In the Indian subcontinent, cricket is a religion. In some isolated commonwealth countries, it still has a good following. But how much has cricket really expanded to portray itself as a global sport comparable to soccer or tennis? Maybe instead of putting out a list of 'legends' which is ridiculously ill-ordered, the ICC should focus on changing some things.
Of course, the traditionalists will disagree. Cricket, for those who follow it, is a beloved sport; and maybe has gone through enough changes already. But can they deny that the recent shake-ups caused by the emergence of 20 Twenty cricket, the IPL and the like have once again evoked fresh interest in the sport?
Before anything else is said, let us clarify one thing: Money, is not always the answer! The Stanford episode is still fresh in the minds of everyone. What the ICC needs are some policy changes, some better marketing, and someone at the top who has the will and creativity to do it.
Right now cricket is restricted to a game between only a dozen nations, who have the 'status' and, needless to say, it can become a boring affair. With some nations not traveling to certain other nations, and old rivalries losing their bitterness, its the same old, same old.
A lot of changes have been talked about; some new, some good, some controversial. Why not discuss them here?
Why not have an annual relegation of the bottom two or three teams, in the ICC test or ODI rankings? Elevate the status of the minnows in their place. That should improve the competition, and in effect do its bit in increasing the participation of the minnows. What experience will the minnows, which do not have test/ODI status, gain if they play the big teams in one-off matches only during the World Cup?
How about holding at least one big tournament outside of the major cricketing countries? USA supposedly wasn't a soccer crazy nation, but when FIFA decided to organize the world cup there in '94, soccer has only amplified its presence there. What has the ICC done really to expand its realm? Pump money in the same old places.
But what is the result? Toronto, Dubai etc have hosted matches, but is that all? Hong Kong super sixes isn't that big a tournament and almost never sees the really big stars in action.
What if the the top ranked teams in the ICC rankings have to 'defend' their ODI or test or maybe both titles in an annual event? And have that match at a neutral venue, preferably some place where cricket is just starting out.
How about making a test match just a four day affair? How about holding a test match under lights, in the evening, to get more spectators?
Most outsiders look at cricket as a sport which you can play for six hours, for five days, and still not get a result! Something must be done to get more results. How about making it compulsory in the first innings for each side to declare after a specific number of overs? How about deciding the winner, in case of a draw, based on the first innings lead?
There are other things of course, like better marketing of the game, encouraging established domestic leagues like those in Australia, England and India to play and develop players from minnow countries, to use the ICL formula and directly allow a minnow team to participate in selected domestic trophies, and much much more.
Cricket is a wonderful game. Maybe these changes will take place, maybe they won't. But at least a debate is necessary on whether ICC is taking the right path with respect to the development of the game.
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