year. But there will be only a little coverage of the same.

Brazil cricket’s historic development

In 2018, ICC recognized Brazil women’s cricket team as one its associate members. That same year, the team remained unbeaten in all 10 T20Is they played in the South American Championship and followed that up with sensational performances in the Central American Championships in 2019. The team ranks 36th in the women’s rankings, which is a whopping 40 places above their male counterparts.

Consequently, Brazil announced central contracts for 14 members of their women’s T20 team. They became the first centrally contracted players in the country’s cricketing history. There is no other member in the world that doesn’t have centrally contracted men players but has centrally contracted women players.

This is a ground-breaking moment for cricket, but the ICC is yet to acknowledge it. There has been no noise from the Dubai-based body on the historic development.

A shrunk ODI World Cup

The World Cup’s contraction to 10 teams was opposed by several, but the board was firm in its decision. Due to lack of match practice against the full-members, the participation of associate nations in the tournament will lead to lopsided games, which in turn will cost the ICC millions of television viewers. The World Cup qualifier itself has only two slots to offer between 20 contenders. For a board that prioritises short-term money over the long-term globalisation of cricket, having a 10-team World Cup is the most profitable.

The ICC recently proposed the expansion of the T20 World Cup from 16 teams to 20 from the 2023 cycle. While that appears to be an emancipating move, the need of the hour is to give more recognition to the associate nations by covering their achievements which get eclipsed by the full-members.

Virat Kohli was awarded the Spirit of Cricket award for his kind gesture towards Steve Smith. Had this same award been given to Scotland Cricket, which silently made peace with the fact that a wrong umpiring judgment cost them a World Cup participation, cricket would have been the eventual winner.

As aforementioned, Scotland may be awarded at the development awards. But again, how many people know of these awards? Not many.