So the ICC Annual Conference took place in Barbados last week. You may be forgiven for not realising as the ICC are not forthcoming with details about what goes on at such conferences. The paucity of their media releases are yet another problem with the organisation – transparency has never been one of their strong points. The first, and most important issue, and one that is notable for its complete lack of a mention in the latest ICC media release, is the decision to continue with 10 teams for the next World Cup in 2019. There has in fact been no official confirmation of this decision but it is clear that if a reversal was going to happen it would have been ratified in Barbados. This is disappointing on a number of levels, most of which I have touched on before. In short, the global governing body of any sport should be looking to expand its showpiece competition rather than retract it. Even a corrupt body such as FIFA has a perfectly meritocratic format for qualification to the World Cup and any team can reach it; Likewise rugby is expanding its World Cup to more teams in future tournaments. This decision lacks foresight and is a disgraceful way to promote the sport. Will young players of fans in countries such as Nepal, PNG and the USA now turn their back on the game due to lack of opportunity? If they did, it would be hard to blame them. Talking of the USA, in my last post I talked of the problems surrounding the governing body in the States, USACA. Well the ICC have finally taken decisive action and suspended USACA with immediate effect. This was really the only outcome possible after years of chronic mismanagement. Problems with governance, preparation for tournaments, the cliques that run the upper echelons of the sport in the USA, everything you can think of has befallen USACA. Where the game goes from here is unclear – the ICC are intimating that they are going to attempt to help USACA with its problems. Where this leaves the rival ACF is not known either. The ICC have allowed the USA team to play in the forthcoming World T20 qualifier in Ireland and Scotland next month, which is a sensible decision. I predicted that they would struggle in my last post – after the latest shenanigans, plus the loss of their best player Steven Taylor, I would bet on the USA finishing dead last. A huge shame. One reason behind Taylor’s decision to walk away from his country is the lack of opportunity he has to form a career playing at international level, as games are so few and far between. Which brings me onto the news that the Ashes has swung round again for the third time in two years. Now as an Englishman I love the Ashes (the 2005 series was one of the greatest sporting battle I’ve witnessed) and always look forward to it, but the constant cycle of Ashes Tests is starting to make the contest a little stale. I have to admit I am more looking forward to England’s trips to Pakistan and South Africa later on in the year. There is such a thing as overkill and unfortunately the ICC’s love of money means series between the ‘Big Three’ are likely to become even more commonplace. Who is going to enjoy the Ashes if it takes place on an annual basis? The diehards will, but the rest of us will be clamouring for something different. It’s a big world out there and a lot of countries are playing it. But while we gear up for the Ashes yet again, batsman like Taylor are turning their back on their countries because of a dearth of opportunity. Surely this imbalance should be rectified for the good of the game.
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