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“The door is shut” – Associates rue loss of Super League shot

"The door is shut" - Associates rue loss of Super League shot

ASSOCIATE CRICKET

“It seems like a backward step from a fully-fledged structure that has Associates regularly getting those big games, or a chance to earn them, outside of big tournaments, and puts those lower ranked full members under pressure too” – Coetzer. © AFP

Confirmation that the Cricket World Cup Super League would be discontinued after its inaugural edition has drawn criticism from several Associate countries who had been striving for a chance to qualify for the competition. While current Super League participants the Netherlands decried the decision that will effectively see them relegated by fiat from top-level ODI competition after the current cycle, their fellow Associates likewise expressed dismay at the abolition of the League, which is set to be scrapped after the 2023 World Cup, denying them the hope of following in the Netherlands’ footsteps.

The ICC confirmed last week that the Super League, the first long-term structured ODI competition to feature all of the ICC’s Full Members, would not form a part of the qualification structure for the 2027 World Cup, with direct qualification for the top ten teams instead decided on the basis of the ICC rankings. There has yet been no decision on the future of the ladder of 50-over international competitions that sits below the Super League in the current structure, leaving the seven sides competing in the second-tier CWC League 2 (Namibia, Nepal Oman, Scotland, UAE, USA and Papua New Guinea) facing renewed uncertainty.

The Dutch at least have the prospect of capitalising on the remainder of their Super League fixtures, including next week’s series against South Africa as well as upcoming fixtures against New Zealand, the West Indies, England and Pakistan, but for their fellow Associates the chance to earn a similar schedule appears to have passed. When the CWC League structure was launched two years ago, promising “bring relevance and context to ODI cricket,” the seven ODI-status Associates competing in League 2 were to have a clear path to the ODI top-table. The League 2 champions could win promotion to the next iteration of the Super League by outperforming the 13th-placed Super League side at the World Cup Qualifier, either replacing the Netherlands or potentially even seeing a Full Member relegated to League 2 should the Dutch finish 12th or better.

For those seven Associates, just the possibility of promotion had been a major motivating factor and ambition. For Namibia captain Gerhard Erasmus, word of the scrapping of the Super League came as a let-down after a successful T20 World Cup. Explaining the potential significance of promotion Erasmus told Cricbuzz, “It was most definitely an aspiration, from an associate member’s perspective you are looking for stability and reliability of cricket and funding. So having a three or four-year cycle of full ODI cricket is immense. The T20 World Cups are awesome events and great things happen at these for associate members, but it’s too few and far between. Your ‘bread and butter’ still lies in the cricket you play for a three to four-year cycle. If you could get into that top bracket it gives you a realistic chance of closing the gap with the Full Members.”

UAE skipper Ahmed Raza shared Erasmus’ sentiments. “It was obviously a motivation to win [CWC League 2] as it provides the opportunity to play the big boys and test yourself against the top tier teams. We saw the Netherlands get there in Dubai, and kept an eye on this cycle, thinking that it could be us next time around making it to the Super League. I mean that would’ve been fantastic, as now we can only get the opportunity to play against big teams during the Asia Cup or the World Cup, which only comes around every two or four years.”

Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer likewise expressed his disappointment. “We’re of course going to try to finish first [in League 2] no matter what, but it takes away a big incentive. We weren’t a million miles away from making it last time, we had a bit of bad luck with weather in that WCL, and knowing what was at stake it was really tough to come up short then, but that’s cricket. And not to take credit away from the Dutch, you have to play consistently well to earn that place, they finished top of the log. But it’s disappointing we won’t get a shot now, it’s taking away meaningful cricket. It looks like we’re being pushed into a box of only playing each other for qualifying. It seems like a backward step from a fully-fledged structure that has Associates regularly getting those big games, or a chance to earn them, outside of big tournaments, and puts those lower ranked full members under pressure too. With promotion and relegation, think of what it would do for League 2 to have a full member playing? It would be nice to think that we can keep attracting Full Members to play here, and you hear these promises that they’ll look to play more against Associates, but anything comparable to what the Super League would bring? That’s just not going to happen.”

Echoing Netherlands high performance manager Roland Lefebvre’s comments, Coetzer questioned how well the consequences of the change had been considered. “I wonder if they’ve just made a rash decision. So much work has gone into setting up these structures, just for it to be crumpled up and thrown out the window? It seems like a U-turn, losing meaningful cricket, when the game really should be going in the opposite direction. Education is key, I think Ryan Campbell said it very well, coming from a Full Member country he said had no idea of the challenges for Associates before getting involved with Hong Kong. It’s great to have someone of his stature speaking out now, but it doesn’t seem like the right people are listening.”

The news from the ICC’s latest meeting was not all bad for Associates, however, with the expansion of the World Cup from 10 to 14 teams confirmed, along with news that the USA, Namibia and Scotland are all in line to co-host major ICC tournaments over the coming cycle. “It’s great that we’re going back to 14 teams for 2027” said Coetzer, “and hosting [in 2030] will of course be big for us, it certainly softens the blow somewhat, but we can’t just be going from World Cup to World Cup.”

For Erasmus, promotion to the Super League might have brought greater benefits even than hosting a World Cup. “I’m sure 2027 will be a massive event for Namibian Cricket, hosting of a WC will open avenues of infrastructure, local development and exposure in itself. But I’m not sure which would be bigger, purely because we haven’t done either. Having Super League for three years could even be worth more than a one-off event.”

Raza too stressed the value of the regular cricket and stable fixture lists that the current structure brings. “I think the structure of [CWC] League is brilliant … I’ve played WCL before and we never had as many as 36 games in the cycle. More cricket means more opportunities as simple as that.”

Compared to its predecessor, the World Cricket League Championship, CWC League 2 constituted a considerable expansion in terms of 50-over fixtures, with each team playing 36 matches across 12 trilateral series, compared to just seven 2-match series in the WCLC. That expansion came at the cost of the discontinuation of the Intercontinental Cup, however, the international First Class competition for Associates once heralded as the “Pathway to Test Cricket.” Following the promotion of Ireland and Afghanistan to full membership in 2017, the Associates red-ball competition never returned. The withdrawal of the possibility of promotion to the CWC Super League now appears to close off the possibility of progression through ODI cricket too. As Erasmus observed, “Without it the door is kinda shut, right?”

© Cricbuzz




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