If there’s any type of story that has survived changing worlds and changing times, it is the story of the underdog fighting for survival and glory. The masses root for you when you stand firmly and thwart attacks. You become a hero, an inspiration, a symbol of resilience and more importantly you prove that battles have defeats but spirits cannot be vanquished.
Remember chicken farmer Eddo Brandes ripping through the English batting line-up in 1992? Remember Kenya’s victory lap after defeating West Indies in 1996 and how they stormed into the semis in 2003? Remember Dwayne Leverock diving in the slips to catch Uthappa in 2007? Are we seriously going to ignore Ireland knocking at the door for close to a decade now? Do we want to rob cricket off such moments under the pretext of having ‘evenly-matched teams’? Are we going to deny this sport (that we love) any chance of expansion?
Isn’t cricket more about good cricket than whether Goliath is larger than (richer than) David? Alas, the umpire’s decision is final (let’s ignore DRS for metaphorical effect) and the ‘umpires’ governing cricket are increasingly resembling playground bullies. Sides which do not particularly enhance ICC’s (read one particular cricket board’s) financial and political clout are being sidelined, not unlike a shady dismissal by an inept umpire.
I say inept because discrimination against Associate Nations is a disastrous and myopic approach towards administration. Claiming to be responsible for the development of cricket in the world while not letting good teams become better isn’t convincing anyone. How can you have evenly matched teams if you won’t let countries play at an equal level? What you are trying to stifle is only going to kill the cash cow that you are milking currently. Trimming your largest tournament from 14 teams to 10 teams is not going to guarantee good quality cricket. Especially, since, there’s so much disparity within the elite club of Full Members. Why should some teams have more fixtures on their calendar than others? And is the ranking system fair if all teams don’t play an equal quality and quantity of cricket? Likewise, having 14 teams in the tournament hasn’t exactly been drab and dreary. Associate Nations are right up there with the others.
Ireland’s consistent performance is apparently not enough to warrant elevation to Full Membership whereas some test teams continue to perform dismally without the fear of relegation. They are doing to Ireland what they did to Kenya. A slow and painful slump awaits the Irish and the O’Briens and Stirlings will face the fate that the Odumbes and Tikolos had to face. The Morgans will continue to migrate and yet another flame shall be doused.
In a world that leans more towards satire than realism, Orwellian situations are, quite eerily enough, seen almost everywhere. Some are more equal than others- in cricket too. Some Associate Nations will get a rare chance to prove themselves, while others will be forced to spend more time mulling over where it went wrong. Ireland and Afghanistan may have a better chance but why is an opportunity exclusive to a couple of teams? There is no logic that supports selectivity in a sport. One may argue that a sport is always a commercial venture and profits are dictated by fans. However there is no doubt that the fans of cricket do want more teams to be a part of this cricket-loving family. If the ultimate goal is to earn more money, thanks to fans, wouldn’t it be wise to pay heed to so many fans asking for a more inclusive world of cricket?
This sport was conceived in a world where the sun never set on the Empire. Aren’t we obligated to not let the sun set over a cricket-playing world? If only we could invoke the DRS to reverse this trend of bullying in cricket, there’s plenty of room for more teams in the hearts of cricket fans. Until then, we will cheer for the Stanikzais and the Dockrells.
Hardik Kothare is a neurolinguistics researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. Hardik, a biomedical engineer (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) and an electrical engineer (VJTI, Mumbai), can usually be found with a cup of strong black coffee while rattling away at his keyboard. He firmly believes that no sound is as sweet as the sound of leather and cork on willow.