English Cricket - an Asian future?
On the day when a new cricket 'Champions League' involving teams from England, India, Australia and South Africa and played out in front of Middle Eastern and Asian fanatics has been revealed, I find myself asking what future English cricket has.
A game that was born in the green pastures of the beautiful, quaint British Isles which used to pride itself on being a thinking man's game; a game of tactics and intrigue played out over 5 long but often captivating days has evolved drastically over the last decade.
Even before the inaugural ICL and IPL Twenty-20 tournaments, the spotlights, dancing, music and fireworks, the orange balls and the pyjama kits, it was clear that something needed to give if cricket was to stop losing its followers to the more immediate thrill that other sports offer spectators.
Sir Allen Stanford cottoned onto this quickly and has consequently created a hugely popular and almost certainly profitable business model in the shape of his Caribbean tournament and it seems as if the ECB has also seen sense and wants a slice of the pie.
I'm sure that David Collier and co. have surreptitously been watching events unfold on the Asian continent over the past few weeks and have winced. Why didn't they think of this concept? Why have they been slow on the uptake?
It is all the more puzzling that the English, the creators and for so long forebears of cricket, have not sought to adapt and innovate more to keep up with the field, especially in view of the rise of many talented and hugely promising Asian youngsters.
What better way to promote the game and expand the audience amongst the UK's large Asian community than to let these youngsters strut their stuff on a more dynamic and visible stage? This is something not given to them in the LV County Championship or FPT.
What better way to let other promising youngsters find their way in the game?
If you look around England and cherry-pick the creme-de-la-creme of these young players that are Asian by origin plying their trade on the county scene, you could form a team that would compete with any current England international team.
Most county executives and coaches would drool at a team such as the following taking the field:
Varun Chopra, Vikram Solanki, Usman Afzaal, Samit Patel, Ravinder Bopara, Bilal Shafayat, Adil Rashid, Ishmail Dawood (not on county scene currently but promised much), Sajid Mahmood,Nayan Doshi, Naqqash Tahir.
4 of the above are full internationals and I'd be surprised if Chopra, Patel and Rashid didn't make the grade soon in one format or another.
Many youngsters fall out of the game because of the lack of chances due to the influx of big-name overseas stars and the because of the controversial Kolpak ruling.
It is essential that we give these fledgling talents a real chance to 'make it' and propel the nation forward to compete with the Australians, Indians and other nations that continue to excel whilst standards in the English game continue to drop or, at best, stagnate.
Being a university cricketer myself, I think I can prove this from the (lack of quality) evident in the student game over the last few years. Any youngster that shows an inkling of talent is snapped up by a county and paid a minimal wage, just to rot in their 2nd XI or academy.
It's about time the ECB brought in measures to prevent this from happening and to encourage youngsters to take up the game and strive to earn a good living from it.
In five years time, I'd expect England to take the field with a stronger Asian-born contingency as I feel that this is our best (and possibly only) chance of contiuned success.
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