Cricket: The ICC World T20 Qualifiers and Why It Is Important for the Sport
T20—it's the new generation of the gentleman's game.
And while it is not as beautiful to the traditional cricket lover as a five-day test match, it is the future of the game.
There are 10 full members, who are eligible to play the World Cup without having to qualify. For the rest, there is a long and competitive series of qualifier tournaments that is the only chance to get to the top level.
The World T20 (WT20) to be held later this year in Sri Lanka will have 12 teams. That means, there will be two added to the full members from the associate and affiliate nations.
A 16-team tournament is ongoing in the United Arab Emirates to determine who these teams will be. Here I opine why this tournament is important for the future of cricket as a sport.
T20: The Future of Cricket
Let's face it, T20 is the modern version of the game.
Test matches still garner respect and One Day Internationals (ODIs) are still interesting, but T20 is a power-punch that keeps the fan interested and alert.
In today's hectic world, not many can spare eight hours, let alone five days to watch a cricket match. The three-hour format is therefore the means by which a majority of cricket fans now get their fix.
It is even more pronounced in the club/franchise game. While the turnouts for a Ranji Trophy or Sheffield Shield game are dismal, the IPL and the BBL in the same countries generate huge interest and revenue.
T20 is the cricket of the future.
Of the16 nations in the tournament, some have already proven their ability to play with the bigger teams.
Kenya has appeared regularly in World Cups and has even reached the semi final of the 50 over Cricket World Cup.
Ireland eliminated Pakistan, a former world champion from the 2007 World Cup.
Canada, Netherlands, Scotland, Namibia, Bermuda and Ireland have also played in the 50-over World Cup.
Afghanistan, Hong Kong and USA, meanwhile, have played ODIs.
The host nation (UAE), which did not qualify for the tournament, has also played in the World Cup.
Nepal, while not yet a major player at the senior level, has made several appearances at the Under-19 World Cup and has beaten the likes of Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand in the tournament.
It is easy to see that these teams have a lot to offer the game.
The Global Game
International cricket is currently a sport of multiple regions, but it is yet to become truly global.
South Asia boasts four full-member teams; the Tasman Sea has two; and Southern Africa has two. England and the West Indies are the remaining two nations.
Cricket, so far, is a game for the Commonwealth.
For the game to be truly global, teams outside these pockets should be included in the cricketing calendar.
Tournaments like the World T20 Qualifier enable the other teams to showcase their talent and generate interest in the rest of the world.
The Development of Talent
This person (Kevin O'Brien) is the fastest centurion in the World Cup.
He is playing in the ICC World T20 Qualifiers.
The development of such talent in associate and affiliate countries is only possible if they can compete in regular tournaments.
And since these countries have less hectic schedules than full nations, their stars can fuel the T20 leagues of the bigger countries when other international stars are busy elsewhere.
It is a win-win situation for the development of talent.
The ICC World T20 qualifiers are a proving grounds for the next generation of cricketing nations and their cricketers.
While only two teams will qualify for the big tournament from the current edition, the 2014 edition will probably have six teams qualifying—a step forward for the global game.
The league stage of the tournament is over, with the top-six teams fighting for the two qualifying spots.
As I publish this, Namibia is playing Afghanistan to determine the first team that qualifies to the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka later this year.
Four other teams (Netherlands, Canada, Ireland and Scotland) are also competing for a chance at the other qualifying spot.
The other teams are now competing to determine the seventh to 16th positions in the tournament.
This is my second article on B/R and my first on cricket. Please leave your comments and suggestions below.