With a proposal to expand the ICC World Cricket League to Divisions 6, 7 and 8 from the current Divisions 1 – 5, a whole new batch of non-ODI countries, possibly 16 more than at present, will have the chance to play for a place in future World Cups.
“This is a brave new world for us all which will bring about many new opportunities. The current theme of the Development Program is to ‘get ready!’ says the architect of the proposal, ICC Development Manager Matthew Kennedy. What is at stake is not only competitive glory but increased funding for successful Associates and Affiliates.
Thanks to the billion dollar-plus deal with ICC events’ rights-holder ESPN STAR which comes into effect in 2009, the amount allocated for the ICC Development Program is set to substantially increase. “After a 10-year period of essentially capped/set funding the ICC funding/support level to both individual members and Regional Development Programs are set to increase by a factor of 2-3 times,” says Mr. Kennedy.
“Countries are in line for more funding but they will have to earn it by what they do on and off the field. Administrative excellence will be rewarded, also competitive performance,” says ACC Chief Executive Syed Ashraful Huq.
The countries to make up the bulk of the new World Cricket League Divisions 6-8 will be initially determined by the ICC Development Committee in November 2008, with countries like Singapore and Malaysia in the frame for inclusion in Division 6. Nepal will be in the next Division 5 to be played in 2010. Hong Kong are at present in Division 4 (to be played alongside Afghanistan) later this year. Oman and UAE will be playing in Division 1 next year.
There were some contrasting responses to the news of this new competitive format. Honorary Secretary of the Malaysian Cricket Association R. Suppiah welcomed the expansion saying, “Amongst the countries outside of Division 5 there is not much difference, this new World Cricket League will give Malaysia a chance to prove itself against them and if we play in Asian conditions as opposed to European we will do well.”
Nepal’s Association President B.R. Pandey rued another of Nepal’s close-but-no-cigar 3rd place finishes in the recently completed World Cricket League Division 5 event in Jersey, “It’s a shame that a rain-affected match which we had every chance of winning should determine our place in the leagues until the next Division 5 in 2010. Nepal could definitely climb the ladder starting today. Our sustained development over the past few years will undoubtedly carry us up in the future and playing global teams can only help our cricket and expose us to the right level of competition. 2011 World Cup qualification realistically was beyond us but 2015 is in our grasp and the World Cricket Leagues give us the platform to achieve that.”
Singapore Cricket Association President K.H. Imran was more reserved in his approval of the basis for determining the Divisional composition. “Looking at the larger picture, merit is not necessarily the way teams are situated in the leagues. A more equitable distribution of talents should be in place. Division 5 2008 winners Afghanistan were convincingly beaten by Singapore in the group stages in Jersey and had every chance of being in the semis were it not for rain. Right now we’re on the up and could play with merit way above our new proposed Division 6 ranking. Singapore aren’t alone, I’m sure other countries across the world could put up individual cases where they merit elevation. We will accept the ICC’s ranking in good grace but really what a country did four years in the past shouldn’t have much import on what it is thought to be capable of doing today and tomorrow.”
At stake is a place in the biggest show in world cricket. If a country’s truly good enough, it will get there. Leagues, in this case seasons of leagues, tend to be won through sustained excellence. Countries with the strongest player base will win through.
However, "cricket development," Mr. Imran says, "should not just be about wins on the field". It is a point Mr. Kennedy affirms. “We continue to very highly focus on measurable outcomes in relation to our five established target areas which were developed in line with the ICC Strategic Plan 2006-10”:
- Member governance and administration
- Junior Involvement to Junior Playing
- Quantity to quality (including players/coaches/umpires)
- Women’s cricket development
- Non-ICC income and support for members
Qualification for World Cup 2011 may have given an undue advantage to incumbent teams, World Cups 2015 and 2019 and 2023 etc.etc. under the new World Cricket Leagues with their promotion and relegation systems will mean that true merit will finally be given its due reward.
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