A Tale of Two Nations

Today Ireland and Afghanistan were promoted to Full Test Status by the ICC. This is great news for the boards, the countries, their players (current and future) and their supporters.

Ireland’s promotion—while fantastic—was always a bit of a foregone conclusion. Their goal was to be a full Member by 2020 and most right thinking cricket minds thought that was almost a certainty. Afghanistan’s promotion, albeit meteoric in cricketing terms, was the culmination of a long, rocky, uncertain road.

In other big news, the ICC has expelled the USA Cricket Association (USACA). This news is actually similar to the Ireland promotion in that everyone saw it coming, but it starts to get interesting when you compare USACA’s expulsion to Afghanistan’s promotion.

On the one hand, you have the United Sates, one of the richest nations on earth, with huge populations of ex-pats from cricket loving nations, with a board that has had Associate status since 1965. On the other hand, you have Afghanistan, a war torn nation if there ever was one, that has never hosted a home match, with a board that’s held Associate status only since 2013. And in that comparison, the downfall of USACA and the failure of the board to put a quality product together becomes even more distinct.

If USACA had followed a similar path to Afghanistan or even Ireland, they could have had decades of great tournament performances, a strong domestic league and a whole generation of young people raised on the game now raising their own kids with the game. Instead, we got corruption, a terrible product, a laughing stock of a domestic league and another generation who grew up ignoring the game.

But the past is prologue. USACA is—finally—gone. And cricket in America can finally move forward. And considering the explosion of the game here at the youth level, there’s the potential for huge and immediate growth with the right leadership at the helm.

Test status might be a pipe dream now, but there’s no way to go but up, and up we will go. I just know it.

The smart money would be on the American Cricket Federation leading the charge. They’ve been fighting the good fight for American cricket for many years now. Read their story here.

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Of course, the ICC gotta ICC, so today they also announced the formation of a new Test League … which Afghanistan and Ireland (and Zimbabwe) would not be allowed to participate in. The means that those three nations could only schedule Tests against each other or find windows in which to play against one of the other nine Test nations, and the latter will be very difficult considering the already packed to the gunwales fixture calendar. Basically what the ICC did today is create two ties of Test playing nations, promoted Ireland and Afghanistan to that tier from Associate Status and demoted Zimbabwe from full Test status to second tier Test status. One step forward, one step back (which is better than ICC’s usual M.O. of one step forward, two steps back).

They also announced a new ODI league (which Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe would be able to participate in) and, in an annual tradition, debated eliminating the Champions Trophy in favor of expanding the World T20s to every two years. I have always been a fan of the Champions Trophy, because I like the ODI, but I tend to agree that a 13 team ODI league and two T20s might be the better option for growing the game internationally. If—and this is a mighty big if—Associates are given spots in the T20s beyond the token handful they are allotted now.

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Finally for today, the Women’s World Cup (or, really, we can probably just call it the World Cup, since there aren’t any other World Cups happening in cricket right now) starts on Saturday. I am quite looking forward to it. It sounds like the field is wide open and it should be a great tournament. Here’s hoping England can avenge the men’s capitulation, but my money is on Pakistan surprising everyone (again).

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