South African legend and recently-appointed coach of Sweden Jonty Rhodes has called on Full Members to support their Associate cousins in a bid to grow the game globally.
Rhodes intends to stay in Sweden with his family on a permanent basis, working with the Swedish Cricket Federation at multiple levels, while juggling franchise cricket coaching, commentary and other freelance work.
Speaking on the Emerging Cricket Podcast alongside his new SCF colleague, Performance Director Benn Harradine, Rhodes bemoaned the slow take-up from the big boys in helping those in emerging circles.
“I still think that we, as cricket players, especially from Full Member countries, we’ve missed the boat with regards to reaching out to Associate Member countries.
“I don’t think Full Members do enough for the game. I understand they’re very busy and they need to generate revenue but there’s still a lot that could be done.”
Rhodes has worked in coaching and mentoring capacities in places such as Ireland, Namibia, Malawi and Nepal, both during and after his career of 52 Tests and 245 One Day Internationals. Keeping a keen eye on emerging proceedings, Rhodes has commentated on several tournaments featuring the Associate game’s best, including the 2015 World T20 Qualifier.
Drawing on these experiences, Rhodes threw up several ideas, aimed at inspiring talent across smaller members and motivating coaches. From elite tours, to forming a group of retired legends to share their knowledge through coaching, playing and workshops, Rhodes suggests that touring parties could fuel the fire of those playing and promoting the game in many of the game’s developing countries.
“Even if it’s possibly getting a tour of recently retired players … you can impart more than by just playing a One Day International or an exhibition game, but you can spend time coaching the local coaches, getting the local players excited.”
“If you consider Scotland, you consider the Netherlands as well, they’ve had competitive sides over a few years. Sometimes they are fortunate in that a Full Member team tours the UK and decides to spend or give one international match against one of those countries.”
The Netherlands are set to compete in the World Cup Super League (subject to post-Covid scheduling), playing 24 One Day Internationals over a two-year period – 20 more matches than their tally across 2018 and 2019. Underneath, Cricket World Cup League 2 and the Challenge Leagues provide a previously-unseen flow of cricket for Associate members, with countries outside the leagues now focused on T20I cricket, boosting their rankings to move into Challenge League contention.
“Guys like the Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland especially have that opportunity to maybe get one international match (via Full Member tours of the UK). But with regards to the rest of the Associate Member countries there really is not a lot of work (outside ICC tournaments).”
On the podcast, the 51-year-old acknowledged the growth of the game in several regions, though to add to the travails of Associate Members, Rhodes stressed that the divide between Full Members and the rest of the world has perpetuated through the language in the game, even at global tournaments where Associate Members have beaten the game’s giants.
“They (Associate nations at World Cups) were considered ‘minnows’ for so long. It’s such a derogatory term.”
“A lot of what was going on, being deemed as a minnow, went towards (segregation between AM and FMs). It coloured the view of Full Member countries, the players especially, in going to play in say Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland.”
While directing blame at Full Members, Rhodes acknowledges too that several issues in Associate cricket are self-inflicted, with an air of the pretentiousness that cripples the game at all levels.
“If you get up and make a difference, even if it’s just greeting someone from another club, you can impact in a massive way off the field as well as on the field.”
“A lot of the issues we have in emerging market cricket, or emerging country cricket, is that people just don’t work together. There’s some great work done but in isolation. It blows my mind that you can’t get that all together.”
When asked to outline his initial plans for Sweden, Rhodes stressed the importance of a united approach from all parties, and motivating coaches, whose energy will rub off on junior cricketers around the country.
“A lot of the work that I’ve been doing is also just a bit like a bridge-builder too. So coaching was one aspect, but trying to get the whole cricketing community to come together was, for me, a massive focus.”
“We want to have a very clear and present pathway not only for our players but our coaches and the people who are working around cricket.
“A big part of my focus is not just how do we make the high-performance end of it work, but how do we ensure that, from a coaching standpoint, do we make sure the coaches themselves are excited about imparting cricket skills to kids, and making sure that they do the basics really, really well?”
Currently in Dubai on IPL duty as the Fielding Coach of Kings XI Punjab, Rhodes is locked in to move to Stockholm at the conclusion of the tournament in November, with paperwork for him and his family approved.
Part two of Emerging Cricket’s chat with Rhodes and Benn Harradine is out on Friday across multiple listening and streaming platforms.
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