Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cricket's lost Bastions-Nations where cricket was popular at one time

Cricket as a sport is limited to few nations. For many year there were no particular efforts to take it to new areas. It was after the 1996 World Cup that ICC has taken some good initiatives to take cricket to new nations. Though they have not been perfect and many shortcomings have been there but there are many success stories to be proud of.

Having said cricket at many stages had many chances where the state the game could have been different. There are many countries where cricket could have been a major game but it missed out. The reasons have been many
  1. ICC being formed as Imperial Cricket Conference and shutting itself to countries outside the commonwealth
  2. The length of the game was also a limitation as only Test Match was the format
  3. Rigid rules of cricket controlled by MCC who under colonial influence wanted to keep the game to gentlemen as per its definition. This literally shut any scope of innovations
  4. The local factors in the country
  5. The weather limitations
In many countries some or the most factors literally killed the game. The country whose name comes top of the list and if it was there in cricket list then the dynamics of the game would have been much difference- Yes talking about USA


Cricket was once the most popular game in the country. Infact the first international match was played between USA and Canada and it was so popular that in 1800's around 10000 people attended that game. However around the civil war a game very similar to cricket- Rounder & Baseball started to become popular. Baseball was easier to play as it just required a bat and ball and a ground while cricket required a proper pitch.
Also cricket was played by the elite and soon baseball started to emerge as the game of the masses. Cricket had its pockets but then 2 things happened. ICC was formed in 1965 and since US was a non commonwealth nation the game was shut for it. This meant no tours of counties or MCC. Secondly the pockets where Elite played the game soon started to shift towards Golf and Tennis. Hence sadly the game which was very popular soon lost out there.

Now recently with people from South Asia, Caribbean & UK, Aus coming to USA brought the game along with them and game has seen a resurgence. Cricket is a fast growing sport but if in peak times it was 1000 now it is 1. Even if it reaches 100 that would do a sea of good for the games. Hopefully over time the game will see better management by USACA and game improves


Cricket was declared as national game by the first prime minister of Canada. As already mentioned Canada was the first nation to play an international match of cricket. However the game in Canada was tied to rivalry with USA. As the game declined in USA, the same happened in Canada too. Also weather also played some part in the decline of the game.
Like USA, the game has seen a resurgence. In fact after 1979 Canada qualified for the world cup in 2003, then 2007 and 2011. Also the whole team in now on contracts showing the game is coming back. However there is still long way to go.


Before independence the games dominated all the newspaper. At once time Malaya had defeated the visiting Australians. In the limited sports culture in the country the game had good enough mind share. Malaysia was admitted to ICC as an associate after 1965 when ICC changed from Imperial to International.
By that time the game had lost a lot and never recovered to old levels. There were other causes for game not becoming popular. Whenever cricket was taken to any country it was played by british only. Over time the Elite of that country also started playing the games. In England, Aus, NZ, Zim or SA it is still the European that played the game. In India and Indian sub continent we had Kings, Nawabs, Raja, Zamindar etc who were the Indian Elite. They played along with the British and after they left continued to play. Hence the culture of the game continued and soon masses picked the game in all the 4 Test Nations of Indian Sub Continent.
In Malaysia there was no such elite and hence when the Britishers left suddenly no one was there to continue the tradition and we had an Broken Arrow.
With cricket again getting globalized and T20 the new format to expand the game, the game like most part of the world is seeing some resurgance. The MCA has also a vision to get Malaysia ODI status by 2020 and recent performances of Malaysia have been encouraging. They came 3rd in ACC trophy narrowly loosing to both the Finalists by single digits. Also the junior program has been rekindled. FInally MCA has got 4 sponsorships. Lets hope they regain the interest of Olden times

Cricket was once a very popular game in the Island Nations. The Fiji team used to regularly play against the various teams from New Zealand and it was a event always in news. Infact the Indian and West Indian teams had played against the Fiji teams in Fiji on route to play Australia. However been a small nation and having smaller population meant that the level of cricket team would have been on lower side as compared to the test nations. This factor over time lead to less teams touring or inviting Fiji. Meanwhile Rugby started to gain in Fiji and Fiji had a good international standing in the same. Cricket's loss was Rugby's gain in Fiji.
Also the game of cricket was surprisingly played the indigenous community while the Indians preferred Soccer. Over time the locals realized they have built more suitable for Rugby and much easier for them to perform and while the Indian community continued with Soccer itself.
Over time the game of cricket has picked up very well in Pacific with PNG, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Cook Islands improving every year while Fiji has seen a downfall. They have now lost the spot of number 4 (Behind Aus, NZ and PNG) to number with Vanuatu replacing them. Lets see if the game of cricket which has a resurgance in Pacific also has one in Fiji too.


Surprised to hear this name. Do people know that the Burma team had defeated the Ceylon team once in 1927 IIRC. Though both teams were made of Britishers but so was the case in every country at that time. The game was started and played by Britishers and then taken over by the higher class of local and then eventually going to the locals.
But in Burma the elite of locals were Indians. Indians formed a majority in capital Rangoon. The local Burmese really resented them. The Indians had taken the game, however over time the political situation changed. First the Japanese captured Burma in 1941. They started to discriminate against the Indians. The Indians started to leave. Then when British drove out the Japanese then it was almost certain that they will grant independence to Burma.
The Burma independence was not like the one in South Asia where the subsequent government maintained good relations. The British and Indians both were hated hence cricket also became a victim. Burma chose not to join the Commonwealth and hence ICC got out of question. Burma then further went into isolation and socialism and game of cricket, its clubs all started to lose out. Hence over time the game of cricket was killed
If Burma somehow had managed to go on the lines of South East Asia then surely the large impact of Indian Diaspora and its neighbours India and Bangladesh would have made sure that the game of cricket is alive and kicking and Burma would have been a different cricket power
Over time with globalization and Burmese who have studies abroad and in India, the game of Cricket has started to come back. A movie on lines of famous Indian movie "Lagaan" name "Bo Ba" was also made and was hugely popular. Presently probably Burma is the weakest of all cricket teams but cricket surely is making a comeback. Lets hope over time they come out as a strong contendor.

Some more nations where Cricket got a head start but could not capitalize were
1. Argentina
2. Netherlands
3. Denmark
4. Italy

If the game of cricket would have been alive and kicking in these nations then globally the scene could have been different. The hard work ICC has to do now is because 80 years was lost as cricket was kept in a cocoon. To cover these 80 years would take at least 20 to 30 more years to make cricket a truly global sport. Lets hope it happens in the best and most sustainable way.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Is it time for Hockey?

3 Million $ prize, 178 Players, 40 foreign players from around 10 countries, a club structure. What does it sound like? Football, wait I am talking about India, then it must be Cricket. No its not Football neither it is cricket, it is the national game of India, one in which it has won a record 8 Olympic Gold Medals, yes it is Hockey.

The WSH-World Series Hockey after a long silence after its initial announcement in December last year is set to played in Dec and Jan this year. The Nimbus had a launch program in Mumbai recently and where it also declared to have reached an understanding with FIH and the participating players would be safe as opposed to threat of bans earlier. The sport minister is also trying hard to have an HI-IHF merger and if it goes through then things will start to go in hockey’s favor after a long time.

The WSH is set to have 8 Franchise based on IPL model. 6 teams location have been declared as metros-Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai and the 6th one is the Hockey powerhouse of India- Punjab (With Chandigarh, Jullundur & Amritsar as 3 locations). The rest 2 locations have to be decided from a shortlisted location of the left out metro-Kolkata, hockey’s second power location- Rourkela & cities and towns like Pune, Kanpur etc)

In the initial year the 8 franchise will play on Home and Away model playing 56 league matched followed by 2 semi finals and a best of 3 finals. This would mean a total of 61 matches

But for the real question will WSH help hockey make a comeback in India. What does WSH offer as advantages to Hockey in India? According to me the few advantages are
1.       Raises the profile of the game- Local players, foreign players, big money, big prizes, Investment at stake for Nimbus who would want a return. More high profile means more attention and more attention definitely helps to drive more accountability. That is the thing missing in Indian hockey. It will not happen in 1 year and we see a turn around, but if WSH continues for 10 years this definitely will happen
2.       High Salaries to Players- Hockey though the national game had very poor salaries. In recent times the salaries came to respectable level but it was nowhere near to cricket or international standards of Hockey salaries in Europe.  The WSH has good level of salaries in lakhs and it is not limited to just 15 players of national team, rather it has a depth. Each team will have a squad of 21 players with 5 foreigners. This means 16 players per team and 8 teams, a total of 138 Indians being paid a handsome salary. This will give depth of money for the first time.
3.       Large talent pool- As written in previous point a total of 138 Indians will be in the squad. This would give the selectors a large talent to select from. Since these players will be under public knowledge due to high profile tournament, hence it will reduce the incidents like bribing to be in team  since earlier the knowledge of local tournament was virtually 0
4.       Valuable experience of Foreign players- Presently Indian hockey is like a frog in well. Loads of tournaments with local players and same style of hockey being played all over. This has brought stagnation and hence over time India lost its edge.  Like in PHL, WSH brings in even more foreign players. Professional coaches, foreign players will definitely give Indian youth a lot of valuable experience. This would enable them to be aware of the styles used at other places and good things they can pick and counter them when they play in International games.
5.       Professional coaching and set-up- Unlike the local tournaments of hockey, in WSH the players will be playing for franchise where results would matter. The franchise will bring in best of coaching staff and performances and not approaches in HI or IHF will matter. This would bring the best out of players and we will see a great tournaments

There can be many other advantages too. I have my fingers crossed that the murky areas of Hockey should start to become clear in India now. Over time I would like to see this tournament even more expanded. As former Indian captain Pargat Singh had said, India would require somewhere around 600 Turf grounds for game to real have a mass appeal as well as sufficient supply of talent.

Over time Hockey in India should aim for 800 grounds by 2020. The path should be well defined. The private investment should be a way to pave for this number including the infrastructure. The Government alone cannot take us to this number. Initial 4 years should be building the base- Increase awareness and popularity of game, setting the basic infrastructure, then the next 3 years should be used for explosion. Rope in investors, have a massive increase in infrastructure and then finally last 2 years should be used for consolidation

Over time Grade B league should also start. These would be more limited to the specific regions and owned in franchise form but at a much lower costs and players paid on much lower contracts. For example if Delhi is a Franchise of WSH with Delhi, NCR as its target base, the Grade B league for Delhi can be 10 teams from vicinity like – Najafgarh, South Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida etc. These franchises would create their local infrastructure and play tournament amongst themselves. The best players will have a chance to make it into the WSH. Local channels can be used to broadcast and local crowds can attend the matches. It is similar to the many Division 2 football leagues around the world.

2011- Start of WSH, 8 Franchises, around 60 Astro Turf Grounds
2013- 10 Franchises, 100 Astro Turf Grounds
2015- 12 Franchises, 160 Astro Turf Grounds
From 2011-15 the period of setting the base was formed. 14 Franchises and 160 grounds should help to raise the awareness of the game. After this the 3 years should be used for explosion

2016- 16 Franchises, 250 Astro Turf Grounds and 8 Grade B leagues with 10 teams each
2017- 18 Franchises, 400 Astro Turf Grounds and 18 Grade B league with 10 teams each
2018- 20 Franchises, 600 Astro Turf Grounds and 20 Grade B leagues with 10 teams each

After the explosion in teams, infra  the next 2 years will be for consolidation of game.

2019- 20 Franchises, 700 Astro Turf Grounds and 20 Grade B teams with 12 teams each
2020- 20 Franchises, 800 Astro Turf Grounds and 20 Grade B teams with 15 teams each

In the end we have 800 Astro Turf grounds, the required Infra for the game. With 20 Grade A franchise and 300 Grade B franchise and 800 grounds would mean that there would be enough opportunity for the youth to exploit the area of Hockey as a profession rather than using it as a entry point into the government jobs. This would do hockey a sea of good.

I know I take things too far, but if we do not dream how can we chase our dreams. Looking for some exciting times for Hockey and then I will update hockey on this blog too. Waiting for December for WSH.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Why a 14 Nation ODI WC meant a World T20 of 12 Nations

When the ICC reversed its decision of the 10 nations 2015 WC to 14 nation everybody felt happy. The Associates thought they had won the war. But what they saw next meant that ICC had settled scores. Although they had increased the number of teams in 50 overs format, shocking in T20 they cut the number of teams from 16 to 12.

This meant that over a cycle of 4 years where earlier the associates had 6+6+0=12 chances of playing, now it was reduced to 2+2+4=8 slots. Further if ICC had opened bottom 2 slots in 10 nation world cup then it would have meant 14 slots.

T20 was proclaimed as the driver to drive cricket into new market. Most of the upcoming nations also agree to the same.Then why did ICC cut the number in T20 contradicting itself. According to ICC version this came due to cost factor. According to ICC there is a total cost package and increase in 50 over to 14 teams meant they had to compensate the costs and had to reduce the no of teams in T20

Is this the real reason. Can the ICC not afford both a 14 nation World Cup and 2 16 nations World T20. According to me they can easily do that. The cost of staging a 16 nation or 12 nation T20 cup does not increase the cost significantly.

The real reason is another cost that ICC has to bear. Whenever ICC conducts a tournament it has the right to sponsorship, TV Revenue's, gate collections and all other sources of income. The hosts get a hosting fee. Like for 2011 CWC SL got 23 M$ as hosting fee. Similarly Ind and BD got some amounts. The other Test Nations get a participating fee. The associates participating in the World Cups also get a participating fee but which is significantly very less as compared to Test Nations.

To take to reference in 2010 World T20 every Test nation got 6 M$ (WI Got 6M$+ Hosting fee) and the 2 Associates got around 0.6 M$.

From the 2012 and 2014 World T20, the 10 Test Nations & 6 qualifiers would have got similar amount of money. That would have meant 10X6+6X 0.6= 63.6 M$ as participating cost for each tournament and for the 2015 WC around 10 M$ to each member each of 10 Test Nations playing i.e 10X10= 100 M$. This means that ICC would have the total cost of 227.2 M$.

Each of the test nations would have got 22 M$ over 4 years. That is life line for many boards like SL, WI, Zim.

In the present scenario a 12 nation T20 means that due to cost saving each of the full member get 6.5 M$ each while 2 Qualifiers get 0.65 M$ each a Total Cost of 66.3 M$. The 2015 WC will now give each member 9.0 M$ and qualifiers around 0.9 M$ hence a total cost of 93.6 M$

Now each of the test nations gets again 22 M$. If a 14 Nation 50 Over WC and 16 Nation T20 trophy was there that would have meant that the income of each board reducing to 21 M$, a whopping 1 M$ loss. This would have been a significant loss to at least 5 of the boards where this income is more than 30% of the boards income.

Hence it is ultimately the greed to the member nations that have lead to this decision and not the total cost factor. Hence this also proves ICC should run like a independent body and not like a body with members who will always think of their interests rather than for the overall good of the game.

If anyone had some brains they should have gone of a 12 nation WC or 10 nations with 2 qualifiers and a 16 nation T20. I criticize the decision of ICC and term it as pathetic.