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.


Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

Updated 29 sec ago
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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash 
at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.”
Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million).
But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory.
“He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”


HEART OF GOLD

Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”