Books about cricket are difficult to write. Firstly, there aren’t that many people who would actually read books about a game that could take 5 whole days and still end without a result. Secondly, the cricket genre usually involves journalists and/or former cricketers reliving a certain series (for example the Ashes, the World Cup), autobiographies and biographies (KP anyone?) or pages and pages of rules and strategies involved in the game of cricket. Articles and interviews are more popular in terms of cricket reading and therefore a cricket book about the stories and struggles of certain cricketing nations would be very interesting indeed.
For those reading this who have NO IDEA what the sport is, here’s a 5 minute brief on what the game is with a couple of definitions and a video!
Here’s the definition of cricket from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
“a game played with a ball and bat by two sides of usually 11 players each on a large field centering upon two wickets each defended by a batsman”
And here’s the definition of cricket from the Oxford Dictionary:
“An open-air game played on a large grass field with ball, bats, and two wickets, between teams of eleven players, the object of the game being to score more runs than the opposition”
The gist of these definitions is that this is usually a 5 day game (the shortened versions of the game usually range between 3 to 6 hours on a given day) involving 2 sets of 11 players, the aim of the game to score more runs (liken this to goals in football/soccer or points in tennis/badminton) than the opposition.
For a visual representation of the game of cricket, here’s BBC News’ 90 second guide to this game –
Now that you are caught up with the game and what it generally means, now comes the explanation of the members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) which is the governing body of men’s and women’s cricket, head quarters based in Dubai, UAE. It has 105 members divided into 3 categories – Full Members, Associates and Affiliates. The classification of members is based on the formats of cricket that they play and their own governing structure and administration.
There are 3 formats of cricket which are played:
1. Test cricket (a 5 day match that’s usually played in whites – the match ends either in a win when the bowling team has bowled out the opposition or the target amount of runs has been achieved. If neither is accomplished, the match is drawn)
2. One Day International (ODI) cricket (a one day game that consists of 50 overs being bowled by either side – the match ends when the bowling team has bowled out the opposition, prevented the batting team from reaching the target amount of runs in 50 overs or the target amount of runs has been achieved. A tie is accomplished when the 2nd team batting equals the score of the 1st team batting)
3. Twenty 20 International (T20I) cricket (similar to an ODI match but the number of overs bowled is 20 overs compared to 50 overs)
Now how does the classification of members depend on the formats of the game? Full Member nations are the only set of members who play ALL 3 formats of the game. Hence there are only 10 Full Members – Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies (which is a team made up of all the island nations of the Caribbean, specifically for the purpose of competing in cricket) and Zimbabwe
Associate member nations (some examples include Ireland, UAE, Afghanistan, Germany, Thailand, Uganda, Kenya) are different from Affiliate member nations in that the game of cricket is firmly established and organised. The latter have a growing presence of cricket in their nations but not as strong as the former. Both sets of members play only ODI and T20I cricket.
Now that you’re caught up on how this highly complicated game and organisation works, you need to know a few hard facts about this sport:
– The ICC competes with FIFA in terms of corruption and degrading the sport’s name
– England, Australia and cricket’s most powerful and richest board, India have essentially taken over the ICC in terms of daily running and managing of revenues and tour programmes (this ugly alliance is also named the Big 3)
– While the game of cricket is increasingly popular amongst the populations of the sub-continent, the ICC sure as hell don’t look like they even care about expanding the game to include more members and make this sport more global than ever
These views are not just my own but many that are included in the book that this post is all about – Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts. Written by freelancer journalists and avid cricket fans, Tim Wigmore and Peter Miller, this book encapsulates the love and passion that cricketers like Mohammed Nabi, Trent Johnston, Calum MacLeod, Khurram Khan and many more have for the game despite the ICC’s minimal efforts to provide them with support. guidance and even encouragement for the development of the sport in their respective countries. The book displays the irony observed in the ICC’s actions to make the game more lucrative which excludes such developing cricketing nations while at the same time spouting the company line about making the game more global and inclusive. Stories of how Irish cricket was forced to compete with the idea that it wouldn’t destroy Irish nationalism, Afghanistan’s rise from the ashes of foreign invasion and civil war and the utter ignorance that Chinese cricketers had to face when they tried to explain why they played cricket. Not to mention, the amount of time and energy put in to promote PNG cricket and how the potential of the USA to became an even bigger market than the likes of India deters it from pursuing the promotion of the game in earnest.
The question of Olympic inclusion is also brought up and this excerpt from the book explains it perfectly!
As both writers manage to present the details of the journey of cricket in each country, they also provide anecdotes and heart-warming stories that make you want to grab the officials of this game by the shoulders and shake some sense into them. At least it made me want to do so! One of my favourite chapters was the PNG one. The description of the derelict surroundings that the association was set up in. And this particular excerpt where the writer ponders on how things could have been different if cricket had become as popular as baseball is today in the USA.
But once you complete reading the final pages of the book, the realisation sinks in that no matter how much you might outrage and shed tears over the state of cricket in these countries and many more that haven’t been included in the book but are going through the same kind of turmoil and uncertainty, there’s very little that will happen. Unfortunately the control that ‘the big 3’ have exercised on the game means that while players of these countries support the development of these nations, their boards couldn’t give a penny’s worth of their time or money (and god knows they have it)
Just one example of how cricket is simply killing itself – ICC chief Dave Richardson stated that the Cricket World Cup should be played between evenly matched teams. Laughable as that statement was, he continued on to propose the idea of a 10 team World Cup, as opposed to the 14 team format that is currently in place for the ongoing 2015 World Cup. The performances of Ireland beating West Indies, Afghanistan vs Scotland being the closest game of the tournament so far and Scotland (who have NEVER won a World Cup game) holding their own vs New Zealand AND Sri Lanka was a slap on his face. (If you wish to read the full article, the link is here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/826327.html
In conclusion, the answer is simple: Cricket has been infected with a virus and there are only two options – either treat the virus and weed it out or the virus will kill the organism (cricket) from within. One guess as to what is happening currently.
My final and possibly one of the best endings to a book that I’ve ever read will end this post.
P.S. You can buy the book at the following links
For readers in India: http://www.amazon.in/Second-XI-Cricket-its-Outposts/dp/1785310135
For readers abroad: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Second-XI-Cricket-its-Outposts/dp/1785310135
Also follow authors Peter Miller (@TheCricketGeek) and Tim Wigmore (@timwig_cricket) on Twitter for some unbiased and yet compassionate understanding about cricket beyond the Big 3 persona!