Thursday, 27 December 2012

5 events in Associate Cricket which changed World Cricket

 There have been many incidents in Associate Cricket if which went in opposite order would have changed the whole world order in Cricket. Many of these incidents will come as a surprise to the Youth of Cricket who know Cricket as just probably 6-7 Good Teams and 3 Minnow Test teams whom they will not see their country play and perhaps a Kenya and a Ireland or maybe now have got a glance of Afghanistan.

Perhaps the events that will be mentioned below if had happened, then the whole scenario of World Cricket would have been different. Although there can be many more but I have listed the top 5, and like a curtain-raiser I will go from No 5 to No 1.

5. Argentina not Invited for ICC Membership
This name would perhaps bring most number of surprises. Very few people know that Argentina was once considered a decent cricket team of the level of probably New Zealand at that time. Argentina had the largest population of English outside Britain. When ICC was formed it was formed as Imperial Cricket Council and membership was limited to British Empire only and Argentina was not eligible. With passing of time the game simply went into decline
If Argentina has been an ICC member then the game surely could have some footing just has been the case with Rugby and Hockey in Argentina. It would have also meant Spanish playing cricket country widely opening the Cricket market and Cricket could have been much bigger game but alas!!
This could have been a picture of a major cricket team talking in Spanish-Ola
 4. Canada postponing Test Membership
Another shocker for you :) . Well in the 1950's ICC made up it's mind to offer Test Cricket to Canada. After all Canada was a major Commonwealth Country and cricket had a long history here. However Canada felt that it would need some more time to develop it's cricket and guess what that time never came and the boat was missed.
Imagine if Canada had been a Test Nation, it would have meant Cricket would have been a major game in North America and perhaps a lot of influence on sports in USA too. Did we miss a Canada- West Indies Rivalry for the future.
Imagine Canada playing against Australia in Boxing day Test

3. Ireland WC Victory over Pakistan
Pakistan one of the favorites of the tournament. Ireland, virtually an unknown team. It is St Patrick's day, an Important day for Ireland and many Irish fans in the ground. Pakistan was bowled out in 130's and that was a shocker, but Ireland began to crumble. That was not long to be, Ireland stumbling but crossed the finish line and created history.
They never knew their hard earned victory would bring misery for Associates
 This should have made ICC happy with cricket improving but it had the exact opposite impact. ICC for next world cup cut the teams from 16 to 14 and the process of Elitism gained hold. This was to be further strengthened when ICC almost made a decision to make 2015 WC a 10 Test Playing World Cup only but the team which started it actually came to rescue when it chased down England by magic effort of Kevin O'Brien.

2. Cricket missing out in Olympics
Cricket was only played once in Olympic with Great Britain taking the gold and France taking the silver. This event was never repeated.
Do we need to say anything on this
 Imagine with cricket in Olympics would have meant that many countries would have taken the game and much more money and support from the government for Cricket. Well it is a chance missed and ICC still does not want Cricket in Olympics!!!

1. Imperial Cricket Conference- USA not invited 
Cricket at one time was very popular game in USA, but as everything British was opposed hence was cricket. However cricket remained a strong games in various pockets like Philipdeplhia, New York and some areas and continued to thrive there. The game surely needed support in form of exchange of games with England and other countries.
But what happened, ICC never invited USA as it's member and game went into a big slide. Imagine with US the biggest sports economy involved in the game, it would have put game in a different league.
Obama could have been No 1 fan of Lara!!!!
 I many times imagine what the game would have been with Argentina, Canada & USA playing the boxing day test with Australia or fighting a T20 olympics game with China. Well only if & buts were true.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Club + Domestic League way forward for Nepal and Afghanistan

South Asia is the power hub of cricket and in South Asia two nations Nepal & Afghanistan are really rising very quickly. These 2 nations if go the right way can surely join the likes of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe or New Zealand soon.

Afghanistan has already established itself to be a top Associate / Affiliate Cricket Nation, which has rapidly progressed from Div 5 to Div 1 within a span of 4 years. Nepal also if going the present way can soon be seen playing the 2015 World Cup and getting an ODI status.

These 2 Associate unlike most Associate have a population crazy about cricket but like most of the associates the both countries are reliant on a small pool of players. Over that the playing XI depends on few stars to take them to victory. This is a very dangerous situation. When these stars fade away then the team can go in a downward spiral.

This was the case with Kenya who had got a good set of talented players in their ranks but without a domestic structure the replacements never came and now we all know in what state Kenya is.

Having known that a domestic structure is very important the question comes on the aspect of funding. Both Afghanistan Cricket Board and Cricket Association of Nepal are not rich enough or have funding like Test Nations to for a full comprehensive domestic structure. So how do we overcome the 2 dimensionally opposite issues

Typical village in Afghanistan & Nepal. Majority of population in these countries live in villages and essential for strong cricket team.
 To look for the answer we need to understand the demographics & geographical factors of both the countries which are quite similar in many aspects. Both the countries are mostly hilly regions with major cities located in broad valleys. Both the countries consist mostly of villages spread across the country with a few major cities. Afghanistan has cities spread out across the country while Nepal has it concentrated towards the Central and Eastern Parts.The Village is a very strongly knit unit in both the countries, where it is like a family and is headed by a Sarpanch in Nepal and a village elder in Afghanistan.

In such a scenario the to have a spread across the country it is very important to have players from the villages. India increased massively in strength when players from smaller cities started to come (Like the Captain Dhoni) against older days when most of the players came from bigger cities. India also has majority of Population in rural areas, and involving them surely is helping

Right Burkhashi in Afghanistan and Left Elephant polo in Nepal. Village level tournaments are already been organized in both the countries.
 Hence to reach the villages we need a club structure. By Club I do mean not a club like in England where some old folks are sitting drinking beer playing cards and watching a cricket match, with gentlemen claps. A club is a simply a team which can be formed by a village or some locality in the towns. It is not a concept which is something very new. It already happens in both the countries where the villages come together and play in some sort of tournaments. In Afghanistan Burkhashi the national game is a example of the same, while in Nepal, Elephant Polo or local soccer matches or volleyball matches keep happening

The Point is about making such tournament more structured and monitoring them in an efficient way. To start with such tournaments can easily be financed. Firstly to start with to register a club a nominal annual fee can be charged. When we have such a local club tournament a minor entry fee can be can be charged from each team. Then secondly local sponsors can be roped in. The local tournament normally have local sponsors and these need not be the exotic ones like Pepsi etc but can be a local business, who would want the tournament to be named after his late Father or some big shop or some local business. It is a great point to maximize the reach in local areas.

Hence the local club tournaments can not only be made self sustainable but rather can earn some small profits out of them. However based on local tournament you can unearth some good players but will not be able to give them good exposure. For that a Domestic Set up is essential

The Domestic Set up should be based out of provinces or major cities. These countries ideally should not have more than 6 to 8 teams in the domestic set up. These can be regions like West, North etc or Based around major cities. Each domestic set up should have a catchment areas in which all the local clubs will be registered to it. Hence the domestic team say a Kabul or Kathmandu may have clubs from the city and the surrounding villages. It will choose its player roster from these clubs. For Financing it will have some income from clubs, conducting tournament and then would receive certain funding from ACB or CAN. This would help it in paying some money to the domestic players who then would give more time for the domestic tournaments.

The Domestic tournament can be conducted with 2 day, 1 day and T20 matches spread around the playing season and ensuring that it is played on the weekly off days. The team play half of the matches in it's home ground and would travel for rest of it's matches. This would mean that people can work on weekdays and play cricket on weekly off days throughout the year rather than playing for 2 weeks and not playing for rest of year. This continuity would definitely improvement fitness and mental ability of the players

This Club + Domestic structure ensure that a good set of some 90 to 160 Players will be playing some quality cricket at domestic level, earning a small money from it while maintaining their regular lives and jobs. The Clubs would help in providing a constant stream of talent for the teams and a good player has a fair chance of making it into the national team

All these things might look very easy but it would definitely need a lot of effort from the boards and definitely dedication. If the system is implemented soon the quality of team can definitely improve many fold and we may see these teams challenging the best. Let's hope for it and see it happening soon.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cricket's gateway to Central Asia

In the recent World T20 world, one team really impressed and surprised everybody. Not many could imagine that a country which has been under war for more than 30 years could perform so well. Afghanistan with it's battery of pacers and swashbuckling batsman impressed the whole world and perhaps is taking all the right steps towards becoming a good team.

When I heard about Afghanistan team playing against a local Peshawar club I could never imagined that one day, Australia would agree to play an ODI against the same team and surprisingly many players were part of both the teams. Afghans learned cricket when they were in refugee camps in Pakistan. Many of the Pakistani stars were Pashtun's like Imran Khan, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan and it became very attractive to Afghans. When in 1992 a Pashtun Imran Khan lead Pakistan to World Cup victory this has an immediate connect and liking for the game. Thus the game entered Afghanistan

Afghanistan cricketers not surprisingly belonged to only one group Pashtuns, and the other Ethnic groups were not represented such as Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbek or Turkmen. This was not surprising since mostly Pashtuns came to Pakistan while others went to other countries like Tajikistan, Iran etc which were not cricket country.

However overtime things began to change. The game of Cricket became a proud symbol of representing Afghanistan. Now besides Pashtun the other ethnic groups also started to relate to the game. Teams and Clubs were there in almost all the states. Cricket truly has started to become a national game. The U-19 team for first time had youngsters across the ethnic groups.

It is a matter of time when, we will soon have a composite team in Afghanistan. This has already started to sow the seeds of Cricket possibly becoming a major sport in many other countries. Afghanistan shares ethnic group across borders. Pashtun are spread across Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tajiks across Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Uzbek similarly across Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, Hazara share religion with Iran, Turkmen with Turkmenistan and finally Baloch across Afghanistan, Pakistan & Iran.
Afghanistan and it's location in Central Asia

With the Afghan's having relations across many borders, with the game engrossed in the nation, it would mean that sooner or later seeing the passion with their relatives across the borders the game is bound to spread in the Central Asian nations of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and in the Middle East country of Iran.

This means that like the Geopolitical Strategic importance of Afghanistan, similarly it is of the same importance to ICC. With Central Asia playing cricket, it would draw interest in many other areas like former Soviet nations and many more middle east populations. But that is a thought too far for this time. The Central Asian countries have shown their mark in many sports and these athletic people surely can make some great cricket teams.

So Afghanistan becomes a really important nation for Afghanistan. Not only ICC can establish Cricket as a game which will bring peace to Afghanistan, by helping the country, but it naturally helps many more countries come to fold of cricket. Let's hope to see a cracking cricket team of Tajikistan or Iran playing a cricket match against India in near future.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Sierra Leone Cricket “rising from Ashes”

Sierra Leone as a country has experienced more than its fair share of hardship.
The civil war which stretched from 1991 to 2002, decimated the country. 50,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands were wounded, many permanently, and towns, villages and cities were left without basic amenities.
Cricket which had a rich history in the country of course cricket was a victim and not spared.
Few people may be aware that cricket has been played in Sierra Leone at sub-regional domestic level since the 1930’s and was enjoyed by a modest but dedicated and passionate group of followers and participants. Unsurprisingly, the civil war obliterated nearly all the cricketing infrastructure. Grounds and equipment were destroyed almost without exception.
Many would think that the game could have and perhaps, should have died. Instead, it has made a genuine “From the Ashes” comeback.
Cricket bringing hope in Sierra Leone. Cricket is making all the right noises from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone
Juniors are playing the sport in larger numbers than ever and the nation fields representative sides at every level in African regional tournaments.
 Incredibly, like the rise of Phoenix Sierra Leone national Under-19 squad in 2008 in a dream like performances defeating African heavy weights like Kenya & Namibia successfully came runners up in Africa and won its way through to the final stages of U-19 World Cup qualifying in Toronto, Canada. Sadly shattering all dreams the Canadian government refused them visa’s and denied in what could have been a Afghanistan like story.
Cricket in Sierra Leone has made all the right noises and recently received a major boost with the announcement that United Kingdom based coaching agency Coaching Cricket Excellence has donated equipment - including bats, pads, katchets, helmets, gloves and balls - to the Kenemmanjane Club in Freetown.
The SL cricket mostly consists of Clubs. Of them once club stands out-the Kenemmanjane Cricket Club . The club has both men’s and women’s teams that are presently in domestic leagues and competitions and the women’s team was Bronze medal winner at the Sierra Leone National Women’s T20 Cricket League 2012.
The Director of Coaching Cricket Excellence Peter Willings said helping Sierra Leone is part of a wider aim I have to supply cricket kit and other sporting equipment to parts of the world that are not as advantaged as Britain. “We have more than enough cricket equipment here, both new and old, and I believe it’s only right that people elsewhere get use of it rather than it being available to those who have plenty already.”

Coaching Cricket Excellence is a Coaching Agency based in Ealing, West London, England. They exist to help people of all ages play the sport. They currently have projects running in Uganda, India, Rwanda, South Africa and the Caribbean.

Peter Willings said “Kenemmanjane Cricket Club is doing a wonderful job helping generate interest in cricket. Keep getting the children involved from as young an age as possible and with luck you’ll get a touring team from the UK come visit you soon.”

Peter further promised that he will continue to help the Kenemmanjane Cricket Club with equipments and other areas as long as he is able to. “I’ve assisted with sending cricket kit to Uganda, India, Rwanda, Afghanistan, the West Indies and South Africa thus far. I would like to say a big thank you to my friend Bernie Spratt and our donors for their support, without that it wouldn’t have happened.”
The Founder and Secretary General of the Kenemmanjane Cricket Club Emmanuel Pessima spoke of his delight at receiving the new equipments. “We have the desire to develop cricket much more extensively at the grassroots level but we don’t have the necessary equipment and facilities. Hopefully this donation will be the beginning of something wonderful. “We would like to thank the Coaching Cricket Excellence and their donors for wonderful contribution. It will really help us and we are very grateful.”
Let’s hope this would help SL cricket rise to higher places and would be closely watch them in the African Div 2 which is undergoing presently in SA.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

High time for Central Contracts & Stadium

This article comes at a time when the Nepal fans are very happy with a great win the team got in ICC World Cricket League Division 4. The fans now are confident that the team has a good shot for 2015 World Cup.

While the team has done greatly and very nicely guided with the dynamic coach Pubudu, it must be noted that the team performance has not been due to some great work done by Nepal Cricket Authorities but rather than the passion of the players and some extra curricular activities led from the front by the Coach. The Coach got the Captain Paras to play regular Club Cricket in Canada. He got Shakti Gochan a trial in an IPL team, while 2 young players got a chance to play in Sri Lanka. These got players much some required exposure and regular match practice.

While the coach has been doing great job the organizers are nowhere near to what they are supposed to do. When I started following Nepal Cricket the list of to do's for Nepal Cricket remain exactly same even after so many years. Well the things in Nepal have changed a lot. There is a working democracy now, the civil war is over and the confidence in country is much higher.

Out of the many to do lists, 2 clearly standout. If these are fulfilled it will address many of the problems plaguing Nepal Cricket. The first & very very important is the Central Contracts.

Central Contracts are the very core to a sports team. It means that the players would not have to worry on the financial aspect of life and just focus on Cricket. It would also mean that unlike what happened in the past when Nepal have lost loads of U-19 players because they simply did not see any future in cricket can be retained. The U19 players now can see a future in Cricket. It would also mean that many more upcoming players in country would think of Cricket as an option.  

However many people would say Central Contracts are simply not possible. There are no resources. Countries like Ireland who get much more money from ICC are not able to give central contracts to all the player, even though they have private sponsorships.

I would like to simply to point out that Ireland get around 0.6 M$ from ICC while Nepal gets around 0.1 M$, but the funds received from ACC are much higher than what Ireland receives from ICC Europe as around half the development funds go to ACC. Also the per capita PPP income of Ireland is $41000 as compared to Nepal's $1250 and a purchasing power of Dollar in Nepal is 2.5 times more than Ireland. This simply means that funding of Nepal puts in a much stronger position than that of Ireland. A average central contract in Nepal of 25000 Rs (294$) would be good enough to start with while this is simply not imaginable in Ireland.

So definitely Central Contracts is a possibility and CAN should extend the same immediately to 15-20 Players. Government gave players 300000 each after winning Div 4, well that is exactly what is the amount that is required for Central Contracts

The second most important thing is a Stadium. The benefits of a stadium are numerable. It would give the team a place to call their own where they can practice on quality ground. Secondly the coach is really pushing hard for a National Cricket Academy. The stadium definitely would mean National Cricket Academy up and running and would be producing players for future

Sharjah Stadium: A stadium which changed the fortune of UAE Cricket.

The stadium along with TU ground combined can be used for conducting fantastic domestic tournaments and a fantastic exposure to even domestic teams.

However the biggest benefit of a stadium is the International Exposure Nepal can get. I tried to work on some simple numbers. If CAN invites India A for a 20 day tour of 1 Four Day Match, 5 One Day & 2 T20 Matches, the total Cost which CAN would have to bear would be around 1.1 Crores. This includes cost of India A team travel, Stay, Food, Facilities and also the cost of Nepal team and officials. Now under normal circumstances CAN would bear all the costs. But if Nepal has a stadium and even if 10,000 People(Much less than what people turn out) come for each match buying 150 Rs tickets, this would cover all the costs and give CAN a profit. The private sponsorships & broadcasting rights would be additional to CAN.

This means CAN earns and Nepal team also get excellent exposure. The people would also see some quality cricket and would surely want to watch it. Then the stadium can be used to host International matches. Imagine if the stadium was already there then Nepal could have been the host location for Pakistan. For Pakistan it would be a much cheaper home ground than UAE and surely with good crowd support. This also brings in lots of tourism in Nepal which surely should get Nepal Government interested

The Stadium surely would not come cheap. A decent stadium would cost around 5 M$ (45 Crores). CAN may not have all the money but it surely got funds from ACC, it can rope in Nepal Government and rest can be in form of loans. As we have already seen a India A tour can be profitable to CAN if used properly, similar tours can be arranged and the loan to be paid off. It is all about thinking in an entrepreneurial way.

These are the 2 issues which addressed by CAN brings in loads of good for Nepal Cricket. It brings in full player focus, better exposure to team, chance to develop domestic cricket, opportunity to get more talent and tourism for the country. In 2 words "Complete Package". So the cricket lovers and fan in the country should really push hard for both the issues to be addressed. I would be waiting for these to happen soon.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

10 Countries where ICC should invest in

Cricket has been rapidly expanding around the globe. There are now highest ever 106 members of ICC with another 10 ready to join. There are talks of getting it in Olympics and the IOC chief really wants that too happen

But there is another side. The ICC revenue's primarily comes from one country India. There are not many countries from where ICC earns much. Perhaps the other surplus countries for ICC are Australia, England, Pakistan, Bangladesh & South Africa.

The ICC works on a system where the profit it makes, is distributed amongst the 10 Test Nations and other 96 Associate/Affiliate Members in form of development money. This is in tune of approximately 7.5 M$/Yr to a Test Nation, 0.6-0.7 M$ to Top Associates, 0.4 to HPP Members, 0.1 to Associates and just 0.015 to Affiliate Members. This money is major source of income for almost all the 106 members baring a few named above. Without the aid the cricket in countries would simply collapse.

So this brings in a question, can ICC risk the present structure. In my opinion a big NO & for the following reason- All the eggs in one basket- India. If tomorrow another sport rivals Cricket in India it would directly impact the source of money for ICC and it could be disastrous.

So ICC is like a financial company who should want to hedge it's risk. So based on the factors of Sports Economy, present interest, History of game in all the countries, I have picked a list of 10 countries. Some countries presently are in good shape when it comes to cricket's standing in the country, but might not be very big countries. These countries are like low hanging fruits, where ICC should quickly work, and make the country self sustainable. Whatever little additional income these countries bring would mean ICC is earning and not spending in these countries
The second set of the countries would be where game might have some base, but if established there would bring ICC loads of revenue's

So let me share with you, the 10 countries where ICC should definitely invest for the future

1. Ireland
Obviously it is the first country which comes in mind. 2 successful World Cups, has made news both inside the country and outside. The win over England was covered on the front pages of all the newspapers. It is where ICC should invest in 2 ways, first is to get the team more matches with Test Nations which bring some revenue's and secondly a domestic structure.

2. Scotland
The Scots have really worked hard on the youth and many good players are coming in. Cricket has a strong tradition in the country and the future looks good. Like Ireland ICC needs to get them more matches. Also like the case of Rugby, where Wales, Scotland & Ireland have a combined domestic structure, ICC should work and establish a similar Structure for Scotland, Ireland & Netherlands and if need be extend it to Denmark & Wales.

3. Canada
The game is now well known in the country thanks to the absolute cricket loving 1.4 Million South Asian out of a population of 4%. Just imagine even if another 10% of country starts following cricket it would mean a population more than New Zealand. The game has been making right noises. The World T20 will be broadcast live on a major sports channel. This country needs some focus from ICC and it can be a major revenue earning country for ICC

4. Afghanistan
War ravaged, Terrorism, Taliban. Perhaps not the country you might be thinking for ICC to invest in. But do you know, that it has been one of the fastest emerging team. The Afghans are naturally talented. This can be seen by some of the best talent of Fast Bowlers emerging from the country. It must be noted that the legendary Pakistani fast bowlers are from the same tribes as the Afghans.
War or no war, this country once this teams goes raring there is no stopping. ICC urgently needs to get them more exposure in matches with top nations and their A teams

5. Nepal
The country has one of the biggest following of the game. When the team recently won the ICC WCL Div 4, thousands of fans turned at the Airport to welcome the team. Whenever they play a match in Nepal, 15000 people turn in the stadium.

Such level of crowd support can not be met by many Test Nations. These are placed where ICC needs to work faster

The game is the no 1 game like the other South Asian nations. The biggest investment ICC needs in the country is in form of a Stadium and help them establish domestic structure. With these investment the country can soon join the likes of top nations soon.

6. USA
USA doesn't need any explanations. The biggest sports economy in the world. For Cricket surprisingly the second highest internet earnings come from USA after India!!! The game is presently not in a healthy state in the country because of a pathetic Cricket board whose only job looks to be clinging to power and eating whatever money they have. The ICC investment besides monetary should be to get USACA, their board in order and then things will just flow.

7. Kenya
They had shown promise. ICC did not focus on them and then they lost their way. The country surely has got talent. Their board is now taking some steps to improve the game, but like most associate they also need exposure to better teams.

8. Netherlands
Netherlands can be the gateway of the game into mainland Europe, presently it is limited to British Isles. Netherlands have a strong cricketing culture but ICC needs to help developing the game at junior level and as already discussed help establish a Euro Domestic league involving Scot & Ire. If the game picks here then it is bound to spread to Denmark, Belgium & France. So this country is like the gateway to mainland Europe

9. China
China is the future. It is the superpower of sports. If China takes the game that means 20% of humanity has taken the game and along with South Asia that means half of the world is there. Not only by number of people, China is full of money and ICC can earns loads from here. What does ICC need to do, well simple, get the games in Olympics. We all know once the game is in Olympics China will get everything in it. Besides that ICC surely need to create many Coaching centers and Coached around the country which is the best way to spread the game. ICC would have to invest atleast for 10 years before expecting any returns

10 Argentina
Surprised. Well do you know before the World War, the Argentina Cricket team was almost as powerful as say the Kiwis. They had the largest British Population outside Britain. The game has a long history and at once time the game was more popular than Football. But with ICC's insistence of making members from commonwealth and British expats leaving the country, led to decline of the game.
Now why Argentina, the answer is simple. Cricket has got it's strongholds in all continents except South America. Also Cricket is to make a strong in Hispanic countries. So Argentina is the doorway. If the game develops here, then it has a good chance of taking it to South and Central America.

The ICC surely is doing some work but it is more general in nature. ICC needs to pick up countries as project and close them for maximum impact and let's hope it happens soon.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Associate XI in U19 WC based on Performance

The U19 WC is almost over. The Associates could not make it to the next round but there have been some good associate performances. Specially there have been some players who have stood firm and challenged the opposite teams.

The Associate XI have been formed based on the Overall Performance of the players, the consistency they have been showing and the value of their contributions in the match. You will not players who had one match winning performance and in the rest of the tournament were not to be seen. After all if I was a selector I will look on the overall performances.

The Associate XI has 6 Batsman, 1 om whom can do part time Bowling, 1 All Rounder & 4 Specialist bowlers including 2 Fast Bowler & 2 Spinners.

1. Najibullah Zadran (Afghanistan)
This batsman was the backbone for Afghanistan batting line up. With his 204 in the tournament including a solid 69 against a close game against NZ & a critical 83 in a very critical match against the Scots this was the batsman the team could depend upon. This young lad has already made International Debut and he would be the star to look in the future.Today we maybe seeing him in action against Australia in a ODI

2. Javed Ahmadi (Afghanistan)
This right hand batsman is the highest scorer for Associates in the tournament. He was specially effective against Scotland with a century & half century against them. He also tried to resist against Pakistan and was handy with the ball taking some wickets. Like his counterpart he has already played for Afghanistan and maybe we see him in action against Australia in the only ODI at Sharjah.

3. CN Kent (PNG)
This young all rounder was the backbone for PNG. He got it all both a century and a five wicket haul and contributed in almost all the matches either with his batting or bowling. Like the Afghanistan players above he is also a member of PNG senior squad. Hopefully in near future he would be able to take his team to higher levels.

4. RE McLean (Scotland)
He is a great find for Scotland for future. He was the second highest scorer for the Associates with 2 half centuries. He performed very well in the league stages with a 36, 59 & 67 against NZ, Pak & Afg and then a swanky 47 against regional rivals Ireland ensuring a successful chase taking Scots to victory and securing 11th position for them. Looking for this name in future.

5. TE Kane (Ireland)
The Ireland batting has really disappointing tournament with not a single good performance to their name. He was the backbone of his team batting and ensured he was there stubbornly and fighting from his side like his 78 against Scotland which took Ireland to a respectable score. He also chipped in with his bowling and took a single wicket in all but one match.

6. FRJ Coleman (Scotland)
He was the mainstay of Scottish batting in the league stage with scores of 65, 39 & 30 and along with his team mate McLean ensured taking the Scots to respectable scores.

7. SP Khakurel (Nepal)
A team whose batting failed almost every-time with 2 times in double digits, it was encouraging to find a batsman who was fighting it out. Like TE Kane, SP Kakurel was the backbone of Nepali batting. His 55 against England showed the class this batsman had performing against a quality opposition. Nepal over the years have lost a lot of U19 players and I hope this batsman is not lost.

8. GH Dockrell (Ireland)
This young spinner has impressed everybody in the 2011 WC making even the top batsman struggle against him. He had high hopes to overcome and surely he exceeded expectations with a whopping tournament highest 22 Maiden overs, an Economy 2.05, and an Average of 12.3. His 22 Maiden & 2.05 Economy is far better than even players from Test Nations which can be seen from figures like 10-6-10-1 against Aus (Who are in Finals), 10-3-22-4 against Nepal, 10-5-8-1 against Namibia, 10-4-22-1 against Scotland. He was also handy with the bat. He surely is class and I said earlier would love to see him playing Test Cricket for Ireland one day

9. RK Vishvakarma (Nepal)
He was the third highest wicket taker in the tournament (An he played 1 match less). Against PNG he simply ripped them apart. The figures 6.2-4-3-6 speaks volume of his class, an economy of 0.47 the second best in U19 WC history. Lets hope to see the player ripping apart opposition in the WCL Div 4 the next tournament Nepal is playing

10. RAJ Smith (Scotland)
He was the second highest wicket taker for Associates with 12 wickets in the tournament. He spearheaded Scottish bowling with his Medium Pace specially with his 3/34 against Kiwis & 4/45 against the Afghans. He surely is another great find for Scotland who are really focusing on the youth. Hopefully we would be seeing him trouble the likes of Kohli's in the future.

11. Sayed Shirzad (Afghanistan)
Afghanistan has produced some great pace talents and Sayed Shirzad can be one of them. This speedster just knocked out the batsman at other end. His 4/34 against NZ & 3/33 against Scotland were clinical performances. Hopefully we can see him in action along with Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran soon

We should keep an track for all these players as many of them can turn out to be future stars for their country. Best of luck to all the players.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Associate Performer Squad Round 1- 2012 ICC U19 WC

The 2012 U19 is presently underway. The Associates teams sadly could not do very good. Each of the Associate team lost to the full members. Some of the matches specially of Scotland and Afghanistan have been close by overall the Associates were simply thrashed.

However said that there were few Associate Stars who showed their class. Given more exposure these players can turn out to be world class stars.

The performances of Associate players in round 1 would be of greater significance as these were against the stronger better side. The difference between Great and Good players is that Great player will show their mettle against a very good opposition while it may not be the case for Good players

The Associate Performers team is a list of 14 players who despite their teams performances performed well and showed their class

1. R.E. Mclean (Scotland)

Ross Elliot McLean

3 Matches against quality opposition of Pak, NZ & Afg, this man was the backbone of batting with scores of 36, 59 & 67. He acted as the pivotal role in batting with a consistent performance and the team rallied around him. He surely is class and we hope to see him performing at the top level

2. FRJ Coleman (Scotland)

He was a second pivot of the Scottish Batting. As his teammate he was consistent in batting in all 3 matches with scores of 65, 39 & 30 bailing the team out in difficult conditions. Though the team has been losing causes we surely will look to his performances in the Plate rounds.

3. Sayed Shirzad (Afghanistan)

This young gun from Afghanistan was the Highest Wicket taker in the Group Stage ending with impressive figures of 4/35 and 3/33 against NZ & Scot. He simply ripped apart the opposition without conceding many runs. If he continues this way he surely would be next Hamid Hassan for Afghanistan

4. CN Kent (PNG)

PNG were ripped apart in each match specially in Batting but this young all rounder resisted the opposition often missing company at other end ending with scores of 24, 39 & 27 against Zim, WI & Ind when the team never crossed 200. He also had a 5 wicket haul against Zimbabwe. Hopefully he would help PNG make into World Cup in near future.

5. CA Soper (PNG)

This young bowler was the PNG mainstay in the Bowling department and also chipping in batting at critical stages. He had a 5 wicket haul against 2 time champions India and restricting them to a score of just crossing 200. In the match against WI, where PNG just managed 100+ score his 23 was critical in PNG crossing 100.

6. GH Dockrell (Ireland)
Australia ripped apart England, Nepal and Ireland in the tournament but here was a person who simply ripped the Aussies. The Impressive figure of 10-6-10-1 tells how much Aussie's were scared of him and their simple strategy was "Avoid Dockrell". This young lad and captain of Ireland had already impressed everyone with his bowling in 2011 World Cup and was very critical in Irish Performances. Not only in bowling where his 4/22 broke the back of Nepal he chipped in with his batting at critical stages like his 26 against England

7. RAJ Smith (Scotland)

This bowler was impressive ending with 3/43 & 4/45 against NZ & Afg. He also hung around with a impressive 34 against Pakistan. The Scots have many young promising talent and he is one of them for the future.

8. RK Vishwakarma (Nepal)

This young lad has been the backbone and consistent performer for Nepal despite his team having a  disastrous outing. His bowling troubled the batsman with he ending with figures of 2/50, 2/31 & 3/63 against Aus, Ire & Eng was critical in getting much required breaks for Nepal. He was very critical with batting when Nepal struggled scoring 32 & 20 against Ire and Eng. If Nepal is to get more exposure in future, this young man is the real potential for them and hopefully will not be lost like many talent lost in past

9. TE Kane (Ireland)

This all rounder has critical knocks in batting where Ireland were struggling. When Ireland managed all 3 scores in 100's this man scored 28, 21 & 39 in the 3 matches and was able to take wickets too in every match. His 6.3-1-13-1 was critical in choking Nepal and winning the match for Ireland by 14 Runs. Hopefully we should continue to see him in green and not lost to England like so many players have been lost

10. Afsar Khan (Afghanistan)

This sturdy batsman was rock solid in his 42 & 44 against NZ & Scotland. He was also critical inn the fielding taking 5 catches some of which were very critical. Afghanistan should work on him and realize his full potential.

11. W van Vuuren

Namibia had one of the most terrible tournament where they were thrashed 3 times in all the matches but Vuuren was one of the handful performers for the team. His all round performance against SL helped team build some creditability with his 38 & 2/65. He also hung around with his 20 against BD

12. Yamin Ahmadzai (Afghanistan)
His 7 wickets in the Group Stage with a 4/35 against helped in forming a deadly pair with Sayed Shirzad. The rate at which the pace bowling talent is coming from Afghanistan is very heartening to see. He is surely a potential who can be seen soon playing for the Senior Side in near future

13. SP Khakurel (Nepal)
His 55 against England helped Nepal to end up with a decent score and not ending in 2 digits like against Australia. His 31 against Ireland was not enough to see the team through for a victory. If there is one person who is a bright spot in the Nepal batting in U19 WC this is the Guy. Would love to see him playing at senior level soon

14. Z Groenewald (Namibia)

He is one of the first player to come from the black community in the country where the game is dominated by the White people and it was heartening to see the game spreading in Namibia.  On top of that he was one of the 2 performers for his team who with his 6 wickets gave the team some tooth. His 26 & 19 against SA & BD were also fighting performances in though which were pretty much losing causes.

This team of 14 surely must be nurtured by ICC for the future. ICC could give them Scholarships or Central contracts and give them global exposure which would help them grow and help their teams to grow and perform at international stages. Best of luck to these stars.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The "American" dream of a Premier League

In 2010 USACA the so called American Cricket Board announced that it has formed a collaboration with NZ Cricket, Poddar Holding of Singapore to form Cricket Holding America. It was a firm that was assigned to hold a T20 league in USA in 2012.There was excitement for the league not in USA but rather outside as people thought that Cricket may finally break back into the nation.

But as time passed it was USACA back to it's old ways. It first fired it's CEO once the deal was secured, perhaps the bufoon Dainty wanted full share of 2 M$. Then there was a fraud election. And then an announcement that tournament will be held in 2013.

I wondered if it is possible to ever hold the league in USA and make it popular. There are many reasons that will work against it. To start with the market to begin with is not the 350 Million Americans but rather 5 Million Target population. To add to this population is scattered all over the country. Then there are not proper stadiums in the country. So with so many challenges is it really possible.

I pondered upon the question and realized it is a fine line to walk. The APL will have to many tick in the check boxes

1. Proper Administration
To be a Proper Administration you have not to be USACA. The good thing is NZC and Poddar Holding have formed a independent body to control T20 League known as CHA. They have to be sure that they make all the proceeding in a very fair and transparent manner. They are not BCCI of America but rather like starting a Handball league in India and hoping to challenge IPL.

2. The Target Population
To start with CHA should not make the mistake of taking whole of 340 M American Population as the market but rather should target only the populations from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, West Indies, Nepal, Sri Lanka & Afghanistan. These are the populations who though are far away from their nations but yearn for Cricket. If they get quality players to watch, they will not miss it.
Based on Wikipedia and various other sources I have formed a approximate cricket population in major North American Cities. The population belong to countries mentioned above.

Cricket Populations (Ind, Pak, SL, BD, Nep, Afg & WI) in major American Cities
3. Use of Major Stadiums 
Imagine a Excited South Asian talking to American about the APL match. The American seems to be Interested in tagging along seeing the Excitement and then finally ask "So where is the Match". Imagine the answer coming as some ground on outskirts of New York. Well if the American had some intention of giving it a try once it will be lost.

The T20 or any leagues have a element of glamor in them and what can bring glamor into sports. Using the best stadiums of the country for the league in the most glamorous thing.

Clockwise: Citi Stadium, Possible Grounds for APL, Fort Lauderhale Cricket Ground (Only ODI Stadium in USA) & Yankee Stadium. The First & Last Stadium will bring in the Glamor that this league would require a lot
There are many options that can be used for APL which may include mostly Baseball Ground (They just fit the Size) and the only ODI Cricket Stadiums in Florida and Toronto.

4. Optimum Number of Teams
To start with the number of teams should be kept as low. If I was there I would be holding the tournament I would keep the number of teams as 6. This would help the stars to be effectively distributed amongst teams. It will also help to keep the league short which will be appealing both to fans and the stars to squeeze in time for tournament.
Based on the target population the 6 teams should be 2 from New York, 1 each from Miami, San Francisco, Chicago & Los Angeles.
If teams from Canada are also included then it should be team Toronto Replacing Los Angeles and if we go with 1 team from New York then Vancouver joining the league.

5. The Northern Neighbor- Canada
Toronto has 682,000 Cricket Crazy population a whopping 11% of Population of City. It is the highest percentage just less than Miami & Florida. It is also ahead of all American cities except New York & Miami.
Vancouver also has percentage Cricket Crazy population than most American cities and population ahead of US cities like Los Angeles or Washington.

These stats surely make the case for the league to be a combined US & Canada league. And this is not just a case that will happen with Cricket. All the Big 4-MLB, NBA, NFL & NHL actually are US+Canada leagues

6. International Stars & Recognition
To start with the league should be recognized with ICC. As NZC is involved this would not be that difficult. However the bigger thing would be getting the agreement of the important boards i.e. BCCI, PCB, SLC, BCB & WICB. These are the 5 critical boards for the league and if CHA is intelligent enough it should offer some financial incentives to these big 5

The 4 South Asian Cricket Giants & their stars specially Indians would be critical in the league to make it a success
The Caribbean people make a major cricket population and ignoring their stars would be a foolish step
The league should be studded with stars from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, West Indies. It should also ensure it gets the stars of Sri Lanka but also Associates like Nepal & Afghanistan. These associates are also cricket crazy nations and if the fans know their stars are playing alongside big names they surely will make the league popular not only in US residents but back in Nepal & Afghanistan too.
Some of the names could be likes of Dhoni, Kohli, Sehwag from India, Afridi, Shoaib Akhtars from Pakistan, Shakib & Tamims from Bangladesh, Sangakara, Murali, Jayasurya's from Sri Lanka, Gayle & Pollards from Windies, Hamid Hassan & Nowroz Mangal from Afghanistan, Paras & Shakti from Nepal. Getting some popular retired stars would also not be a bad idea.
Hamid Hassan(Afghanistan), Paras Khadka & Shakti Gauchan (Nepal): Cricket is very popular in these Associate Countries and their stars will help get in some extra dedicated fans
 7. Last but not least, some Glamor to league
Glamor would surely be important. Involving some Hollywood & Bollywood Stars would surely bring in glitz & glamor to the league, an added incentive for people to come to the grounds

All said and done this would take a serious planning and action from CHA. Let's hope they are able to do it and cricket has got some footing in the biggest economy of the world. I will be waiting for APL in 2013. Let's hope they take in some of the recommendations.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Rise of PNG Cricket

Imagine a country that has more players playing cricket than they do in Australia. Imagine a country where cricket surely is one of the most popular sports and perhaps cricket is the sport where the national team has given the best performance internationally. The country looks like a Test Nations and perhaps the name that could strike may be New Zealand, Zimbabwe or may be upcoming countries like Kenya or Ireland. Well with 50000 youngsters playing the country, it is PNG or Papua New Guinea

Now the question that comes into the mind of many readers is that where is PNG. PNG is a small country that is North of Australia and East of Indonesia. It is a country which has over 1000 Languages and little common across various tribes. The only major city in the country is Port Morbesy while rest of the population lives rural

Cricket like at most places was introduced to PNG by the missionaries when it was under British Rule.It was really picked up by the various tribes. It is to till this day a form of cricket known as  Trobiand Cricket which is played by many tribes and is the most popular sport game.

Trobiand Cricket: The form of Cricket picked by Tribal's when it was introduced by missionaries. It is the most popular game of tribals.
Besides the tribes the game was popular amongst the various expats from Australia and Britain in the capital Port Morbesy. A team of 9 Expats and 2 Indigenous players became the first official team of PNG that played against Australia in 1972.

It is the capital where the game started to pick up. The game started to pick up in the capital, most recognizably the village of Hanuabada, a village is located on the outer suburbs of Port Moresby.

Cricket is so popular in the village of Hanuabada that everyday afternoon the streets are flooded with boys playing cricket. 9 out of the 11 members of present team come from this village

Children can be seen playing cricket every afternoon in the village of Hanuabada, just outside the capital Port Morbesy, PNG
With the cricket roots so strong PNG Cricket Board started it's efforts to take Cricket to other areas of PNG. They started to organize the cricket across the tribes to tap the natural talent there. The board also started various initiatives Liklik Kricket to take cricket to kids around the capital.

The board then collaborated with sponsors to form initiatives like BSP Cricket to take cricket to kids, Dulux "don't drink and drive" and various other efforts has raised the profile of the game. The board also ensure that they got more schools and colleges into the game so that talent keeps pouring in

Initiatives like the tie up with BSP have been really successful in PNG
It was over the years of these efforts to take the game of cricket to kids and across the nations produced great results. By 2010 we have over 50000 people playing the game in PNG. PNG which finished a low 11th in 1995 ICC Trophy and probably one of the lower ranked teams.

The team improved performance year after year. Finally in 2011 they reached their best ever performance when got a rank 3 in World Cricket League division 2 and hence qualified for World Cup qualifiers. This also meant that they improved the ICC ranking to 19. They further improved and gave even a better performance and finished 8th in the tournament out of 16 teams. They finished 4th in the group and just missed qualification to next round

PNG team hold great promise. We might see them challenging the big boys soon

Cricket hold great future in the country and more exposure perhaps someday making it into the Inter Continental Cup would really help break the country in the biggest league. The future looks bright and let's hope we get to see them play 2015 which is being help right in their continent.

Monday, 28 May 2012

India should take Cricket Diplomacy in Burma

I have always said that sports is the best form of Diplomacy. If you talk about Cricket you can strongly relate it to 2 places- The founder England, and area where Cricket is Religion- South Asia.

England no doubt took Cricket to most of the places in the world and they presently have a strong legacy for the game, but it is the South Asians that have brought in the passion, where Cricketers are considered as god.South Asians have migrated, immigrated, emigrated to all corners of the World, be it Spanish speaking South America or Europe. These people might have left their countries but their love for the game stays. An NRI (Non Resident Indians) or his counterparts from Pakistan or Bangladesh would wake up nights so that they can see their Super Stars playing Cricket.

And did this passion stay in these countries. Lets go back in past a little. Till 80's the 2 nations from South Asia were India and Pakistan. Seeing the passion in a India Pakistan games inspired many in other South Asian countries. The Sri Lanka who also had a strong cricket culture, who with support from India also soon became a "Test Team" and a cricket force. Then it was the turn of Bangladesh. The World Cup coming to South Asia inspired many Bangladeshi's and many had a wish to see their team playing in the World. Their wish came true in 1999 World Cup and soon they also reached the top flight and became a Test Nations.

Now this cricket flavor also took over 2 more South Asian countries- Afghanistan & Nepal. So much is the passion in these countries that when they had domestic team and U-19 teams playing the grounds were filled with thousands of people. The Afghan's who picked up the game in the Refugee camps in Pakistan, inspired by Imran Khan (Who is a Pashtun, the Biggest ethnic group of Afghanistan) and his 1992 World Cup, had a fairy tale story, starting from Div 5 to make it to the World Twenty20.

Nepal picked the game from many Indians who worked in India and the advent of Cable TV back in the country. Nepal is at a growth story and will not be surprised if they are counted amongst the top associate in 2015 WC Onwards

The other 2 smaller nations of South Asia Maldives and Bhutan despite having small populations have also punched much above their weight in Cricket too.

Cricket diplomacy has worked for South Asia. Most recently the World Cup semi finals in Mohali broke some ice between nations and the 2 prime ministers watched the match. In 1988 Zia Ul Haq flew to Jaipur to watch a match and is known to have averted a war between the 2 nations. During BJP led NDA, both India and Pakistan toured each other and those were the best times as many buses were started, fans traveled and welcomed in other country.

Myanmar, like most South Asian countries has been a part of British Empire. They played a First Class match against a Ceylon(Sri Lanka) team and had defeated them in past. They also played first class matches against MCC during that time. It is rather surprising that Cricket until now was non existent there.

The reason behind that was before independence the country came under Japanese rule who encouraged the local Burmese to against everything British. Also Cricket like in most places was played by the elite which was the British and Indians. The Burmese hated both these and Cricket also became a victim as sports of the Elite. After Independence everything British was shunned, the Indians were forced out hence all trace of Cricket was gone. Also then the country went into isolation which brought any chance of resurgence.

It was after ICC went into expansion mode that Myanmar was included as a Affiliate Member. Cricket then made a resurgence in the country. A movie Bo Ba based on Lagan was popular across the country. The country has built first stadium outside Yangoon. But still the game was limited to Yangoon and country still closed to outsiders

Cricketers like Dhoni can both people closer

Now with the country opening up and all countries trying to make inroads in the mineral rich country. India a very important neighbor and has historical links with the country. It was the country which for many years supported the democracy movement. With China making inroads it started co-operation with the Military Junta. Now with both sides patched up India finds itself in good position.

Now to take things to next steps, and reaching out to people, India needs use the powerful tool of sports. India to start with needs to bring in coaches and reach the schools in the major cities of Yangoon and Mandalay. This will help introduce Cricket to children who through the sports will come to know a lot about Indians. Sachin Tendulkar, Kohli, Dhoni and how they are followed will help people to know inside in India. Second to this India needs to bring in some stars and help spread diplomacy through cricket.

India also then needs to develop infrastructure of Cricket in Major 2-3 Cities and perhaps after Cricket reaches to some knowledge level help set up the league. Talking with the government, India can use Bollywood+Cricket through Lagaan, IPL and make inroads.

This is easier said than done, and a focused effort is required. However India must understand through this and cricket establishing, India can bring people of both countries closer which will take relationship to next level. When hearts of people meet the rest of things follow soon. India has such an advantageous tool to its advantage and should maximize it.