Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates are lambs to the slaughter in the Asia Cup. India’s 256 run victory over Hong Kong, the second largest ever One Day International winning margin, showed the gulf between established teams and Associate ICC members to be as wide as it ever has been.
Non-Test playing nations have been exposed to international cricket since the first world cup in 1975. The aim has always been to improve their development by providing experience at the highest level, giving a rare chance to face top players that will improve their game. ICC Associate teams continue to appear at world cups and other tournaments such as the Asia Cup and supporters of their inclusion point to their occasional successes in defence.
UAE gave Pakistan a scare in an earlier group match and there have been some famous upsets in world cup history, most notably in last year’s tournament, when Ireland beat Pakistan and qualified for the second phase. These surprises are good for the 아시아게이밍 and would never occur if second tier teams were held back from major tournaments.
Bangladesh’s famous win over Pakistan in the 1999 world cup accelerated their entry into Test cricket – status that many think was given prematurely – and the Tigers’ development remains under the spotlight. They have enjoyed high profile wins over Australia and South Africa in recent years and are certainly at a level above Associate teams, but they still generally get outclassed by Test-playing nations. Their 131 run defeat to Sri Lanka in Group A was nearly as one-sided as Hong Kong’s defeat by India.
The principal source of development for Associate members is not exposure to the major teams, but funding. They need an infrastructure that will help the game grow domestically, but the establishment of grounds and training facilities requires money, which must come from the ICC development programme.
Interest in the game in the amateur cricket nations is not going to grow through the coverage of tournaments such as the Asia Cup. The grounds were virtually empty for matches not involving Pakistan and there was only a meagre attendance for the host nation’s clash with UAE. Cricket followers around the world are unlikely to be impressed by one-sided matches being played in front of a handful of spectators.
The ICC needs to improve the status of the ICC Trophy – the world cup of amateur teams – to go alongside the nations’ funding. Tournaments played between associate nations are obviously more competitive and will be of more interest to cricket fans in both major and minor countries, so they must be accessible and marketed as a creditable event.