“England have won the world cup!” roared Ian Smith with despair “By the barest of margins! By the barest of all margins!”.
This proclamation announced the most monumental event for English cricket since the acclaimed 2005 ashes which then created a ripple effect to give the publicity the gentlemen’s game deserves: Ben Stokes won the highly esteemed BBC personality of the year award ahead of many prodigiously talented individuals, there was a steep influx in people interested in the game as many more came down to the nets on a Friday night in a pursuit to be the next Jofra Archer or Ben Stokes. And finally, the highly controversial hundred was created which, for the better or the worse, will change English cricket forever.
In all, English cricket has been revived and is in spectacular condition (unless the hundred flops of course) and the world cup as a whole is deemed a success by many as well.
There was a colossal amount of ticket sales as many turned out in full colours to support their nation. The matches were all intensely competitive with most games going right down to the wire.
What a brilliant success and advertisement for the game you may think but all this financial success is just an illusion from reality. The world cup was a success for the teams that participated but in reality, it was a failure.
Before you consider me crazy, let me explain: the world cup is something that is held in a plethora of different team sports. The essence of the world cup is to have all the best teams around the world in one competition and fight till the end for the trophy and more importantly, the coveted title of the best team in the world. The world cup is the pinnacle on every sporting calendar and a chance to reign victorious is considered priceless by all players.
Some teams may not be up to the fight but the experience they gain alone is like winning for them. An example of this is the 2018 football world cup, which had a whopping 32 teams, which gave a valuable chance to the minnows to improve their game.
Imagine being a young player, from a country where opportunities like the world cup don’t come around too often, given the chance to compete with some of the greatest players that have graced our planet. Imagine the experience the players would gain from playing in a completely packed crowd, a crowd they would have never imagined let alone played in front of. Imagine the number of young people that could be inspired by their nation’s cricket team ruggedly fighting against the best.
This is the impact of a world cup with many teams and this is why football is considered the best sport in the world (much to my dismay) as they give plenty of chances for the immense talents of smaller nations to blossom into world-class juggernauts.
However, the question that needs to be answered is that do associate cricketers get the chance to learn from the players of the ilk of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith at a global event when the stakes are at its peak.
Of course not!
What do you expect when you make a world cup consisting of just 10 teams. Many associates around the globe are not getting the chance to play at these global events and hence stunting their growth. This is crippling the game!
These chances will allow them to learn from the best and we can’t understate how much they can gain from that. If we just give them more chances, the quality of cricket will be more evenly spread out and everyone will be at a reasonably similar standard. From then on, the game will develop into a sport that can be played by all countries and not just by a select some as is the sorrow case today…
In the 2019 world cup, as we know, England was victorious and rightfully so but in my eyes, (I am not taking anything away from England as they thoroughly deserved it) they won a competition of the best nations in the world and not the world cup as the name entails it is a “world’ cup and it should include the whole “world”.
To back this up, cricket is statistically accepted as the 2nd most popular sport in the world but this disguises the true state of our game. The gentlemen’s game is followed by a massive sum of 2.5 billion but out of that, you have India which is already nearly 1 billion of the sum (almost the Indian population). This means you have a remaining 1.5 billion which is shared between the other 11 major teams and then you have a minuscule portion which is the associates and for most of them, cricket is not be one of their main sports. So in reality, cricket is only a major sport in 12 countries.
This is a frankly ridiculous number but it also reveals how much untapped potential is out there to be taken: most of Europe, all of South America, Most of Africa, a bit of Asia and all of North America.
That is massive and the only way of bridging that gap is extending the world cup. By doing this, the entirety of the world will be more aware of cricket and many more countries will take up the game and then slowly but surely cricket will have the right to call themselves a global sport. This is farfetched but it is essential if we want to get rid of the overbearing reputation that haunts the game of cricket every day.
Cricket is a sport that has truly erupted in some parts of the world and as discussed before, less so in other parts. This could be due to a lack of exposure to a more diverse range of nations at the games early days. Despite there being a potential problem, the governing bodies did not solve the issue with immediate effect which then allowed the cancerous tumour to develop into a reputation of cricket being a sport for the minority.
This reputation has lead other countries to believe that they are not welcome in our game because of the scarce chances given to emerging sides. This must change and the only way of diversifying cricket is increasing the teams in the world cup and showcasing to the planet why cricket is a great sport.
If extending the world cup will bear so many fruits, why has it not happened you may ask? The answer is a simple but shocking one: the ICC’s motive behind shrinking the world cup is to make it a more streamlined and compact event and make the games more competitive. To achieve that goal, it was inevitable that something would have to give: the associates were forced upon the chopping block.
This, in turn, deprived the associates the chance to prove their mettle on the biggest stage. While I do understand the practicality of the ICC’s decision, but sometimes you have to prioritise the bigger picture and this is one of those times.
If short term success is the ICC’s goal, they are on the right track but if they intend to provide a foundation of long term success for the game, they have to extend the world cup. I can not stress how important this is to the future of our game and the ICC must pay heed.
However, in the limited opportunities that have been given, an associate has shown some highly unlikely promise. Papua New Guinea has managed to qualify for the T20 world cup despite all the various barriers that have been put against them.
The breath-taking success of Papua New Guinea is an anomaly in world cricket but the exciting part is that their success issues a massive window of opportunity for the game of cricket: the team will gain massive learnings from the world cup and slowly but surely progress to the position at which Afghanistan is sitting in now.
More countries will understand the possibilities of making it to a world cup as the stakes grow larger and the standards even bigger. Soon associates will rise to a standard never seen before with there being teams from all across the globe.
However, this window of opportunity will be wasted if Papua New Guinea is not introduced into the ODI world cup in a few years. If Papua New Guinea and others are not given a chance in the ODI world cup, we will be taking away from ourselves the day we see cricket a global game.
If we fail to extend the world cup, our game will be remembered as the sport that hogged their sport to themselves and did not spare the weaker ones a single chance.
This description is similar to the selfish characteristics of a playground bully and that is what the ICC will be if this behaviour carries on. However, I am sure that the ICC has the game’s best interests but a lot of bad things in the world happen as a result of people who have “good intentions”.
World globalisation is a major issue in world cricket yet it seems as if the ICC is hiding the issue even though that if left unattended, this fateful decision could diminish the game we love so dearly. The first step to a global game is enlarging the world cup and allowing associates a chance to play and ICC must understand that this is essential for the future of cricket.
This coronavirus pandemic has emerged as a time to reflect and acknowledge mistakes and this is exactly what ICC need to do. They have to put aside their financial ego and do what is right for our game.
Extending the world cup would, in my opinion, propel cricket to the throne of the globally accepted best sport in the world as cricket has all the necessary virtues but not yet the global exposure it so dearly needs.
This does sound extremely far fetched but I sincerely believe this. For this unfeasible dream to be realised, we must give the associates the chances they have deserved for a long time.
In short, it is time we let the other kids play.