New hosts and competitors breathe life in regional structures: By Hook or By Brooks

Denmark Sub-Regional

It has been very uplifting to see cricket being played far and wide across the emerging cricket world in recent months after the period of lockdowns. I’m particularly encouraged by those countries able to host international qualification tournaments for the first time.

This is a resounding endorsement of facilities and also serves as a platform to boost profile of the game in these countries. A great example is Finland who hosted a very exciting Europe qualifier over the last few weeks. I was at the ground when it first opened a few years ago and it is great to see it host a major event. It is critical that each of these tournaments has an associated legacy delivery plan to capitalise on the media and public interest these high profile tournaments generate.

These tournaments also serve as a barometer of progress for competing teams and a good opportunity to analyse development trends. Nordic cricket is one of the most exciting growth regions in the global game with considerable government support and investment and impressive facilities (including support services provided by national sports governing bodies). It is great to see further progress in the region since I covered the high potential of the region in ‘Cricket on the Continent’ six years ago.

Another comparator which I find very helpful is between British Isles teams and others. The Isle of Man had a very good tournament and Jersey have also impressed in the recent T20 qualifiers. They have small but very cohesive player communities and long established traditions. This has enabled them to be very competitive against countries with more extensive club networks. It will be interesting to see how Guernsey fare in the next qualifier, especially against teams such as Norway.

There is now, I believe, a sufficient critical mass of games to be able to make some judgements on how the emerging cricket pecking order has evolved since the replacement of the old WCL structure with the new World Cup qualification pathway. Some clear trends are evident. Some historic powerhouses, such as Kenya, continue to regress (albeit with the odd reminder of former quality) and the less said about USA currently the better. But other counties have become stronger and climbed the ladder.

There are some interesting trends to keep an eye on in this process of recalibration. One is how teams with a predominantly local player base fare against teams with a higher reliance on players with experience in full member countries. This can be an emotive, sometimes bitter, point of contention for fans of countries like Nepal. But in truth global cricket has teams of all compositions and it is very reductionist to assess through a narrow lens like racial composition.

The emphasis should always be on opportunities for growth. For teams like Nepal, Bhutan and PNG this means capitalising on local interest in the game and further embedding the game into the national consciousness as this will be the root of public support, government and private investment and the potential for degrees of professionalisation. For countries that currently have a different model in this stage of their journey, for instance a heavy reliance on migration from Asia, it will be important to broaden the profile and appeal of cricket to all communities in the country so that over time national sides can reflect the demographic profile of the countries at large.

Finally, I’d like to give a nod to the veterans of the emerging cricket scene. It is a source of great sadness to me that legends of associate cricket such as Freddie Klokker (Denmark) and Frank Nsubuga (Uganda) don’t have a stronger profile in the global game. Unfortunately many fans only encounter players from non-test teams if they appear at World Cups. For countries who don’t qualify for those their achievements and quality can often be invisible to the wider cricketing world. This is why our community should make a particular effort to laud their achievements and explain how pivotal they have been in expanding the global game. So veterans of the associate world we salute you.

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