Sunday, 18 December 2011

Time for a Multi Tier Test System

The performance of Associate XI against the no 1 test team till the time I am writing the article is commendable.ICC Associate Comb XI  made 281 and have already reduced England XI 140/6. This team is surely world class and surely calls out for more chances for Associate players. On the other hand I see the team of Bangladesh. They have been terrible at all places. They even lost the Test Match to Zimbabwe who made a comeback after 5 years. It is well known that if Associates like Ireland and Afghanistan play more matches against likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe they would not be thrashed around by these test nations.

More nations should be allowed the White Dress and not be limited to a select few

But another thing people ask is what is the big deal for Test Status. How does it make a difference. Well for the people who are not aware I will list down the benefits of being a Test Nation.

1. First and foremost the Test Nations get direct entry to World Cup, World Twenty20 or Champions Trophy. The associates for the same have to really fight it out like for 2012 World Twenty20 for the 2 spots 16 teams will be fighting.

2. The Test Nations get yearly around 7.5 M$ as money from ICC as participating fee for various ICC tournaments while the Top 6 Associates get around 0.6 M$ while a normal associate get 0.1 M$ while the Affiliate get a joking 15000$ a year

3. The Test Nations get to be a part of FTP where when they host other nations for Bilateral series which entitles them to earning. An India, Australia, England or Pakistan visiting you brings in good incomes in form of TV Rights.

4. As a Test Nations you get to be the part of the Executive Committee where all the power of ICC lies. The Test nations have 1 vote each while the 36 Associates have just 3 votes. You cannot dream of becoming head of ICC as this post is reserved for Test Members based on rotating system.

Seeing these benefits, one feels why Bangladesh and Zimbabwe hold the right while likes of Ireland, Kenya, Afghanistan or Scotland do not have it.

Many people will point out that Cricket is hugely popular in Bangladesh and they have shown performances that point towards improvement. OK agreed but then why limit the chances to Bangladesh and not to other nations. Or more importantly we need to establish a system where in the better performing nations get a chance to move up while the nations which are not up to the mark move downwards. 

In short it is time for a Multi Tier Test System. Under the present system the Members should be divided into 3 Tiers of I II & III. The present ranking would mean

TIER I:- Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa & West Indies
TIER II:- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands, Scotland & Zimbabwe
TIER III:- UAE, Namibia, PNG, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Uganda, Oman & Italy
Rest of the Teams would be in the below Tier

The ICC funding should be directly linked to the Tier which a team is in. There should be a significant drop in funding if you drop in tier but not like the present system where the difference between Top Associate and Test Nation is around 12 times. A more reasonable number can be around 2 times. 

The tier should run for a period of 4 years at the end of which the Bottom 2 teams of the Tier Play against the Top 2 of the lower Tier. In this tournament of 4 nations the Top 2 go to the higher Tier and bottom 2 to the lower tier. The top 4 teams in Tier 1 play in the World Test Championship.

This Multi Tier would have many advantages 
1. All the Boards give most importance to the Top format because it will be linked to their funding. This would bring Test surely as the top format
2. It will bring excitement to all the Bi Lateral Test series even of the likes of Aus V NZ or Ind V WI as it can be required for Aus or Ind to be in the Top 4 while NZ and WI may be fighting to remain aloof of the Bottom 2 slots.
3. It would give fair chance to all the teams in ICC and Tests will not be a privelage available to you if you are born in certain country. It would give a chance of Associates like Ireland or Scotland to retain their players and not lose them. 
4. It will make all the nations introduce multi day format in their domestic circuit and would definitely improve the quality of cricket
5. Cricket would not be limited to 8 or 9 nations. Personally I am bored of Watching India play Aus, SL or England again and again. Seeing India play an recently upgraded team of say Ireland or Afghanistan will retain the excitement factor. It would not mean Bangladesh being bashed again and again but some different teams be bashed or rather fighting to save the Test rather than a complacent Bangladesh.

There have been various voices for Revamp of the ICC structure. This surely is the way forward and sooner ICC things about it the better it is for them.

Monday, 12 December 2011

ACC T20 is over but what about Asia Cup

The Afghan's won the ACC T20 for a record 3rd time. The tournament has been held just 3 times and each time the Afghans have emerged winners (Though the first time joint winners). The Afghan's have been doing everything right in cricket but does it really matter. First they started with the dream run of qualifying to the World Cricket League Division 5 and from there qualifying to the World Cup Qualifiers barely just missing the world cup spot though gaining the ODI status. Then they grabbed just 2 spots for ICC World Twenty 20 becoming the first associate so do so. Then they won the Inter Continental Trophy as well as Asian Games silver. This couldn't be anything better than this. Adding to this the Afghan's have proved that they are cut above the rest by winning all ACC Tournaments they have been playing.

The ACC Champions:Afghanistan (c)Asian Cricket Council

Now we ask shouldn't this team be playing in the Asia Cup. Surprisingly the big four of Asia say no. The Asia Cup has been known to give a chance to the Asian Associate irrelevant to their standing at World Level. Even when Bangladesh was not a top Associate Globally they still got to play in the Asia Cup several times. They were pathetic but still the teams never had any problems. Then the Asia Cup became more considerate with it including the top 2 Associates. Both times UAE and HK got a chance. But come 2010 this has suddenly changed.

The 2007 WC Expierence has brought in hell for Associates. With India and Pakistan both losing Associates rather than Complacency was being blamed for that. in 2010 the Asia Cup was reduced back to 4 from 6 a huge step backwards. Time has being given as a reason. Due to this fact the 2012 Asia Cup is again a 4 nation tournament.

The Asia Cup is a revenue earner for ACC besides the huge 50% Allocation they get out of ICC Development fund. The big 4 nations just get a participating fee. With BCCI becoming more and more arrogant over time this meant the small participating fee seemed too small. Adjusting to a 6 nation tournament was simply impossible and ACC needed money. Hence they had to agree.

The Associate nations have been asking for a few set of matches. The only difference between Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland or Afghanistan is that the first 2 get 7.5% Share of Funding which is about 7 to 8 times more than the latter 2. The First 2 also get a chance to earn through the tours of various countries like India, Australia or England while the latter 2 simply do not get it. This has made even Bangladesh arrogant not to play against team like Ireland or Afghanistan very well knowing that a defeat would bring questions on their test status. So it rather prefers not to play rather than playing a Afghanistan or Zimbabwe

So in such a condition what should ACC do. The answer is very simple. The ACC wants the Asia Cup for money and if possible for exposure to new countries. So what is the format that brings most money and also is recognized globally as a tool for expansion. Yes my friends you are right the answer is T20.

The ACC should consider making the Asia Cup a T20 tournament. This solves many of their problems
1. It is much more easy to adjust in busy schedules of India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka since T20 takes less times
2. T20 gives possibility of higher incomes
3. More teams can be adjusted in the tournament
4. The tournament gives ACC a chance to expand the game into more nations hence widening the possible income stream
5. Less wear and tear for the players

Hence the answer is clear. It is high time Asia Cup cup for 20 overs now. It should be a 8 team tournament with top 4 Associates joining the 4 test nations. T20 games can be more competitive with more chances of upset which makes the whole thing interesting. The tournament should have 2 pools of 4 each followed by semi's and finals.

After the present tournament the line would have been

Pool A:- India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal
Pool B:- Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Oman

This would mean both Afghanistan and Nepal have a chance to prove a point against Bangladesh and the Bangla's cannot take it easy. Similarly a resurgent Hong Kong and Oman will have a expeirence they will never want to forget.

It is said life goes in circles. The ICC was a closed house then they expanded by adding 3 test nation to present 3 then closed door outside commonwealth then opened to new nations as Associates then kept the test nation guarded as 6 then expanded the cricket to increase membership to 105 and 16 nations world cup before closing. Now it is time for expansion. I hope it comes soon and cricket goes with the market and not as a communist system.