They’re going to be spluttering into their gin and tonics at the Marylebone Cricket Club after England’s humiliating start to the World Cup, but it’s no more than they deserve after all the boardroom shenanigans that have been going on in the so-called home of the game.
It’s amazing how English cricket has managed to marry such smugness and superiority with such abysmal performances on the field of play, but it makes every hiding they receive in the World Cup even more pleasurable.
I generally don’t enjoy seeing sportsmen humiliated on the field of play, but I’ll make an exception in this case because of the thoroughly distasteful manner in which the England and Wales Cricket Board went to the dodgy lair of Narayanaswami Srinivasan and ingratiated themselves into the so-called “Big Three” that have hijacked the game.
My biggest bone of contention with the Big Three is that they seek to monopolise the game for their own benefit and are actively trying to halt the progress of the up-and-coming Associate nations by removing them from future World Cups. As veteran Ireland opener Ed Joyce pointed out, cricket is the only sport which is trying to contract its World Cup, while every other sport on the planet (yes, even American Football) is trying to expand its reach.
As the ANC, and the National Party before them, are showing so clearly, concentrating all the riches in the hands of an elite minority can only put a country or a sport on the road to destruction.
England will be the venue for the next World Cup, in 2019, and it is set to be a 10-team tournament. There’s little doubt that English cricket, having plundered talent from this country for so long, stand to benefit if the likes of Ireland and Scotland are barred from the highest echelon of the game; their top players will surely be tempted to play for England, just like their current captain, Eoin Morgan. England clearly need some reinforcements.
That the Associates and minnow nations like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are adding value to the game’s global showpiece cannot be doubted. Zimbabwe did themselves proud against South Africa, Ireland have already beaten the West Indies and Scotland did substantially better against New Zealand than England.
The plucky United Arab Emirates have some elegant batsmen and a genuine quick bowler in Mohammad Naveed, Bangladesh’s Shakib al-Hasan is a world-class all-rounder, while Afghanistan’s mere presence is a tremendous story of sportsmen rising above incredible challenges.
Sadly, there is a South African man at the centre of these efforts to push back the Associates – former wicketkeeper/batsman Dave Richardson, although he is probably just taking orders from those who pay his salary as ICC chief executive.
I say this because Richardson has been quoted as saying having Associate teams in the World Cup leads to too many one-sided matches and has also been quoted as praising the unpredictability and charm that these same teams bring to the tournament!
There are, of course, places nine and ten open for qualifiers at the next World Cup, but Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, who vote in favour of the Big Three and receive financial rewards and more exposure for their teams as a result, will be heavily favoured to take those spots as the system is in their favour.
Apart from England’s dreadful performances, the other key features of the first week of the Cricket World Cup have been New Zealand’s invincibility at home, a new benchmark of 300 runs per innings being set by the powerful batting sides and the importance of taking wickets in the middle overs otherwise set batsmen in the death overs will run amok.