By Kamlesh Tripathi
In the Cricket world cup 2015 only fourteen teams are playing. Which are divided into two pools that will play 49 matches in two countries, to decide the world cup title. International Cricket Council (ICC) recognizes more than 125 countries that play cricket. But many are not up to the mark to be included in the international circuit, such as the World Cup. ICC has 10 full members, 38 Associate Members and 59 Affiliate Members and that adds up to 107 countries. The West Indies cricket team does not represent a single country.
The world today has 196 countries and with that logic, cricket looks like an isolated game with only 14 countries, vying for the world cup which is far from a world phenomenon. Even when the cheer and clapping is getting louder each day as the tournament progresses in those 14 countries. And so, this magnificent pageant that is hosted every 4 years is only witnessed by a small section of the world. As the game is not as popular as soccer which is played in almost all the countries.
In the same fashion we also have the shorter version of the game called the T-20 cricket world cup, every four years. And, in addition we keep having individual test matches, ODIs and T-20 series between countries which are generally followed by the supporters of their respective countries only. Recently, BCCI has also launched IPL series to promote, both domestic and international cricket. But, even with all of this, cricket is not getting sold exponentially beyond the 14 countries that participate in the world cup. So, there is a greater need to popularize cricket in less and non-cricket playing countries, by shedding traditional, autocratic and bureaucratic ways of thinking and dealing with cricket.
The 14 countries that currently play in the international world cup circuit are- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Australia, New Zealand, Afghanistan, UAE, South Africa, Zimbabwe, West Indies, England, Ireland & Scotland.
This more or less promotes cricket in their respective countries only, and to a certain extent in their neighbouring countries. But if cricket needs to spread to other countries by leaps and bounds. Something out-of-the-box needs to be thought through. A better way of popularizing cricket would be to have another world class tournament. Where, we could bunch teams of 3-4 countries, continent wise, and have a world cup tournament amongst them, such as;
Team 1: India, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh
Team 2: Australia, New Zealand
Team 3: Pakistan, Afghanistan and UAE
Team 4: South Africa, Zimbabwe
Team 5: West Indies, England, Ireland and Scotland
HOW WILL THIS HELP IN PROMOTING CRICKET?
Cricket was never played in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, since Adam was a lad. It only came along with the Britishers and became an endearing and formidable game, close to a religion. Which goes to show, if publicized, facilitated and marketed well. It has the potential to become a game as popular as soccer.
Individual countries, and more pointedly India, may have done well to promote cricket in their own country. But Cricket as such has not seen a deluge of popularity, breaking barriers of borders and continents. Rather, it cocooned in its ego and bureaucracy and never butterflied across the world as soccer or lawn tennis. To sight and example, for so many years Bangladesh had to wait to get Test status and same goes for countries like Ireland and Scotland, that are still waiting.
WHAT WILL CHANGE BY BUNCHING TEAMS AND HAVING A WORLD CUP AMONGST CONTINENTS?
Just citing an example. Increase the team members in the squad of Team 1, as referred above (India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) by 3-5 and include new talent from China, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives or any other country close by and give them a chance in warm up matches, or even just let them be with the team or include them in practice sessions or as twelfth man to be viewed by spectators back home. As this also will popularize the game back in their countries in a big way. For, didn’t it suddenly make a world of difference when some of our athletes were seen on world stage, in various disciplines at the Olympics?
And, hold this world cup tournament among continents every two years. As this will help in good publicity and brand building because public memory is too short, and keep the venue in some non-playing country or countries that play, but are not world class like China, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives, Kabul, Spain, or the US to name a few. Request their dignitaries or popular figures to inaugurate and play the game at these inaugural matches. ICC is rich and could allocate a budget for this. Also, give special incentives including discounted tickets to tourists who want to watch the game of cricket from non-cricket playing countries. And just before the tournament, legendary and star cricketers depending upon their popularity like Sachin Tendulkar, Imran Khan, Viv Richards, Ricky Ponting, Sanat Jaisurya, to name a few, could give cricketing lessons to youngsters who want to play cricket.
Give this world cup tournament a well thought through, heavy weight title, making it look like a competition among titans, continents, giants, bravo juggernauts or even ET. For, this will have a domino effect in popularizing the game by leaps and bounds. Especially, in non playing continents or even non-playing countries or countries where the game is not played to its full potential. For where is the continued rejoice if the game continues to hover and be competed around in the same surroundings. Perhaps, the present day cricket may give you a feeling. As if it has been discarded and rejected by rest of the world and only adopted by few countries, with world potential still to be realized; and all in the interest of cricket.