ICC’s misguided approach to World Cup is costing smaller nations dear

Instead of building on achievements by its smaller, Associate members, cricket authorities have made them anecdotes of the past with their decisions regarding the World Cup. (ICC.com)
Updated 22 March 2018
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ICC’s misguided approach to World Cup is costing smaller nations dear

LONDON: In years to come, fans will look back on Saint Patrick’s Day, 2007 as the day when the world turned its back on a tournament erroneously named the “Cricket World Cup.”
On that day, six Associate nations were part of a competition that had included 16 teams. Ireland — one of the countries taking part for the first time — would make the biggest splash, tying with Zimbabwe in their opening game and then beating Pakistan in Jamaica on that Saint. Patrick’s Day, with a team comprising teachers and traveling salesmen.
The same day, across the water in Trinidad, Bangladesh upset India. The expected marquee clash in Barbados between India and Pakistan would never materialize. Hundreds of flight bookings and hotel room reservations had to be canceled, and there were no record TV ratings when the Irish beat Bangladesh on a lightning-quick Kensington Oval pitch.
Ireland’s triumph should have been an occasion to savor. It would not be a one-off either. In 2011, they chased down an England total of 327 in Bangalore, and four years later they convincingly beat the West Indies. But instead of celebrating the fact that an associate nation was capable of mixing it with the established powers, top-level cricket authorities closed ranks and put up the barricades.
That same year, it was confirmed that the 2019 and 2023 World Cups would be ten-team affairs, down from 14 in both 2011 and 2015. The seed of that decision had been sown months earlier when Star India paid nearly $2 billion for the International Cricket Council’s broadcast rights for an eight-year cycle (2015-23). That figure, an 80 percent increase on the previous deal, was arrived at on the basis of a significant caveat — India had to play at least nine games at each World Cup.
Originally, 20 games from the ongoing World Cup Qualifier were supposed to be televised. That was then whittled down to ten. And since all the games were not televised, the ICC decided that the Decision Review System (DRS) need not be employed. There would be no reserve days either, despite the fact that they had been part of the schedule for the World Cricket League Division Two.
And on a rain-hit Wednesday this week, a brave Scottish side paid the ultimate price. With no DRS, Richie Berrington could not review the LBW decision given by umpire Paul Wilson just before the rain came down. It changed the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern numbers, and with the rain subsequently refusing to go away, Scotland finished five runs short of a World Cup place.
It was not the first rough decision they had copped either. In the loss to Ireland, Andy Balbirnie scored a decisive hundred after appearing to be trapped plumb in front. Again, no DRS. A generation of players inspired by Scotland’s appearance at the World Cup in 1999 may not get another chance.
“We know what we’ve got in our bowling stocks,” said Kyle Coetzer, the captain, speaking with tremendous dignity after the heartbreak. “We’ve got some waiting in the wings, too, ready to unleash when we next get our opportunity. When will that be? We don’t know.”
Back in 1982, the FIFA World Cup featured 24 teams, from the 109 that had begun the qualification process two years earlier. There were just two African teams — Cameroon and Algeria. West Germany took Algeria so lightly that Jupp Derwall, the coach, did not bother showing his players any footage of their opponents, for fear that they would laugh at him. Algeria won 2-1, with goals from Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi.
This summer’s football showpiece in Russia will feature five African teams, and 32 in total, whittled down from the 209 that tried to qualify. A generation after Derwall’s folly, no coach will be idiotic enough to ignore video clips of Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane. That is how global sports grow, and stay relevant in an age when fans have so many more options.
Think, too, of rugby, and a Japan team that shipped 21 tries in a 145-17 defeat to the All Blacks in 1995. Two decades later, they beat mighty South Africa and won three of their four group games. They could do that because rugby authorities did not slam the door in their faces.
When India won the World Cup in 1983 at Lord’s, success that eventually led to the country becoming the game’s golden goose, they had been given no chance by experts beforehand. Sri Lanka were also considered basement-dwellers until they shocked everyone but themselves in 1996. Instead of building on such achievements, cricket has made them anecdotes of the past.
The game is far poorer for it.


Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

Updated 24 May 2019
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Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

  • Roger Federer plays down chances of his winning the mega title

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.