Are Smaller Countries Cricket’s Associates In Name Only?

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Are smaller countries cricket's associates in name only?. Netherlands are in South Africa for three ODIs.

Are Smaller Countries Cricket’s Associates In Name Only?Netherlands are in South Africa for three ODIs.

Centurion is a long way from the ocean. So what was the turquoise water lapping at golden sand, crowned by a grand pavilion, that filled the screen behind Ryan Campbell during an online press conference on Tuesday?

“That's my hometown of Perth; it's Cottesloe Beach,” Campbell said. “When you're living in the Netherlands and you're freezing and you're a Perth boy and craving the heat, sometimes you need reminders of home.”

Campbell was appointed the Netherlands men's team's head coach in January 2017. That's why he is in Centurion – where the Dutch will start a series of three ODIs against South Africa on Friday (November 26).

The idyllic seaside image, which bore no resemblance to the Highveld's standard landscape of boxy buildings, busy highways and toxic mine dumps, nor to Amsterdam's cloudy skies and quaint canals, served as an apt reminder of the unreality of the relationship between international cricket's major entities and other countries where the game has a lower profile.

Campbell admitted he never gave much thought to the latter, in a cricket sense, for most of a senior career that stretched from February 1996 to March 2016: “I had no idea about what goes on in associate cricket. But I was drafted to go up to Hong Kong, and that was my first long hard look at associate cricket and the rigours you've got to go through. Mostly unpaid, those players put in so much time and energy.”

Campbell, 49, was a hard-hitting batter and wicketkeeper who played 92 first-class matches for Western Australia and five for Australia A, along with 79 and 24 list A games for those teams. And five ODIs: two for Australia and, by dint of his Chinese grandmother, three for Hong Kong. That changed his perspective.

“It gets under my skin that the top cricket teams of the world… I'm trying not to get political here, but we can come out and say we want to be the most participated in sport in the world, and go on and blah, blah, blah. But if you're not giving opportunities to the best associate teams or teams lower down the scale to improve and go up against the big 10, it's very frustrating.

“I get the feeling individual countries forget that it's supposed to be a world game. I think it was Donald Bradman who said we're supposed to leave the game in a better position than it was when we found it. I would ask that question of all the big teams. Are they doing that, or are they just worrying about their own individual backyards and interests?”

In June 2017 the ICC board decided to give their associate members US$ 240-million – to be shared – during the 2016 to 2023 rights cycle, or US$ 40-million less than they had agreed that April. The full members would receive US$ 1.536-billion, US$ 405-million of it going to the BCCI alone. That meant India would get 347 times the amount paid to each of the associates.

“England and India and Australia wanted more, and that came out of the associate pool,” Campbell said. “Within weeks they were announcing new billion-dollar TV rights deals. That's the world game as we speak. Hopefully some of the big countries understand that the growth isn't going to come from the big countries. It's going to come from all the ones underneath, and they need to get in and help.”

Further evidence of the myopia of the more powerful countries came last week, when it was announced that the Super League – which will decide the seven teams besides hosts India who will qualify directly for the 2023 ODI World Cup – was to be abolished. For the 2027 edition of the tournament, the top 10 sides in the ICC rankings at a predetermined point will book their spots. Four more teams will earn places in a qualifying event.

“The scrapping of the Super League after 2023 is really disappointing for all associate countries, but that's the decision that has been made,” Campbell said, and explained why the system had given cricket's smaller countries hope – and why its demise raised concerns.

“This year, the Super League brought us, for the first time in the history of Dutch cricket, cricket shown live on Dutch TV [when the Netherlands hosted Ireland in June]. We're trying to inspire the next generation. We know that great footballers and hockey players come from the Netherlands, but we want cricket players to as well.

“I think every associate country is wondering what's next. How do we play? Where do we get our fixtures? Is World Cricket League 2 [which is part of the qualifying process for the 2023 ODI World Cup] going to stay in place? How do you get to a ranking where you can compete for a spot in the 2027 World Cup?”

Between the end of the 2019 ODI World Cup and the start of this year's T20I version, the Netherlands played 30 white-ball internationals. Among the 19 other sides who featured in both formats during that period, 14 were on the field more often than the Dutch – none more so than West Indies, who played 58 games. Of the five teams who had fewer matches than Campbell's men, New Zealand were the only ICC full member: they played 19 white-ball games. But they also had 16 Tests to keep them busy. The other four sides spotted less than the Netherlands in that time were the United States, Papua New Guinea, the United Arab Emirates – and Namibia, who became the darlings of the group stage of the T20I World Cup by beating Ireland and the Dutch, who also lost to Sri Lanka and the Irish and were eliminated.

Cricket is even more impoverished in Namibia, a country consisting mostly of desert in which there are only five clubs, than the Netherlands. But the Namibians overcame those obstacles to make names for themselves. Clearly, success is more complex than mounting up matches and money.

Campbell's reference to Bradman's sentiment about the custodial responsibilities of the game's incumbent generation couldn't be found, but the Don did say this: “May cricket continue to flourish and spread its wings. The world can only be richer for it.” And this: “The game of cricket existed long before I was born. It will be played centuries after my demise.” And, in the wake of the 2000 fixing saga starring Hansie Cronje this: “Despite recent sad developments cricket will survive and remain the noblest game, and I shall be proud to be a part of its history and development.”

That was not long before he died on February 25, 2001: more than three years before the England and New Zealand women's teams played the first T20I, and more than seven years before the IPL saw the neon light of day/night. Since Bradman's death, 904 Tests have been played by men alone, along with 2,643 ODIs and 1,447 T20Is. And 31 Tests, 868 ODIs and 1,004 T20Is by women.

Many of those games would have involved teams he would never have dreamt of playing against. You wonder what he might say about the game now, and whether he would think – all things considered – that he and his contemporaries left cricket in a better state than it was when it found them.

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