The World Cup ended amidst a lot of fanfare and even before the celebrations could peak, something of an after hour party has hit the roads in the form of Indian Premier League, edition four, and as always one could hear the voices of the sceptics and the purists degrading the format. They do not want IPL, for them it is a kind of black magic, in its most mysterious of all forms, making the sport of cricket shallow from inside.
Well, that could be termed as exaggeration but still, similar sentiments have been echoed often, since T20 hit the mainstream. The old phrase of “change being a constant” governs everything in the big sphere that we live in and it applies to cricket as well.
Thinking beyond T20 cricket, one would find changes, revolutionary changes in the way cricket was perceived, the way cricket was played. Not going really far or trying to stretch any kind of imagination, West Indies emerging as world champs was a change. Kerry Packer and his rebel l
eague was a change. India, the underdogs winning the World Cup was a change so was Sri Lanka’s victory. John Davison could be added to this list as well.
This World Cup also witnessed such changes, primarily being the shift of power. Now the Asian subcontinent has the bragging rights in world cricket. Ireland was a change or rather it was a forceful change envisaged by the spirit of the game, the nature of the game.
But alas, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has taken the decision to make the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand a closed tournament, involving the nine Test playing nations plus Zimbabwe. It has left the future of cricket in associated nations hanging in balance.
Ireland is the one which is most affected, most hurt and rightly so most outraged by this decision. A country that has made considerable strides as a cricketing force in the recent past must have thought of a bright future for itself. But what greeted them for their success in the World Cup were closed doors.
They have beaten Pakistan, Bangladesh and most recently, and famously, their “mentors” England.
The decision has been taken on the pretext of the World Cup, in its current format, being too long and complex. And to some extent, it does hold true, with major part of the round robin league matches of the 2011 World Cup being played out as dead rubber.
But the decision in itself is a big contradiction. The ICC governing body wants the game to be globalised and it was for this very purpose the format of T20 was given a go ahead. So, what purpose does shunting out teams from the primer cricketing event have then?
And no one is crying foul for this. There are no optimists or purists coming forward to protest this decision. A lot have been debated about T20 but no one really is giving any heed to this serious issue.
The reason why cricket became very popular, as it stands now with the advent of limited over cricket, was because of the success the teams from Caribbean and the sub continent enjoyed while playing limited over format, which started out as an experiment. Similar success was what Ireland enjoyed this edition; similar success was what Kenya enjoyed in 1996 WC (when they beat West Indies), and in 2003 WC (where they reached the semifinals). Bangladesh also got a taste of this success defeating Pakistan in 1999 WC and there are many more such instances one could cite.
Irish cricket has gone from an amateur sport, with a limited playing pool and playing structure, to a country with its own elite system and central retainers. Having the opportunity to compete in the World Cup every four years has been a significant part of the development programme for minnows like Ireland.
Now, with this decision what good that kind of a development would do? Barry Richards was a prodigy, a career cut short because South Africa were thrown out of cricket fraternity due to the country’s apartheid fiasco. Steve Tikolo could have made it to any playing XI of the leading cricketing nations. So could have players like Basil D'Oliveira, John Davison and Ryan ten Doeschate. But they never did just because they were not born in a nation with cricketing legacy.
Now similar fate awaits players like Paul Stirling, George Dockrell and William Porterfield.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)