Lorgatisation may lead to stagnation of cricket

Like a bad dream it keeps coming back to my mind. The very thought of the Cricket World Cup – by far the biggest icon of the modern day game -- is going to be played only among some privileged teams keeps bothering me.

Once again it must be reiterated that Sri Lanka was a key benefactor in this qualifying system when it had to go through the ICC mill way back in 1979. As expected Sri Lanka qualified and joined the mainstream; it happened as a result of the ICC opening its door to the so-called second graders to perform and prove their abilities.

Yet we ask if a side does not get a chance of performing and proving itself on the big platform, one may ask as to where else it could do so.

Last week the Indo-Asian News Service quoted the chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Haroon Lorgat as reiterating that the 2015 World Cup would be limited to 10 teams as against the current 14 as the governing body strives to "strike a balance between excellent competition and developing the sport".

An excellent competition in whose eyes we ask? Is it the television companies who are not satisfied with their strikes rates when a minnow is involved in a game? Then what about the ICC’s planned development programme of globalizing the game. Then Lorgat in his previous interview to the same news agency on the very same subject justified the contentious move by saying that the sanctity of the quadrennial World Cup cannot be compromised by numbers.

The ICC, he said, was contemplating a new qualifying process to ensure that only the 10 best would play. "The decision to go with 10 teams was very well thought through. We are discussing the merits and the process of qualification. It is a subject that is ongoing. We will consider that in ICC's next Executive Council meeting.

Haroon Lorgat

"The object of the ICC is not related to the question of getting funds by holding World Cups. It is the balance we try to achieve between excellent competition and the development of the game.

"The Twenty20 format is used only for development of the game. Hence we have expanded that competition (World Cup) to 16 teams. We think if the qualification was to be the route through to the World Cup, then that will make a far better World Cup from a competitive point of view."In the future 50-over World Cup, you will see the best 10 teams playing and in the Twenty20 cricket that will be played every alternate year, the best 16,” he said.

Globalizing the game through a T-20 tournament just does not appeal, because it is the Cricket World Cup that matters and not any other concocted tournament. Yet still don’t they think even a T-20 tournament would not be lopsided if it is burdened with a load of minnows.

At the same time we also will talk of the rationale of leaving the bottom half countries to keep indulging in the shortest version of the game (T-20) where they pay scant respect to the pure techniques that have made the game so beautiful to watch and made us believe in it.

How would these teams who get into the fray through a T-20 system get used to playing the longer version of the game. We raise this question because the T-20 and the rest of cricket are played differently.

Yes, a person who knows the real game may be able to adopt the T-20 schemes into the longer version of the game. But, someone who was born into international cricket through T-20 will never be able to play the 50-over game or the real thing of Test cricket.

Lorgat talks about a system where the ten best teams would be in the fray at the next World Cup. It is interesting. Does it go to say that a full member team may be the victim of circumstances? We say that because at present there are thirteen who are qualified to play Limited overs cricket and the roll call on 15th March 2011 reads as – 1. Australia (131), 2. India (118), 3. South Africa (118), 4 Sri Lanka (117), 5. England (106), 6. Pakistan (101), 7. New Zealand (93), 8. West Indies (69), 9. Bangladesh (68), 10. Ireland (41), 11. Zimbabwe (37), 12. Netherlands (11), 13. Kenya (0).

Interesting going by the present status already Zimbabwe, a full member of the ICC, is out of the equation. In this scenario, what would be the best for the game? If a full member has to stay out that would be a slur on the establishment itself. Then what about a qualifying system where the two full members at the bottom would play in a qualifying tournament with the associate members and the two teams that come on top not necessarily the full members will play in the World Cup proper. Then the custodians could work out a system to sustain the full member within the loop.

Still one must remember that it is the television company that finally sustains the game through their billion dollar broadcast rights. At the same time even the custodians are more concerned about the rights of the rights holders than the game itself. That is why the game sustaining pitch covers were kept way behind the hoardings during the Sri Lanka-Australia match that ended in a damp squib. Finally it is the TV giants who call the tune on the larger frame of international cricket and the game goes the way where the money is.

Yet according to former national player and cricket administrator Sidath Wettimuny, whom I consider as one of the best students of the game, the ICC, whatever pathway it opts to take, it must keep its ultimate goal at hand. That is globalizing the game. To globalize the game one must see more and more countries taking part in the biggest of tournaments. The way that the present hierarchy is moving, it may be that the game may get stagnant among a few elite members.

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