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.


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

Updated 20 January 2019
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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

HUDDERSFIELD: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was far from satisfied despite a 3-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday that saw his side cut Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
Liverpool’s compelling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday heaped huge pressure back onto reigning champions City but they were rarely troubled by a Town side that look a certain bet for relegation this season.
City’s first goal, a deflected strike for Danilo in the 18th minute, brought up their 100th goal of the season in all competitions before Raheem Sterling scored a diving header from Leroy Sane’s cross in the 54th minute and Sane himself made it 3-0 with a calm finish just two minutes later.
For Guardiola, it should have been an afternoon of enjoyment as his side again proved their willingness to push Liverpool all the way this season.
The City manager, however, has forged a footballing reputation based on sublime performances as well as ruthless goalscoring and, on that basis, his team’s showing in West Yorkshire was not a success as the visitors never really clicked into gear on a day against a Huddersfield side who had parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday.
“During the season you have these kind of games,” Guardiola said. “It is important to win. We have scored many goals in all competitions.
“(But) the way we played, we didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future.
“We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult.
“Today we are happy we have won but after immediately we have to analyze. During the season you have games when maybe you are not in the top level and it is important to win these games.”
Although City’s fans were happier than their manager following this result, Guardiola could at least take some heart from the fact his side again refused to blink first in the race for the title.
For the second consecutive week, City kicked off knowing Liverpool had already won their weekend fixture and that, consequently, the onus was back on his players to secure three points as well.
Once again, Guardiola’s side managed to do that following up the 3-0 victory over Wolves with this showing and the City manager was more than happy to remind everybody that silverware is not handed out for another four months.
“One team has been better but we’re in January and there’s many more games to play,” he added.
“You don’t win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win.”
This match was a baptism of fire for Huddersfield’s caretaker boss Mark Hudson and while the Terriers showed impressive fight to inspire some hope this season, this defeat still left them 10 points adrift of safety.
If, as expected, the Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach Jan Siewert is appointed as Wagner’s permanent replacement, nobody would blame him if he spent his first day in the job preparing for a return to the second-tier Championship next season.
“It’s been a long week,” admitted Hudson.