Unless you’ve been living in a cave this past week, you’ll know that the ICC have confirmed Full Member status for Ireland and Afghanistan, making them the 11th and 12th Full Members and the first since Bangladesh in 2000. For both countries it is a magnificent achievement, particularly Afghanistan, who barely had a team 15 years ago. Their rise through the World Cricket League, with three successive promotions followed by gaining ODI status in 2009 is nothing short of a miracle for the war-torn country. Ireland have been knocking on the door for years, and you could argue this decision comes five years too late for them, as their side that scored historic World Cup wins over England, Pakistan and the West Indies is now in decline.
Still, both countries have superb management off the field, with secure domestic structures which were granted first-class status last year and excellent behind the scenes administration, both of which are well looked upon in the ICC corridors.
There are issues, though. The revenue sharing model for the next cycle to 2023 still has the BCCI receiving the lion’s share, and the amount for the two new Full Members comes from the Associate slice, which has been reduced. Hardly a level playing field. A second issue will be the paucity of fixtures. The ICC have been floating a potential Test Championship split 9/3, with Zimbabwe joining Ireland and Afghanistan in the lower tier and the 9 other FMs playing each other home and away over a four year cycle. This idea is still to be signed off, but even if it is implemented any series outside of the Championship can still be arranged between FMs if they wish.So the prospect of an England vs Ireland series is not off the table.
These are real problems, but to be optimistic for once, this decision does give hope to all Associates that there is a pathway to Tests that can be conquered. With that in mind I’ve done a bit of fantasy thinking. Who could be the next Afghanistan, rising from obscurity to become the next powerhouse of cricket? It’s a big shot in the dark but I think Germany. They have recently won back-to-back promotions in the regional European 50 over competitions and will now be competing in World Cricket League Division Five in South Africa in September. This is a country with huge potential. The recent influx of migrants from places like Afghanistan has produced an explosion of interest in cricket in Germany, with the number of clubs increasing hugely. Whilst at the moment these are made up primarily of expats, this growth is exciting for the sport in that country. Involving the native population will be the next struggle, but regular wins in the WCL was what started Afghanistan on their incredible journey. Whose to say Germany won’t be next?