An idea emerged from the comments section at Cricinfo the other day – a serious idea that could make sense of it all: the ICC’s money-grabbing existence; pouring money into non-Test playing nations then refusing them entry into a World Cup.
I am sure it’s not the first time it’s been said but it made sense: an Associate members’ Test side. A Test team made up of the best from the rest.This was on the back of an interview with Seren Waters – Kenya’s latest bright hope. But what future does he really have in the international game? He’s at Durham University, he can battle his way through England’s first-class system, qualify for the English team after a number of years, maybe get picked … Or he can keep playing unrecognised and unrealised for Kenya. It’s all quite a decision and quite a gamble.
What if there was a Test side that he could force his way into? One made up of the best of this disparate rest?
There is no country called ‘West Indies’ yet it was a Test ‘nation’ that ruled the world for nearly 20 years. West Indies only exists as a cricket side, a collection of countries agreeing to pool their talent to take on the world. Ok, they all happen to be in the Caribbean, but the world is a smaller place than when West Indies Test side was conceived.
The Associate nations already have a first-class structure: the Intercontinental Cup. This produces tough, competitive cricket, a number of players are good enough to play county cricket and, given the right training and incentives, it can’t be too much of leap to believe that the odd world-class player might emerge.
There have been enough in the recent past: Ed Joyce, John Davison, Steve Tikolo…
The ICC could then explain why it is important to develop the Associate nations. The Associate nations then have a realistic goal with players a realistic chance of competing at the highest level – for a team born out of their own nation.
Who would watch? No one to start with – but, if the best talent of the rest really starts to embed itself in the Test psyche, if the players produce world-class performances, if established Test nations start to lose, the crowds would turn up.
The ICC just needs to give them a chance.
Edward Craig is deputy/digital editor of The Wisden Cricketer. Follow him on Twitter @WisdenCric_Ed.