ICC Prevent a ‘Japan Moment’ in Cricket
Japan’s victory over South Africa at the rugby World Cup yesterday highlighted so many brilliant aspects of sport. It’s unpredictability, it’s ability to bring people together in a moment, create a sense of pride, joy, disappointment.
A team with odds of 80-1, expected to lose heavily, toppled one of the best teams in the world. It’s the classic tale. The under dog story.
And everyone loves an underdog story.
But the way in which Japan fought for the victory was perhaps the most beautiful part; choosing to take on South Africa’s defence rather than settle for a penalty kick, which would have been enough to earn a draw. A very respectable result had already been secured, tears of pride were already flowing among their fans, but they went after victory. It could have cost them a point against a team some would fancy to win the tournament.
And they did it.
It was rugby’s Miracle on Ice moment. It was glorious. Breathtaking. Brilliant.
And we may never see its like in cricket.
As much as Japan’s victory was celebrated, it also led to fresh derision from cricket fans over the ICC’s decision to contract the cricket World Cup to 10 teams in 2019 – the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew perhaps best encapsulating feelings:
Two finer words there could not be to describe the cricket world cup than “shrinking” and “ponderous”. Most disturbingly, the first has come about as a result of the second. The ICC’s inability to create an exciting well paced tournament has led to them using the unwieldy nature of the 2015 competition as an excuse to cut the number of teams involved.
In doing so, the ICC have cut emerging nations like Ireland and Afghanistan off at the knees. Stunted their progress, their ability to sell their game to their own nation. Worse than that, they’ve also closed off opportunities for other nations to shine.
While some are talking about the way in which rugby has doubled its participation levels globally in recent years – cricket is becoming a closed shop internationally. The take over by the big three creating more and more suspicion about the direction of the game and its future as the ICC fail to justify their decisions relating to what should be the game’s premier tournament.
The idea that something akin to Japan beating South Africa could ever happen at a cricket World Cup was almost universally dismissed (usually with a healthy dose of cynicism) by cricket fans.
To top it all off the next rugby World Cup will be held in Japan – cricket conversely saw the 2015 World Cup take place in Australia, England host in 2019 before the tournament moves to India in 2023. It’s fair to say most people don’t expect the 2027 World Cup to take place in America, Afghanistan or even Bangladesh. Even seeing it go to South Africa, the #1 side in Test cricket, would be a surprise…
Two sports, two governing bodies.
On one hand we have a global tournament, currently being shown on free-to-air TV in the UK, with a progressive governing body embracing burgeoning nations and helping grow the sport globally without undermining the major ones – just giving them more competitive opposition.
On the other hand we have the ICC.