The cricket for the corruption

But watching Root and Stokes battle back at a zesty five runs an over in glorious sunshine was a reminder that cricket – and all sport for that matter – is often best enjoyed by unhooking from the issues that blight its administration and simply drinking in what unfolds in front of you.

Ali Martin, via The Guardian

That’s it right there, isn’t it? Not just sport, but life. Seeing the forest for the trees. Separating what’s really important from what is simply trivial. Being able to sit back and simply see the beauty that exists in this big, old, sad world.

And cricket – on a nearly daily basis – brings us wide swaths of that beauty. In moments both big and small, it brings us the ballet, the drama, the grit that is inherent to sport

It also shows us – outside its lines – humanity’s ugly side. Its corruption, its greed, its hypocrisy.

But like in life, we are better off if we can take a few moments each day to forget about the horrors that exist, and focus on the beauty that exists in tandem with the evil. A Beethoven piano sonata, a Donna Tartt novel and, yes, a cracking counterattack on a perfect summer’s day in the heart of the world’s greatest city.

Just another lesson cricket can teach us. If we let it.

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USACA, the ACF and the ICC

I won’t rehash the bizarre, embarrassing and frankly not entirely unexpected events that took place during USACA’s recent T20 tournament. But here’s a few links. (H/t Jamie Harrison.)

What the farce of a tournament actually means for the future of the game in America is of course unclear at this point, but a well-oiled, successful tournament would surely have helped USACA’s chances for survival despite recent finger wagging from the ICC, so the fiasco that happened down in Florida this past weekend should have the opposite affect.

Meanwhile, USACA’s competitor, the American Cricket Federation, had itself a great couple of weeks. They drafted a new constitution that not only ensured the democratic election of leaders, but also is rather groundbreaking when it comes to cricket body governance. They added two more leagues to their growing ranks. They were granted tax-exempt status. And they released an annual report that showed the whole of the cricketing world all the really great things they are doing, as opposed to all the corruption and farce on display at USACA HQ.

Now, full disclosure, I know Jamie Harrison – the CEO of the ACF – I have worked with him, for him and have been paid to write articles for his website. And so while that may negate all of this, I say with all confidence that the only way – the only way – for cricket to move forward in the United States is through the ACF. All that USACA offers is dead ends. And so if the ICC truly wants to see the game thrive in America, then their choice is clear: stop turning a blind eye to USACA’s ineptitude and – simultaneously – offer financial assistance to the ACF so they can continue their work and, in time, become the official governing body of American cricket.

I have talked to ACF league managers, administrators and players, and all to a man expressed similar sentiments and confidence in the future of the game in the hands of the ACF.

The choice for the ICC is clear.

But now the ICC will ask itself: do we really want the game to grow in America?

Now, of course, to us, the answer is yes. Why wouldn’t they? We are a country that loves sport – that would fall in love with the game if given a proper national team that competes on the biggest international stages. We are a nation of immigrants that long for the game to move into the mainstream, so there is more cricket not just on our TVs, but in our schoolyards, our stadiums and our parks.

But I don’t think the ICC wants that. I think they have finally have power consolidated as they want it, and opening up the doors to another potential cricketing power is just not something I can image them doing – even if that ascent to power would take generations. Look at the way they treat Ireland and other burgeoning, successful associates, and you cannot help but feel pessimistic when it comes to the chances of cricket in America.

Furthermore, would the ICC want to welcome a federation with such a forward thinking and progressive and democratic constitution? Of course not. That would, for lack of a better phrase, poison ICC’s well of corruption and greed.

The ACF might in the best interests of cricket and cricket in America, but they are not in the best interest of the ICC.

And so that’s why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I feel that the ICC will continue – for the foreseeable future – to support USACA, leaving the ACF out in the wilderness.

The silver lining here is that the ACF is doing a lot of good out there in the wilderness. From youth cricket to a successful, national championship. Let’s hope they keep it up no matter what happens.

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Yes, I am biased here. I know that. But I truly believe that Jamie Harrison and his team are the best people for the job of making cricket a success in America.

Unfortunately, that’s not something I think the ICC wants.

I for one hope I am dead wrong.

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Filling the void

Cricket returns in less than two weeks. And I am not talking about the IPL, I am talking about Test cricket. And not just Test cricket, but Test cricket in my hemisphere.

The West Indies are hosting England for three Tests staring with a work-week affair to begin on Monday, April 13. So not only will the match take place during a pleasant time period – much appreciated after the circadian horror show that was the World Cup – but it is happening on work days when I can quietly listen and follow along while at my desk.

This is how I fell in love with the game in the first place, and so with the relaunch of the blog, this will be the perfect manner in which to get back on the writing horse.

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The series brings a lot of questions to the table for the hapless England as they prepare for this summer’s Ashes. If Cook can win in Antigua, Barbados and Grenada, then he will of course ride into the English summer the right man to lead the troops into the simmering cauldron of the Ashes.

Lose one or more of those, and Cook’s position in team – not just as captain – will be seriously questioned.

I have always liked Alastair. And it’s a shame how poorly he has managed this squad at times, and how poorly they have played (again, at times) under his leadership. But the silver lining of Test losses in the Caribbean this spring might just a shake up at the top that the team is desperately in need of.

Also on the front burner for England is the possible return of Kevin Pietersen. I have no inside information here, but as a cricket fan I hope he comes back as soon as possible because he is one of the top five most entertaining batsman on the planet.

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Short post for now as I re-tune my muse. More again soon.

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Olympiad

The Greeks defined an Olympiad as “a period of four years between Olympic Games, used in dating events.” In other words, an Olympiad wasn’t about athletic contests, it was instead the space between those contests. The events were just moments to mark time by.

This is why tournaments that take place every four years are special. They are more than just bats, balls and medals. They are a chance for us to look back at where we were four years ago, and to look forward to where we might be four years from now.

And given the precarious nature of our time on this planet, we of course also wonder if we will be here at all when the first coin is flipped in England in 2019.

2019.

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I started this blog a week or so after India lifted the cup in Mumbai. Four years ago almost to the day – give or take a fortnight or so. In that time, so much has happened. When I logged into WordPress for the first time that one morning in April, I was stuck in the worst job in my entire life, three (!!) jobs later, I am as happy with my employment status as I have ever been.

And that is just one, small part of the nearly 1,500 days that have passed since. Birthdays and Christmases and goodbyes and failures and successes. Little things, big things, smiles, bike rides, dinners, cups of coffee.

Change happens slowly, but it is always happening, and every four years when that Cricket World Cup final feed ends, we are forced to look back at that change, reflect on it, and wonder what will come next.

If it comes at all.

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Also in that four years, I wrote (guessing) about 500 blog posts. Some great, some terrible, most average. And this past fall, I hung it up. I was tired of it. I was uninspired. I had become jaded by the sport which is oh, so common. Far too common.

But now, four years after its birth, I think it is time to start posting here again. I like this place. This is a good place.

It’s time to come home.

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On cricket:

The whole of the cricket loving world – save Australia – wanted New Zealand to win last night, because every sports fan loves an underdog. The problem is of course that cricket does not love an underdog.

Despite a few glitches here and there, the game is relentlessly, tragically fair. In Test cricket, 99 times out of 100, the better team always wins. So while that ratio is a little lower in the one day game, it still hovers in the mid-90s in favor of the better team. And Australia are simply a more talented squad. Not on the day, not because of the MCG or the home crowd – they are just a more exceptional side than New Zealand.

The Kiwis, for all their aggressive, fun, swashbuckling cricket, just don’t have the chops on the pitch that their neighbors across the ditch have.

And that’s why we saw what we saw last night.

But it would have been fun if the cricketing Gods had given us a short reprieve before slamming the door shut on the party. The match effectively felt all but over when Starc bowled McCullum. And while the MCG exploded, you could almost feel the rest of the world’s heavy, resigned, sigh.

“Oh, that’s right,” we all said. “This is cricket.”

The partnership between Taylor and Elliot gave us hope, as did the early wicket of Finch, but we all knew better. We all talked about India’s defense of 183 at the 1983 World Cup, but we were well aware that we were fooling ourselves. This was Australia, at the MCG, on a perfect late summer’s day. While there wasn’t a Waugh or a Ponting or a Gilchrist, it was still Australia.

And it was still cricket.

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On hiatus

gone_fishing

In the meanwhile, follow me on twitter (both cricket Matt and regular Matt) and I plan on writing about all kinds of stuff (Arsenal, music, politics, video games) over on Medium.

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Notes from Around the System for October 1

Congrats to Captain Sana Mir and the entire Pakistan Women Cricket Team, for their gold medal in the Asian Games. From the Express Tribune: “Pakistan retained the women’s Twenty20 cricket gold medal at the Asian Games on Friday by defeating spirited Bangladesh in a rain-affected final, as Sri Lanka took home the bronze. … Pakistan, electing to bat after winning the toss, were restricted to 97-6 by a steady Bangladeshi bowling attack. Bismah Maroof top-scored with 24 and leg-spinner Rumana Ahmed claimed two wickets for 13 runs. … Bangladesh, making a strong dash for the revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 43 from seven overs following a heavy downpour during the break, scored 38-9 to lose by four runs.” The men’s tournament is at the semi-final stage.

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The American Cricket Federation has been busy the last couple weeks, launching newly designed kits and logos for each of its Champions League teams, and their third annual National Championship starts October 10. Via Facebook: “In addition to winning American bragging rights for 2014, the national champion team also receives an automatic invitation to represent the United States against the Canadian champion squad at the 2015 North American Cricket Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.”

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Scotland are in the market for a new director, as Roddy Smith is leaving for greener pastures after 10 years. The BBC: “During Smith’s time as chief executive, his management team have increased from eight to 25 and turnover has quadrupled. … Cricket Scotland reported a rise in participation figures for players, coaches and umpires during those 10 years. … And the national side have secured a place at next year’s World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand by beating Kenya in a qualifying event.” Giles Clarke will probably be available after the next World Cup.

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Speaking of Kenya: “Aasif Karim, the former Kenya captain, has lamented the ‘death’ of Kenyan cricket in a year in which the national team lost the ODI status it received from the ICC in 1996 and failed to make it to the 50-over World Cup and this year’s World Twenty20 – the two premier ICC events. … ‘Kenya cricket is dead,’ Karim, who led Kenya during their 1999 World Cup campaign, said during an in extensive interview with ESPNcricinfo. ‘It is dead and buried. Your intent can be good but if you’re not competent to do something, it doesn’t happen. We’ve had an incompetent administration for the last ten years. The results are clear. Where is the cricket now? My prediction is that from being an Associate team having ODI status we will become an Affiliate.'” (via The Times of India.)

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The ICC has announced the fixture list for the WCL Division 3 tournament that starts Oct. 23: “Bermuda, Nepal, Singapore, Uganda, USA and host Malaysia will lock horns in the eight-day tournament across three grounds, Kinrara, Bayeumas and Selangor Turf Club, with the tournament final to be played at Kinrara on Thursday, 30 October. … The two finalists will gain promotion to Pepsi ICC WCL Div. 2, which will be played in Namibia from 17 to 24 January 2015.  Pepsi ICC WCL Div. 2 is the final step in the qualification pathway to the ICC’s four-day, first-class competition for Associate and Affiliate Members, the ICC Intercontinental Cup, as well as the 50-over Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship.” Lots at stake in other words. I am checking to see if it will be streamed anywhere. Keep an eye on the Streaming Schedule.

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Not football, cricket. From Andina: “Peru and two other South American nations (Brazil and Colombia) will compete in the Amazon Cup Twenty Cricket Tournament to be held on October 4 and 5 in the Colombian capital, Bogota. … Cricket has been played in Peru for over 150 years, at the Lima Cricket & Football Club, and is now undergoing resurgence as a recently-admitted Affiliate Member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and a founder member of Cricket South America, along with Argentina, Brazil and Chile. … The Peruvian capital hosted a triangular Cricket South America Under-13 tournament between Peru, Chile and Argentina in April 2010 and again in 2011.”

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Finally today: Yahoo has a great gallery of photos from the cricket match played at the Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

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Notes from Outside the System: Sept. 17 – Sept. 24

Cricket Ireland logo.svg

From SportsKeeda: “Ireland’s Gaby Lewis became the second youngest cricketer (male or female) to make an appearance in international cricket, when she took to the field against the South African women’s team last Tuesday. … Lewis was 13 years and 166 days during her debut T20 international, beating teammate Elena Tice to 2nd place on the list of youngest debutants in international cricket history. Tice had made her debut back in 2011 at the age of 13 years and 272 days. … Pakistan’s Sajjida Shah holds the record for being the youngest cricketer to feature at the international level, having made her debut at the age of 12 years and 271 days in 2000.”

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Sometimes I forget that Jersey is its own country (a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, to be exact). Via BBC Sport: “Jersey’s Lee Meloy has been named the International Cricket Council’s European coach of the year. Meloy, the island’s development officer, helped guide Jersey to inter-insular victory over Guernsey and was part of the support staff at World League Four in Singapore.
He also coached the Under-17s to success at European Division Two in Essex.” (Guernsey, on the other hand, is not part of the United Kingdom, but is a possession of the British Crown. Whatever that means.)

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Seriously. The cricket match at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is the goofiest thing anyone has ever done ever. I know I am beating a dead horse but I can’t over the lunacy. For a good cause though, I guess. An interview with one of the participants is posted on GiveMeSport.com.

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Can’t help but agree: “Ryan ten Doeschate is the best associate cricketer of our times,” according to SportsKeeda. “Even though he has not played a whole lot of international cricket, he has plied his trade against some of the best in the world, and has been successful in pretty much all conditions. With his record, one cannot help but feel that he would have probably had a good career had he chosen to play for South Africa too, but there is no doubt that he has been the best player of his generation from the associate nations.”

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The cricket at the 2014 Asian Games is happening right now. Cricinfo has coverage of the women’s (who are at the semi-final stage) and the men’s (whose fixtures start on Sept. 27).

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Blogger Tim Wigmore has a say about the farcical withdraw of the ODI status for the UAE vs. PNG matches over on Cricinfo: “The incident embodies the ICC’s obsession with the concept of status. When two national teams, no matter how weak, meet in any other sport, the game has full international status. Andorra against Luxembourg is a football international, in the same way that Germany against Brazil is. … Cricket takes a very different view. As one person who has been involved in cricket administration put it to me, there is a belief that extending Test status to Associate members would be ‘like dancing on the grave of Donald Bradman’. Such a belief dictates much of cricket’s thinking today: Afghanistan can play Ireland in a five-day game, in accordance with Test match rules, but it does not count as a Test.” The whole piece is worth your time.

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Finally, Malaysia – not Uganda – will be hosting the upcoming World Cricket League Division 3 tournament. Straight from the horse’s mouth: “Uganda was to host the six-team competition from 26 October to 2 November, however, due to a recent elevation in the ICC’s ongoing safety and security assessment level, it has been decided to relocate the event to the Malaysian capital.” Sad that we live in a world where a sport association has to have its own safety and security protocols.

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