Once were Punching Bags – Why the ICC must keep the Associates at the World Cup

The Cricket World Cup is going gangbusters (although I think everyone agrees that they probably could have truncated the programme somewhat – I think the tournament officially started 2 years ago or at least it feels that way). The fourth most talked about storyline behind, (1) Why are England so bad? (2) Chris Gayle fits some Cricket in between a long series of parties; and (3) Khurram Khan is a 100 year old airline steward who looks 20 and has an average of 44.38, is the ongoing argument about the Associate Member participation in the 2019 World Cup. For those of you who have missed the 4th most popular storyline in this year’s World Cup, let me give you some background.

Cricket is played in a billion countries (penchant for exaggeration again unearthed) but only ten nations (or in the case of the Windies, a group of nations) have been deemed good enough to play Tests by the ICC (South Africa, Australia, England, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). The ICC registers these nations as Full Members of the ICC. All other nations which play Cricket are granted Associate Member status (38 Countries) or Affiliate Member status (57 Countries) by the ICC. In the current World Cup, there are 10 Full Member participants and 4 Associate Member participants. When the ICC revealed its plans for the 2019 World Cup it was proposed that the number of participants be rolled back from 14 to 10. Naturally this will curtail or eliminate Associate Member participation and also remove England from contention earlier than normal. As always, I am going to break it down pros and cons style.

Pros

Growth of the game – Including the Associates in the World Cup will eventually grow the game. Increasing the Associate Member participation provides pathways for Associate Members to eventually become Full Members. Players from these countries have something to aim for. Associates have a stronger argument for the addition of meaningful lead up games prior to the tournament. Increased exposure of the players to superior competition can create improvement. TV exposure and exposure to higher class competition can also enable their players to be scouted for professional contracts. This in turn increases their playing time and the number of people playing the game. Associate Member participation in the World Cup will also enable these countries to promote the game more effectively in their own country which may lead to an increase of potential commercial partners or an increase in Government funding. All of the above could lead to an increase in junior and senior playing numbers which in turn enhances future playing performance and the strength of the domestic game in each country.

Competitive – This is the most competitive the Associate Members have ever been. Upsets have happened from time to time in previous World Cups but the following has already exceeded past history – Ireland defeated the West Indies and Zimbabwe, Scotland pushed NZ all the way, most of the games have been close with only 3 games which can be described as old fashioned thumpings (UAE vs India, SA vs Ireland and Aus vs Afghanistan) and Bangers (who is an honorary minnow) has made the Quarter Finals. Ironically some of the Test playing nations have been just as uncompetitive. England vs Everyone (but particularly NZ) and SA vs West Indies).

It doesn’t take long to move from minnow to Test playing nation – Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are still finding their feet at Test Cricket but have had periods of success, especially at home. New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies were all minnows at one time or another.

If you are not moving forward in the World you are moving backwards – Sports are more accessible than ever. Cricket has a heavy influence in certain markets (India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan), has a strong presence in some competitive markets (the balance of Test playing nations) and is non-existent in others (the rest of the World). The global reach of certain sporting competitions is growing by the minute. The internet and live streaming have exacerbated the impact TV is already having. The EPL and NBA are global products enhanced no doubt by the international flavour of their competitions. If Cricket doesn’t move forward it is going to move rapidly backwards. Cricket cannot take its current market share for granted.

Cons 

Lack of quality in all games resulting in lower crowds and viewers – This is true. Including 4 Associates has definitely reduced the competitive nature of the World Cup. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh aren’t really out of the woods when it comes to being competitive either. It has more than doubled the amount of floggings (5 in all) and it is shaping like only Ireland might sneak into the Quarter-Finals. Scotland, UAE and Afghanistan were never really in the hunt. This in turn dilutes the entertainment and competition of the World Cup. I don’t have statistics on it but it must surely affect crowd numbers and viewer numbers.

Makes the tournament too long – This is true as well. It can be managed better. Making the pools smaller would arguably cut down the value to the Associate Members but truncating the programme to make it a 1 month tournament would certainly help.

Waters down the stats – This has been an argument over all generations that addition of weaker nations enables the players from the stronger nations to pad their stats. Can’t argue with that. The players can only play what is in front of them.

Verdict

It is pretty obvious that I support the expansion of the game. This is an Elitist vs Game for the Masses argument. I’m in favour of the game being accessible to the masses, no matter what country they come from. Imagine the World Cup without Sri Lanka, West Indies or New Zealand. If administrators of yore didn’t expand the Test playing nations to these countries, despite how bad they initially were, we would never have the excitement of the game as played now.

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • The NRL season kicking off. The Roosters and Rabbitohs were super impressive. Both dominated in the forwards, were stout in defence and just rolled over their opposition. Most of the other games were close. It should be an awesome season.
  • The PNG Hunters. Looking to build on a successful first season. I was worried with all the players they lost that they would struggle to compete. No such problems. I think the resignation of Brad Tassell isn’t a good sign though.

What wasn’t

  • The Broncos and the Cowboys. It is a long season and they both can find themselves in the Top 4 still but that was an inauspicious start for both clubs. The Broncos were at least in the game until the second half. The Cowboys never really got into the game.

Other random thoughts

  • Wayne Bennett’s thoughts regarding players on expiring contracts signing before the season starts do have some merit. I’m in favour of a transfer window.

Bill James Award 

For the statistically superior NRL human being.

Semi Radradra – Tries – 3, Run Metres – 122m, Try Assists – 0, Tackle Breaks – 6, Tackles – 6, Offloads – 0, Line Breaks – 4, Line Break Assists – 0, Errors – 0, Penalties Conceded – 0 and Erroneous representative eligibility stories in 2015  – Too many. 

NRL Tips Round 2

Shaun Johnson - Photo by Naparazzi - CC-BY-SA-2.0

Shaun Johnson – Photo by NaparazziCC-BY-SA-2.0

Bulldogs vs Eels – Bulldogs (Eels blew Manly off the park in the second half but the Bulldogs will be ready for them. The Bullies will miss Josh Reynolds and started poorly against Penrith but they will be much better this week)

Sharks vs Broncos – Broncos (Not a good first up performance by either side. Sharks were rolled by a better than expected Raiders and Broncos were soundly beaten by the Rabbitohs. Ben Barba had a good start. Probably the comprehensive nature of the loss will worry Broncos fans more than anything. It will be tough to win at Remondis but I think Wayne Bennett will sufficiently shake them up. Their bench did heavily underperform on the weekend so he has drafted in some new faces)

Panthers vs Titans – (Panthers should make it 2 in a row. Segeyaro was unstoppable. Titans showed up last week. Will be competitive this week but will be harder for them to win in Penrith)

Sea Eagles vs Storm – Sea Eagles (Storm are heavily favoured this week but Sea Eagles rarely lose twice in a row. They thrive on hate and adversity. Will miss Foran though)

Cowboys vs Knights – Cowboys (Cows were abysmal last week. The Roosters just rolled right over them. I think it was a case of how well the Roosters played though. I don’t think the attacking issues were endemic. Knights were courageous against the Warriors but they won’t be as good away from home this week)

Rabbitohs vs Roosters – Rabbitohs (Both teams couldn’t have played much better last weekend and this game will be epic. The Rabbitohs are slightly better at this stage)

Raiders vs Warriors – Warriors (Warriors don’t travel well but they do against the Raiders and the Storm. Raiders played well last week but consistency will be their issue again this year)

Tigers vs Dragons – Tigers (My smoky for the 8, the Tigers did well to escape with 2 points against a highly motivated Titans. They are learning to play consistent football and they should beat the Dragons this week who were a little lacklustre against the Storm on Monday night)

Last week – 3/8

Season so far – 3/8

My start was reminiscent of last year. Hopefully I will get with the programme sooner than later this time.

NRL Fantasy Round 2

Trades

Iosia Soliola (Raiders) for William Zillman (Titans) – You have to love these Second Rowers who can play in the Centres. Plus he played 80 minutes last week.

Sam Lisone (Warriors) for James Gavet (Broncos) – Lisone played well for the Warriors last week (at least from a fantasy perspective) and Gavet didn’t (either from a real world or fantasy perspective).

Starting Team

Robbie Farah (Tigers), Paul Gallen (Sharks), Andrew Fifita (Sharks), Shaun Fensom (Raiders), Corey Parker (Broncos), Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys), Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles), Thomas Leuluai (Warriors), Solomone Kata (Warriors), Iosia Soliola (Raiders), Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs), Eto Nabuli (Dragons) and Tuimoala Lolohea (Warriors)

Bench

Kierran Moseley (Titans), Sam Lisone (Warriors), Mitch Cornish (Raiders) and George Jennings (Panthers)

Balance of the squad

Rory O’Brien (Dragons), Chris Grevsmuhl (Rabbitohs), Lachlan Burr (Titans), Brendan Santi (Tigers), Mitch Moses (Tigers), Beau Champion (Eels), Lachlan Maranta (Broncos) and Edrick Lee (Raiders)

Current Points 

716

Current Position

9056

EPL Tips Match Day 29

Crystal Palace vs QPR – Crystal Palace 2-1 (After a run of particularly hard fixtures Palace meets a desperate QPR who are increasingly looking like one of the teams going down. Austin will get his obligatory goal but that will be it for QPR)

Arsenal vs West Ham – Arsenal 2-0 (Arsenal looking more and more the goods this season but will have to hold off Liverpool, Spurs and Southampton to play Champion’s League next year. The Hammers are gooooone. Should stay in the top half though)

Leicester vs Hull – Leicester 1-0 (The Foxes will be absolutely desperate for some points here. They need to make a move and make a move fast. Should edge Hull at home)

Sunderland vs Aston Villa – Sunderland 1-0 (It hasn’t been a season to write home about for the Black Cats. They invariably find a way to stay up having flirted with the drop repeatedly in seasons past. After a million losses in a row, Villa finally earned a victory making new Manager Tim Sherwood happy for a week. I think Gus Poyet will be the happier man this week provided he stays away from the drinks container)

West Brom vs Stoke – West Brom 2-1 (West Brom will want to put more space between themselves and those going down and they will be better than Stoke this week. Another Crouch goal highly likely. Purple patch is an understatement. It won’t be enough though)

Burnley vs Man City – Man City 3-1 (If City harbours any hope of catching Chelsea then all of the games will be crucial from here on in. 5 points behind with an extra game in hand for Chelsea, City are running out of time)

Chelsea vs Southampton – Chelsea 1-0 (One of the matches of the round (obviously). Will be tight. Chelsea will be looking for a better performance than they put up against PSG. Southampton will be trying to stay in the Champion’s League places but will be lucky to get anything at Stamford Bridge)

Everton vs Newcastle – Everton 2-1 (Both teams have had similar seasons. Newcastle the slightly better so far but the Toffees should narrow the gap between them this week)

Man U vs Tottenham – Man U 2-1 (Harry Kane will get his but Man U will prevail at Old Trafford)

Swansea vs Liverpool – Liverpool 2-0 (Liverpool could jump into the Champion’s League places any week now. It has been a long time since they lost)

I’ve adopted the scoring system utilised by Mark Lawrenson on the BBC (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point and picking an exact score THREE points) and even though he wouldn’t know me from Adam we are going head to head all season long. It’s on like Donkey Kong (unless I get a letter from his lawyer or Donkey Kong’s lawyer and then I’m tipping against myself again).

Last week – Me – 9 (9 from 11 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 10 (8 from 11 with 1 perfect score)

Season so far – Me – 202 and Lawro – 187 (Lawro randomly includes the odd FA Cup or League Cup fixture which is why his score is different on the BBC site)

Fantasy Premier League Match Day 29

Transfer of the week

Alex Bruce (Hull) for Massadio Haidara (Newcastle) – Injury replacement for the bench.

My team this week

Forster (Southampton), Clyne (Southampton), Ivanovic (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Sanchez (Arsenal), Eriksen (Spurs), Downing (West Ham), Hazard (Chelsea), Cazorla (Arsenal), Kane (Spurs) and Austin (QPR) with Hamer (Leicester), Ings (Burnley) Bruce (Hull) and McShane (Hull) on the bench.

Current Points

1,502

Current Position

131,536 from 3,470,955

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 19 March 2015 titled ‘Gone with the Windies – Can the Caribbean be saved?’

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