Thailand halted by cricket’s red tape

Despite winning three of four matches in their Women's Cricket World Cup Qualifier campaign, Thailand were denied through ICC rankings.

Thailand cricket

Coming at the end of an eventful and increasingly disquieting ten days of announcements from the ICC, Saturday’s decision regarding the abandonment of the Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Harare, and the consequent exclusion of Thailand from both the World Cup and the Women’s Championship, once more raises fundamental questions about the way cricket is governed. 

It would be difficult to imagine a more obviously unjust outcome from a Qualifier than one in which the Thai women, who had already beaten Full members Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and were on their way to a nine-wicket victory over USA which put them top of their group, were told they could not qualify because of their position in the ICC’s deeply-flawed rankings system. 

The fact is, they weren’t on the rankings table at all, because the ICC had quietly reneged on its original decision that all matches in men’s and women’s qualifiers would have ODI status and had decreed that this would apply only to men’s events.

Not only is this a clear example of gender discrimination, which came to light in the same week that the ICC’s ‘Strategy for Global Growth’ glossily proclaimed the Council’s commitment to promoting women’s cricket; it also meant that it made no difference what Thailand and their Associate compatriots, the Netherlands, USA, and PNG, had achieved on the field, since they do not have ODI status and were therefore excluded from any rankings calculation.

The intrinsic deficiencies of the ICC’s ranking system have been well documented here and elsewhere, and their reliability as a measure of performance has been further undermined over the past two years by the disruption of fixture lists by the global pandemic.

But to hold a qualifying tournament in which, in admittedly extreme circumstances, some participants could be arbitrarily excluded from qualifying regardless of their performances, is so utterly disgraceful. That this exclusion is based on a ranking table from which they are also excluded is utterly farcical. This set of circumstances raises the question of whether the Thai cricket authorities would not be justified in taking their case to the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

The ICC has claimed that their decision was based on the Playing Conditions for the tournament, but an examination of that document has not found any statement covering these circumstances.

And let’s not forget the potential impacts of a multi-year fixture drought on Thailand; this is a team that has each sacrificed so much to perform in the moments it thought would count. Those sacrifices have been rendered meaningless because of the undying ode to status in our game.

Saturday’s decision must be urgently reviewed, and a way found to give, if no one else, Thailand the place on the world stage which their on-field performance so richly deserves.

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