Updated: Jun 25
Bilateral series between Full-time Members & Associate Nations: Shall ICC intervene? Is it good for the game of cricket?
When a single innings of a One-Day International (ODI) produces close to 500 runs as was seen when England mustered 498-4 in 50 overs in an ODI against Netherlands in Amstelveen on June 17, 2022, eyebrows are bound to be raised at the veracity of such uneven contests.
If anybody would have seen this a decade ago, probably they would have laughed about it. But guess what, modern-day cricket has evolved in such a way that it looks possible in all sorts, as was witnessed in Amstelveen last week.
Should ICC discuss with Cricketing Boards about having bilateral series between top-ranked sides and associate nations on a regular basis? Here, are all the pros and cons associated to this.
Wider Scope for the Game
As of 2022, only 12 nations are full-time members under International Cricket Council (ICC). If compare this with global sports like football (played in over 200 countries), one can imagine why cricket hasn’t got quite the same recognition at the global level.
However, including more and more countries in sports does expand cricket on a global level. Much like football, it will get identification amongst a larger audience.
Local Talent will take Cricket as Career Option
Small countries and their athletes would want to pursue the game as their full-time career if it spreads across the globe. People will start following the sport as their national sides would be taking part in it.
Players from the associate nations will have ample opportunities to showcase their talent on the bigger stage (against ICC full-time member nations). Moreover, by performing well on the bigger stage, they can get the attention of IPL and BBL owners and can earn chunks of money if they get signed for the franchises in those leagues. We saw this with Tim David (Singapore player) who was signed by Mumbai Indians in IPL 2022.
Fans’ interest might go down so as TRP
Imagine watching India vs Ireland instead of India vs Australia, how many would be watching the contest with the same enthusiasm and excitement? One could safely assume that the interest levels will be widely skewed.
Simply because deep down it's understood that there isn’t any match between the respective sides as far as calibre and skills are concerned. There won’t be an even contest, though minnow teams might stage an upset here and there, still, fans would rather prefer watching the game between recognized nations than associate ones.
As a result, broadcasters might witness a gradual fall in the Television Rating Points (TRP) as well as in the streamings over digital platforms.
Not a good endorsement for cricket?
Cricket may lose its mojo! Just what we witnessed in the game between England and Netherlands, one side scored nearly 500 runs in a one-day game, on the other hand, the other side struggled to save themselves from getting humiliated by the opposition’s batters.
Just think about the players from the associate nations, it could dent their confidence to a significant level, and it could dent their future hopes as well. They may start doubting their calibre and questions like - do they really belong at this level - might hit their minds. Apart from all these, it won’t be a proper endorsement of the game.
As the great MS Dhoni said, big evolution is a process. Introducing, the minnows on the global level should follow a set process. Encouraging their participation in ICC events like World Cup is fine but frequently scheduling big tours for them might not help their dignity.
Rather, their matches should be scheduled in such a way that they play the teams which are almost on the same level. For instance, associate nations like Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland can have a bilateral or triangular series against sides like Zimbabwe and Afghanistan on a frequent basis.
Once they get enough exposure of playing against the comparatively bigger sides, they can be aligned to play powerhouses like England and India. This way there will be a smooth transition for the minnow sides and the game will slowly expand on a global level.