It has been a fascinating few months for Associate cricket as the new CWC leagues have commenced and teams are settling into what may be a new pecking order in the post World Cricket League era.
But there is an absence in the Associate calendar, an absence that hasn’t really been noted or explained that is very significant.
The Intercontinental Cup, the four day 1st class tournament previously viewed as the finishing school for aspiring Full members, has been dumped. This has passed many people by because it is meant to be under review. But there is no end date on the review and no money for the tournament, so barring a miraculous reprieve I think we have to assume it has gone the way of the dodo. What does this mean? Well, we are into the realms of conjecture here but my reading of it is that it means there are no plans to elevate any more Associates to Full member. After all, Full members play Tests and how can you play Tests if you don’t play multi-day cricket in a structured way?
So, it looks like Associates will be Associates and the focus will have to switch from the dream of Test cricket to other fairytales, like world cups and ODI leagues. It feels quite significant when you reflect on it. As is often the case with Associate cricket it is the absence of announcements that is more telling than the announcements themselves.
But, moving on. We’ve lost some exceptional players to the associate scene recently. Anshuman Rath, to IPL ambitions as a local Indian player, and Babar Hayat whose views on selection were too bold for HK to stomach. It is always a shame when such quality is just removed from the scene. Often suddenly. As fans we just wonder why they are not on the next scorecard we see. Seeing old stalwarts like Freddie Klokker of Denmark and Kyle Coetzer of Scotland is warm and comforting along with the visceral excitement of young players breaking through.
The fragility of cricket commerce below Test level is a worry, with the Euro T20 postponed and various leagues unable to pay the players. There are more opportunities for leading Associates to make a living from cricket these days but there are few occupations with less career security.
My final thought, for now, is on an interesting emerging trend, with some countries women’s teams showing the way for the men. What is it that the Thailand women’s team are doing that the men aren’t? Is it like football in the US? I don’t know the answer, but hopefully the success of the women can be replicated by the men’s team.