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Finding a relevant role for the Asia Cup

Trevor Chesterfield

Updated: June 16, 2010, 3:10 PM IST
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This year's Asia Cup event has been cobbled together in such a way it has been all about the big boys in the region and organisers eschewing their smaller cousins. As such, it explains the dangerous game that current Asian administrators are playing.

There is no place for United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong or the new rising power Afghanistan along with teams that would dearly love to take part in such an event. Which is why, asking a question of the Asia Cricket Council of the Asia Cup now being played in Dambulla, Sri Lanka to explain its relevance?

It is very much similar to the game the administrators are playing by switching the 50-over format to 40 overs and in some cases, Australia, splitting this further into two innings of 20 overs. What this is also achieving is diluting further the skills and esoteric nuances of the sport, which, thankfully, you do not have in aggressive sports like soccer or the contact sports such as rugby.

In this administrators, not just Asian, are playing fast and loose with a proven product, the 50-over variety and damaging the principles of sport without thinking further then their bank balances. It is why a colleague in Sri Lanka suggested how "cricket is in danger - it is dying". And if you look at the way the administrators, seduced by the Indian Premier League and its spin-offs, they are behaving it is time someone, sitting around the table pointed fingers at the domestic product and ask what they are they doing it without asking the thinking senior players.

It is call "trends" but only because someone such as the narcissistic Lalit Modi saw a chance to make a quick million or so rupees and borrowed an idea from England to launch a franchise system. The plan was to attract big money to the game. It is almost like a giant ponzi scheme. In this case, the term "trends" is all in the mind: a media hyped programme that is also a reality event.

This brings us back to the dodgy action of the ACC in arranging this event in such a way, there was no qualification tournament to give teams such as Afghanistan a chance to display their capabilities. Their two-year journey, well documented by the International Cricket Council and the BBC through those who have egalitarian principles and care about people from a war-ravaged nation. Afghanistan's path to cricket glory is a miracles journey: a nation with no genuine cricket culture, yet achieved a place in this year's ICC World T20 event in the Caribbean.

No doubt, the ACC will come up with a number of reasons why there is no qualifying tournament for this year's event. In other words, they don't want to admit the other countries, whether associate or affiliate members of the ICC, count for nothing. Just flags on a map to make it look impressive.

Bangladesh interrupted their tour of England and adjusting from the county venues to the sticky head of central Sri Lanka and a cultural centre of the island. India and Asia Cup holders Sri Lanka have arrived back from a triangular tournament in Zimbabwe, a tournament designed to get the land-locked African nation more international exposure after an ICC investigation a couple of years ago from which they designed a way to depoliticise the game.

This year's Asia Cup has a media handbook, exposing some of the event's chequered history and without going into details, why India, the holders, didn't attend the 1986 (second edition) held in Sri Lanka. Why the strained relations between Pakistan and India meant in 1990/91, Pakistan didn't play in that series.

Presently there are 22 countries who fall under the purview of the ACC, among them are the world's two most populous nations, India and neighbours, China but the current format only allows for full member countries of the ICC to be invited to the tournament, which has been squeezed into a cluttered 2010 programme with India touring Sri Lanka again next month for a full Test and ODI tour.

It will be argued how scheduling the event was a problem. But if there are 22 countries attached to the ACC, why the discrimination in terms of the Asia Cup. Why is there no tournament for lesser nations?

Sure, there are those myopic, selfish readers who consider that even Bangladesh do not deserve to have full status, forgetting their own roots and terms of growth or how it was India who promoted their cause. Such people are the first to complain and act as though no one else matters. This also seems to be the view of the ACC council and those in charge of administration.

Not a popular opinion perhaps, but if the ACC was formed to promote the game in Asia, the perception is with the Asia Cup, they are not promoting the game in the region. We are told and read there are regional directors, coaching programmes and administrations in place. This is where the problem of having any of those remaining 18 nations lies.

With the new sponsorship, the ACC have duty towards those other 18 countries and promote a series of qualifying tournaments. Rhetoric is cheap; it is the fumes given off by the politicians to drive their frivolous campaigns. What is needed is action to support all the fancy jargon that is offered in the name of development of the game in Asia, not obfuscation in terms of a variety of reasons why the tournament is limited to the four full ICC members.

Afghanistan qualified for this year's ICC World T20. Sure, they didn't get any further than the first round. But at least to get that far, they beat other teams, with the UAE being one of them in their fairytale journey. It was an ICC designed programme, the ACC sat back patted themselves on the back. A new emergent Asian nation and one with rags to fame glory created a story that captured interest way beyond the game. How much did the ACC actually do for Afghanistan?

Learning how to play the sport in the IDP camps of Pakistan explains how the game has created a generic image, although the cruel, dehumanising ill-educated Taliban didn't enjoy it at the start. Yet they overcame such tribulations.

This is why the question should be asked just what are the ACC doing among the 18 other countries who are excluded from the Asia Cup to promote expectations. It is time to act responsibly and give them a chance to compete at this level. In 2003, India played in the World Cup final at The Wanderers. In 2007, they failed to get beyond the first round. It is a lesson that should not be forgotten.

First Published: June 16, 2010, 3:10 PM IST

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