Irish hospitality

Back from my trip to Ireland covering the Quadrangular series and, before I write any more, I must pen this joke – told to me by a Dublin taxi driver this morning.

“A Belfast man is in prison, so his mate goes to see him. ‘What do you do for sex?’ he asks him. ‘Well, we usually have our tea.’”

Those who haven’t heard the differences between the two accents of Northern Ireland and the south won’t get the joke. In fact, it only works if you say it out loud…but it had me guffawing my way to the airport, at any rate.

A view of Clontarf, Dublin

An interesting trip to Ireland though. Some of the cricket was really quite poor by the Associates – and by West Indies, it has to be said – but overall it was a very useful fact-finding mission. I’m less convinced by exactly what the Associates have gained from the experience – it was blighted by the bloody rain, sadly – but I suppose the more they play, the better they get. The complete lack of exposure to the newspapers, TV, radio – anywhere – was a huge concern though. Just two weeks earlier, with India and South Africa playing “off-shore” internationals, that too failed to attract sizeable crowds – due in part to a cock-up by the ICU in over-pricing the matches (something they rectified for the Quadrangular).

One comment struck me, though: do they (the Associates) really want to play with the big guys, or are they happy as they are?

They can’t be. But until the boards receive massive financial injection, they simply won’t develop to a sufficient standard and players will continue to flee to England for a full-time salary and genuine prospects of playing Test cricket. That’s the truth as I see it.

The enthusiasm for Irish cricket among those involved, however, was really great to see. But can a family – and that’s essentially what Irish cricket still is – become a professional, business-oriented body?

Cameroon, The Falkland Islands, Peru and Swaziland

Who? Well, these four are the latest Affiliate members of the ICC. I wrote a couple of pars on each for Cricinfo, and they’re not as estranged a family member as you might think.

As the ICC family expands to 101 countries, Cricinfo looks at the four newest Affiliate members who were elected at the annual conference last month

Cameroon

The airstrip on the Falkland Islands
© Falkland Islands Government

Cricket doesn’t stand much of a chance of forging a stranglehold on a country so crazed by football. Or does it? Cricket in Cameroon is most certainly on the up, with a national league competition now in place – and the formation of their first cricket federation (Fecacricket) in 2005. Much of the work has been done by the British high commission’s embassy in its capital, Yaoundé, providing equipment and logistics. Indeed, in May this year, the British high commissioner to Cameroon, Syd Madicott, was kitted out for a match in order to help publicise the game. And they have plans for expansion, too, with their president, Victor Agbor Nso, promising to bring the game to other towns in the country. Agbor Nso has also organised teaching seminars for coaches, administrators and umpires.
Number of grounds: 3
Number of senior teams: 4

The Falkland Islands

Cricket’s second most southerly outpost is more familiar with penguins than pavilions and lbws. But they were warmly welcomed into the ICC’s ever expanding bosom, in spite of possessing just one proper pitch: a synthetic wicket laid in 1985 at Mount Pleasant Airfield Oval, about 30 miles outside the country’s capital, Port Stanley. Around Christmas each year, the island hosts the South Atlantic Ashes, a match between teams representing the governor of the country and the Commander of the British forces. However, though the Falklands Cricket Association was formed in 2001 in an attempt to better organise the set-up, a lack of funds has prevented their expansion.
Number of grounds: 1
Number of senior teams: 4

Peru

Cricket in Peru dates back to 1859 when the Lima Cricket and Football Club was formed. Nowadays, much of the interest stems from the local Indian expats who have combined forces with the British. However, in 2005, they boasted only 25 players (considered by Wisden as “hard core…plus tourists are welcome”), and share the pitch with the footballers. The corrugated pitch makes for difficult batting, to say the least, but nevertheless they have one hotly contested fixture: India & Pakistan v Rest of the World, including one Peruvian, Jorge Pancorvo who Wisden described in 2005 as “an excellent wicketkeeper (aged 51, but still fit)”. Freddie Brown, the former England captain and allrounder, was born in Lima and, in 2005, the local club had completed 15 years of play without losing a single minute to rain.
Number of grounds: 2
Number of senior teams: 4

Swaziland

Like many smaller nations, cricket in Swaziland has so far belonged to a privileged minority: those who can afford entry into the exclusive country retreats and clubs. But in January 2005, a group of enthusiasts decided enough was enough and a new slogan was formed: “Cricket for All”, designed to take the game to as many people as possible. In 2006 they received further encouragement when the Sport Council of the government donated a piece of land to be used as their home ground. However, the country still has very few decent-quality pitches and outfields, preventing them expanding as well they might – and a row broke out recently regarding the lack of equipment available. As much as they struggle, the Swaziland Cricket Association (SCA) continue to do their best, with their president promising to take the game to “street children” in an attempt to give them a brighter future.
Number of grounds: 4
Number of senior teams: 5

ICC criteria for application for Affiliate membership

  • Cricket must be played in accordance with the laws of cricket
  • There must be a minimum of four senior teams playing in a structured competition
  • At least six competition matches must be completed in a season
  • The applicant body must be able to field a national senior team
  • The applicant must be recognised as the sole governing body for cricket in the country
  • The association must have a formal written constitution; a designated secretary; contact details and a suitable administrative structure
  • They must have at least one ground on which matches are played
  • Annual accounts must be submitted every year

Do you care about the Associates?

I’ve always been interested in the lower echelons of cricket, and was pleasantly surprised at the standard of cricket – in particular from Kenya, Scotland and Ireland – during the World Cricket League in Nairobi. But I remain realistic of their ability and a little clueless as to how they can develop and close the gap on Full Member nations.

What about you? This blog has never concentrated on any one aspect of the game – ok, so England have received a fair bit of attention – and most of you seem to have a broad interest of the game. Do you care about Ireland, Netherlands or Canada? Will you watch them in the World Cup? Do you follow their progress on other sites and, if so, which ones? Are you even aware Bermuda have a side?

Tell all.

Kenya bulldoze Scotland

I’ve been closely following Kenyan cricket in the past few months, as I’m off to Nairobi in a couple of weeks to cover the World Cricket League. Non-Test cricket has always interested me, but I freely admit that only until quite recently did I realise it had such a following. Kenya’s game looks and sounds in very good order at the moment, too.

I didn’t watch today’s one-dayer between Kenya and Scotland – the first in the ICC Tri-Series at Mombasa – but followed it on the scorecard from our scorer at the ground, and from our man-on-the-spot, David Waters, who kindly gave us some colour. Scotland took a right pasting and there was a fifty from Ravi Shah, making his comeback, who is one of the very classiest (so I’m told) non-Test batsmen out there. It’ll be terrific seeing him and others in Nairobi, and also watching the standard of cricket (and the level of interest).