What Cricket Really Needs Today

Source: Chris Hyde/Getty Images/stuff.co.nz

Source: Chris Hyde/Getty Images/stuff.co.nz

The cricket world cup is underway and the sport is back in news, trending worldwide on twitter every now and then.

The first 20 games of the tournament have been pretty dull to say the least, thanks to the terrible flat drop-in pitches, with the clear exception of the game between Australia and New Zealand that went down to the wire. Apart from that match, the only games that were the closest and the most exciting were between the supposed minnows.

There has been far too many brilliant performances by teams of associate countries, God knows what this term means, to be a fluke. And it is not fair at all that only after four years do their fans get a chance to cheer for them on a considerable international platform. Not because the world cup is held after every four years, but because that is when these teams get a chance to play the test playing nations.

ICC, the governing body of cricket, has always let politics and money get into the way they have been making various decisions pertaining to the sport. Not only is it hard to understand what standards the body follows in granting test status to associate members, but even how it tackles regulation aspects of the sport, such as the legality of bowling actions, in a consistently obnoxious manner.

Nobody knows why the ICC had granted Bangladesh test status after it won a single game against Pakistan in 1999, while Kenya is still waiting for it despite qualifying for the Semi Finals in the 2003 World Cup. Furthermore, Ireland has been performing consistently well since the 2007 world cup, winning several games, and beating giants such as West Indies, Pakistan and England, but still has not been able to impress the ICC.

ICC probably was so eager to grant test playing status to Bangladesh because of the commercial market that the country offered for the sport, and which could be lacking in Ireland, Holland and Kenya. While this is an important factor, it should not be dictating the sporting opportunity.

Irish captain William Porterfield was absolutely right when he said that their victory against the West Indies was no upset. The team has been performing easily at par with, if not better than, any world class test playing cricket team. He also expressed his disgust at the term “associate member” and the way ICC has been treating these teams, including his.

Teams such as Ireland, UAE, Holland, Kenya, Nepal, and especially Afghanistan deserve the test playing status, or at least proper, respectable international cricket slot, which goes for Zimbabwe and Bangladesh too. Not only will it work wonders for the development of cricket in these nations, which is something the ICC is supposed to do, but will also help the sport itself.

However, the ICC is hellbent to keep the sport of cricket in a closed circuit of countries that are already dominating it, and is even marginalizing the “lesser” cricket nations with its hideous transfer of power to the “Big Three” boards, namely, India, Australia and England. Big, in terms of commercialism.

What is even worse, the number of countries participating in the world cups will be reduced to 10 from 14 in the 2019 edition to be held in England and Wales. So will be the case in the next world cup to be held in India in 2023.

Cricket boards with an unnecessarily disproportionate focus on commercialism such as the Indian BCCI, are effectively destroying the sport with their influence on the international governing body.

The other way around, which surely no board will follow, is to completely ignore the ICC and carry out bilateral tours. such as a Pakistan and Ireland test series, or a Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia triangular tournament. Let the burden of marketing and broadcasting rest on the boards involved, and stop caring whether the matches are considered to be “counted” or legitimate. A much better option than succumbing to the status quo or voting to “boycott” the sport.

Will it affect the quality of cricket? Yes, but it would be affected anyway.

What cricket really needs is to get rid of the insulting “associate member” term and offer equal opportunity of playing, not financially growing, to every cricket playing nation. Only then will the sport truly reach its potential of popularity around the world.

Otherwise, it would not be surprising to see cricket played in three countries only.

Not that they would mind.

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Two Decades Since the Happiest News

Source: The Telegraph

I must admit I do not attach importance to sports anymore as I used to do ten years ago, neither do I associate it with patriotism in any way. I never did, even before my teenage, but it feels good to see everyone around you so jubilant and it feels very good to see something you associate with do well. Especially when it is a part of very personal nostalgia.

Pakistan is a country surrounded with troubles of all sorts, especially in the recent years, but it has had its share of fond memories and some very creative and important people in its history. I say this with an overtone of sadness that there have been very few instances of “good news” in its history, since its creation, at least in my living memory, since the late 1980s to date. However, one that I consider the most important one, and to some probably the only one, was the 1992 Cricket World Cup victory.

Now that was a huge moment for someone who had not even reached his teenage at the time and it was ecstatic. Imran Khan is my childhood hero and I recall that when I was in school there was no one in the world that I wanted to be like than Imran Khan. He is one of those very few charismatic and inspirational people you cannot help but notice. I was not alone. All the boys wanted to become Imran Khan and all the girls wanted to marry him. And it was really inspirational to see him lift the trophy for Pakistan. He is a politician now and a controversial figure, but I guess he always was. And that’s sexy.

Now that was one of those patriotic moments you cannot help but not hide under pragmatism, making it one of my very personal posts.

It happened on this day, March 25, exactly 20 years ago in Melbourne, Australia.

I know it is only a cricket tournament and many cricket world cups have come and gone since then, but to my generation, that moment means something really special. Besides, Pakistan was not as half as desensitized a nation to everything as it is now. I still remember watching the Pakistani cricket team victory parade on Murree Road in Rawalpindi from the roof of my old family house. It was a surreal moment that got attached to my memory forever and will never leave it until my brain cells are dissolved with my corpse.

Even the most useless cricketers in the squad are treated as heroes to this day.

I find the Pakistan of the 1990s a very magical piece of history anyway and it was really made special by this very special event. The earlier generations would attach far greater importance to the event not just because archrival India dramatically won the 1983 World Cup but because Pakistan was eliminated from the 1987 World Cup over a controversial umpiring decision that led to the dismissal of Captain Imran Khan in the Semi Final against Australia in Lahore. It was probably the lowest point in his career and he retired after the loss in the tournament. He was persuaded to come out of retirement and went on to lead an apparently dysfunctional team to victory, in a miraculous manner. Those who followed the tournament would know what I am talking about.

Whether you agree with it or admit it or not, I think that the 1992 World Cup victory had a great part to play in changing the destiny of Pakistan. It also led to the building of Pakistan’s first dedicated cancer hospital in Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center, which could have happened without the victory too perhaps, but maybe not in such a glorious manner. Donations poured in for it. We lost that spirit somewhere over the years. Hope not.

Imran’s acceptance speech was pretty much about him than Pakistan, but I guess Pakistanis don’t mind that. I don’t.

But it really was the Happiest News the Pakistani nation ever received.

Two decades since the Happiest News and probably waiting for the next one, which will never come because this was it I guess. Hope not.

I think the 1992 Cricket World Cup was a moment that I do associate with patriotism without any shame.

Yes, it is a moment for which I am very proud to be a Pakistani.