Who doesn’t love a plucky little underdog? Who doesn’t enjoy viewing a compelling David and Goliath match-up where the less favoured opponent triumphs admirably despite all circumstances being against them? Unfortunately, in the riveting sport of cricket, we are often deprived of such battles, merely due to the fact that games are played mostly between the established elite of the cricketing world.
The idea of a group of superior members began in 1909 when the ICC was founded, with Australia, England and South Africa as its main members. Initially, only other countries from the Commonwealth could form part of this creme de la creme and only in 1965, were countries outside the Commonwealth included. Despite such a divisive history, you would expect that inclusion would have been implemented in the modern era with other sports federations like FIFA having 209 associations as full members. The ICC though, only has ten, leaving the sport with a significant disadvantage when it comes to global appreciation.
Even more galling has been the introduction of the “Big 3” of India, England and Australia, who are now responsible for all the major decisions within the sport, whereas previously ten nations had an equal say. Instead of broadening the horizons of cricket further, the ICC is instead providing authoritative control to three nations, allowing them to dictate every facet of the beautiful game. If it has become a challenge for brilliant cricketing nations like South Africa, Sri Lanka or Pakistan to exert their influence on the board, what hope is there for associates who wait in the wings, hopeful for their chance to prove their worth?
Countries like Ireland, Afghanistan and the UAE have been provided with exposure on the biggest stage, with their participation in recent World Cups showing us the depths of their talent. With some careful honing and pruning, these countries could also be established as full members of the ICC. Sure, they are currently often overshadowed when playing against more fancied opponents, but perhaps giving them more opportunities to interact with the world’s best in organized tours will result in significant improvement. To their misfortune though, the 2019 Cricket World Cup will in all likelihood consist of only 10 teams, ruling them out of contention. Ireland captain, William Porterfield’s comments of “Why don’t 10 teams just play cricket and every other country in the world not bother? It’s the ICC, supposedly global. They have to develop the game,” speaks volumes, emphasizing precisely how elitist this sport has been and the need to grow it into a more worldwide phenomenon.
As Porterfield points out, the ICC is meant to be responsible for exposing the game to as many countries as possible, instead of just a limited few. The word “International” is used liberally in the name ICC as with only 10 full members, such claims to expose the game globally are quite exaggerated. There is no denying that cricket still reaches a vast amount of people with 2.2 billion viewers in 200 countries watching the World Cup Final. It is quite disheartening though, that only so few of these viewing nations are provided with the opportunity to actually play the game professionally on this amazing platform. Imagine if cricket was given further exposure in a continent like North America, whose financial powers and global influence supersede almost every other country worldwide. While the USA and Canadian national cricket teams are currently in existence, their menial associate status means that cricket is not given significant publicity within the country and falls way behind sports like basketball, baseball and football in the status quo.
Sure, we cannot expect every country to have an India-esque cult like following when it comes to cricket, but we can expect it to be appreciated and acknowledged for the intriguing game that it is. Often derided for being a dull sport, it is the ICC’s responsibility to expose cricket beyond its current limited fan base and such exposure can only come when individuals are able to watch their own country thrive within the sporting code. The pure pride and patriotism that engulfs you upon seeing your own country succeed in any sport is unparalleled and cricket needs to widen their following beyond the 10 nations currently experiencing this emotion on a regular basis.
Cricket, with its three exciting and unique formats is completely different to any other sport found globally. With its compelling history and recent developments (such as the advent of T20’s), it is essential that it gains the worldwide exposure it so richly deserves.