If ever a case could be put forward to the International Cricket Council for the implementation of a World Cricket Second Division then the time is ripe for it to happen now.
The current ICC Champions Trophy which has been billed as a premier showcase event for world cricket is doing more damage to the sport than it is good and the only thing that appears to be getting showcased is the huge chasm between the world’s elite teams and it’s minnows. A factor that no doubt must be turning many potential global sponsors away from investing their dollars into the sport or it’s teams that habitually remain to be uncompetitive at the highest level.
To date, the minnow teams of Bangladesh, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the USA, have not only failed to win a match, or mismatch as I see it, but have also failed to show that they can even compete at the elite level with exception of one match only between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe where the Zimbabweans lost by only four wickets and this result was the exception rather than rule.
Results so far show the greatest losing margin was that of the USA against New Zealand - 210 runs and with the exception of the above mentioned match the lowest losing margin has been by Kenya in their match against India, a margin of 98 runs. All matches were completed well within their allotted overs and the fans stayed away from the games in their droves, obviously knowing that it would be pointless spending their money on admission tickets and travel to stadiums.
The excuse we keep hearing from cricket authorities and those involved in the scheduling of these mismatches is: “They are good experience for the minnow teams and assist these teams to develop and compete in future tournaments.” Oh dear, what a load of poppycock! Do those spouting this line really think cricket fans are so stupid.
How can the continual thrashing of these teams be good for cricket or good for the individual team for that matter? Experience! What experience is that? Coming up against sides that continue to thrash you is NOT good experience for anyone and just further proves the minnow teams are out of their depth in current world circles.
Global sponsors who are looking to invest their dollars into cricket are being chased away in droves by the performance of these minnow teams. Sponsors want to associate their names or brands with winners and when a team never wins, what hope is their for attracting the dollars that are essential for a team to improve. In addition, who would want to associate or advertise their brand with a stadium where the only eyeballs who will see their advertising are those of the players and cricket commentators. Advertisers clamour for exposure where the crowds gather, but the crowds just have not attended matches in any number to date during the ICC’s premier Champions Trophy Tournament. However, one must add that the fickle English weather has also played a part in keeping the crowds away with most matches affected to some degree by rain. Only a fool would schedule such a tournament for England during their historically wettest month.
In recent years the ICC has gone hell for leather promoting cricket on a global scale to ensure the long term survival of the sport and to attract further interest to ensure it’s long term survival and they are to be highly commended for this, but also criticised for allowing the chasm between the minnow teams and the more competitive nations to deepen rather than be closed. Rather than realise that the only way these minnow teams will improve is by competing on a level playing field against teams of similar standard, they have continued in promoting series where developing teams are hopelessly outclassed, outplayed and outsponsored. Winners earn dollars and attract sponsorship, dollars mean improved development and improved development means better performances.
The ICC can throw away as many dollars as it likes on promoting series for mismatched teams, but this will not improve those struggling teams one iota. The answer is to put these developing teams onto a level playing field where they can meet degrees of success that can transfer into financial success for the sport and team as a whole and the only way this will be achieved in the near future is for the ICC to investigate the implementation of a World Cricket Second Division, or call it what you like, to encompass teams that currently fall under the minnow umbrella or ANY other team that believes it could compete at such a level.
There’s an old saying: “Nothing succeeds like success.”
The ICC cannot continue to pour the dollars it has available for developing the sport down the drain without evidence that it is actually improving those teams that receive such funding because sooner or later those dollars will dry up and replacement dollars will be much harder to get hold of from global sponsors, media outlets and similar who are NOT getting a return on their investments.
If one day cricket is to survive into the next century, then swift action is required to ensure this game remains truly global rather than limited to the popular geographic locations of the Sub-continent, UK and the Oceania regions.