Afghanistan’s captain Nawroz Mangal receives the Intercontinental Cup trophy from ICC High Performance Manager Richard Done, after Afghanistan won the competition at their first attempt last year

Review: ICC Intercontinental Cup and ICC Intercontinental Shield by Roy Morgan

Associate and Affiliate cricket doesn’t get the attention that Test and ODI cricket does but it should get the same standards of umpiring, scoring and record-keeping. Afghanistan, Ireland and the Netherlands have had high-profile successes in recent years with players such as Hamid Hassan, Mohammad Nabi and Ryan ten Doeschate worth their place in any country’s first-class set-up. Roy Morgan, author of Encyclopedia of World Cricket, has published a seminal work on the ICC Intercontinental Cup, the four-day first-class tournament which has been running since 2004.

The International Cricket Council Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat, a first-class cricketer himself, contributes the foreword to the book in which he writes, “The ICC Intercontinental Cup is living proof of the ICC’s commitment to growing the game beyond the current Full Members…..the ICC Intercontinental Cup has helped to make the top Associate and Affiliate teams more competitive in limited-overs cricket against the Full Members and it has also improved the overall level of performance.” The big question of course is whether the competition exists as a ceiling for the Associates or a genuine platform to competing against at least the first-class teams of the Test-playing countries.

In his judicious introduction Roy Morgan examines the merits of the four-day first-class cricket played in the Intercontinental Cup from a number of viewpoints, tracking the provenance of nations and cricketers. “The Intercontinental Cup was definitely built on a strong foundation of individual players of first-class standard among the Associate countries. Although, based on team records, assigning it first-class was marginal at best, that status was vital for its recognition as serious competition....whether after seven years the tournament has justified its first-class status depends in part on what it is compared with.”

If the Intercontinental Cup didn’t exist you’d have to invent it. No other major sport is played across three distinct formats, each with its own skill-sets and specialists. In standard development theory long-format cricket is still considered to be the best grounding for prowess in short-format cricket. And short-format cricket is the means by which Associate and Affiliate teams have a chance to meet and compete with Full Members on the playing field.

The fact that a first-class competition Cup was originally mooted by Sri Lanka, America and Fiji as far back as 1966 – Sri Lanka having made the jump to Full Member status in 1981, America and Fiji having fallen by the wayside – shows that cricket does develop or atrophy depending on how much is put into it. It could be argued that Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the two most recent members, are still adjusting to Full Member status. It could be said that the majority of Afghanistan’s cricketers are products of childhoods and youth in Pakistan as Ryan ten Doeschate is a product of South Africa. Undoubtedly, the move from a tournament based on regional groupings as it was at the start to a more streamlined one, based on merit, has been of considerable impact. These and other issues are discussed by Roy Morgan in magisterial fashion, and if a bias toward wanting the Intercontinental Cup to be an “advert for high quality closely-fought cricket” is in evidence, it is one that we all share.

This publication by the Association of Cricket Statisticians examines a tournament that is, and will increasingly be, seen as the pinnacle of Associate and Affiliate cricket and the teams doing best there will undoubtedly feature in World T20 and 50-over World Cups. As a book, it is handsome and elegant and finds a more than adequate solution to the problem of rendering four innings on a single sheet of A5. There are just enough pictures too, some of them from the Asian Cricket Council’s own archives though one does wish for more. Nepali umpire Buddhi Pradhan’s name is mis-spelt (page 268).

Action from this year’s Intercontinental Cup match between Afghanistan and UAE

Match reports have an eye for detail and put players’ performance in the context of not only that year’s Intercontinental Cup but their career as a whole. Afghanistan’s Noor Ali and Karim Sadiq are at one stage cited for batting with “surprising patience”. Afghanistan’s triumphant 2009-2010 campaign when they beat Ireland and Scotland and drew with the Zimbabwe XI makes for the best reading, feature as it did the most evenly-contested event so far and that epic run-chase, the ninth-highest of all time, by Afghanistan in their match against Canada, when they made 494 in just over a day to win. 16 overs to go, 101 runs wanted: “....Mohammad Nabi perished on the long off boundary, Asghar Stanikzai hit the second ball he received for six, soon to be followed by another, and then a cut past point for four to obtain the winning runs with fourteen balls remaining.”

Weeks later those Afghans were at the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies where they impressed in the field but were exposed against the pace-bowling of India and South Africa. The difference between first-class and world-class is a clear one. Nevertheless, the better first-class cricket is, the more chance a player, his team, and a nation have at the highest level.

One looks forward to the next ACS publication on this event. This book’s excellence ennobles an event that has moved from experiment to genuine first-class exhibition.

ICC Intercontinental Cup and Intercontinental Shield by Roy Morgan (Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, 2011) £25
ISBN 978 1 908165 09 1

Pictures © ICC

ICC Intercontinental Cup
Afghanistan Cricket Profile
Malaysia Cricket Profile
Nepal Cricket Profile
UAE Cricket Profile

Filed October 24th, 2011