Steve Tikolo, one of Africa’s greatest ever players, averages 14.00 with the ball in T20Is, has taken 94 ODI wickets, and has a first-class batting average of 48.24.
Those numbers are certainly enough to support him being written into cricketing folklore, but do he and other players from Associate nations actually gain the respect they deserve once their career is over?
There is an argument to suggest that the answer to the question is an unfortunate no. There are a number of explanations to suggest why this lack of respect exists.
The first potential explanation is that Associate players who develop into fantastic players, but play the majority of their cricket outside of the nation they represent, begin to have their national identities erased. Ryan ten Doeschate and Ali Khan may be the perfect example of this occurring in the real world. How many people will remember ten Doeschate as a Dutch cricketing hero who has an international batting average higher than Virat Kohli? Compare this to how many people will remember ten Doeschate as a stalwart for Essex, consistently a higher performer in country cricket and other franchise-based tournaments around the globe. It is through no fault of the players or the fans that this relationship exists, but instead, it is due to the lack of coverage given to Associate nation cricket and the lack of publicity given to Associate nations achievements through mainstream media outlets. Without the publicity given to Associate nations for their achievements and players individual performances for their national side, this relationship will continue to exist and will continue the cycle of the players not being given respect for their international careers instead being remembered as a fantastic domestic player.
A second potential explanation is a further consequence of the aforementioned lack of publicity. People playing cricket in developing nations instead of idolising players from their home nation want to become like the players who capture the media spotlight for their dazzling performances around the globe. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a career as successful as Tendulkar or Kallis or gain worldwide plaudits like Andre Russell, though it is important that Associate players are given the opportunity to become heroes within their own countries.
In order to do this, there is a variety of intertwining factors required to allow for an individual to become known within their own nation. But one of the major components within these factors is the player gaining media exposure and allowing their name to become known within their own country. But the idea of players becoming cricket idols within the country goes beyond the idea of Associate players becoming respected. Instead, it is one that has the potential to further help cricket embed itself within a sporting culture and a nation as a whole. The idea of individuals idolising players from their own countries would allow for cricket to become more discussed within sporting circles meaning the player has a larger platform from which they are able to spread the message of cricket. Further to this, it would enable for the inclusion of cricket within cultural sporting folk law. Whilst it is accepted that this is not the sole answer when asking the question ‘how does cricket develop within Associate nations?’ giving cricketers the opportunity to become recognisable figures within their country is can not be overlooked.
The third potential explanation for Associate nation players not developing the reputation they potentially deserve is the lack of ‘recognised’ matches Associate players play. With a lack of official ICC recognised games being held in developing nations, it is hard for Associate players to develop the statistical weight that is used when debating the quality of players. Cricket is a game that relies on numbers to rank players, even though there is a strong argument to suggest that statistics are too heavily relied on when understanding the true impact of cricketers. This over-reliance on statistics requires players to play more games than they currently are doing to gain respect in the wider cricketing world. Who knows how players like Tikolo’s statistics may have looked if he had played the same amount of ‘recognised’ games as an established member of a full member nation side. If he had played the same amount of games, where would he end up in conversations regarding the best cricket players from across the globe? Steps have been taken through universal T20I status and more matches on the pathways to future World Cups, though improvement must be sort.
The factors to develop respect can not be seen as singular factors but instead, a more interactionist lens is required. This is because there are some factors which if not balanced effectively the challenging concept of a player developing both respect within the nation they represent and global cricketing community becomes out of reach. This is the balance that a category of players has to face, these are the players who have the real potential to develop into international superstars. But as of yet, the number of Associate players reaching the levels of credit and respect they deserve internationally is being limited due to the apparent hesitancy of the management teams of global franchise competitions to draft or offer contracts to Associate nation players. There has been the occasional signing of Associate players within some of the biggest domestic tournaments around the world; Sandeep Lamichhane of Nepal being arguably the largest name representing Associate nations on the biggest stages of world cricket at the current moment. Until franchises cast out their net wider though, there is going to continue to be minimal Associate nation presence within major competition including the BBL and the IPL. However, the more franchise competitions that an individual participates in, the harder it is to maintain their national identity, with schedule clashes more likely to arise national team commitments. Correct balance between international stardom and national identity is paramount.
The factors that lead to an Associate nation player to be respected is a complex web of factors and presents to be much harder for Associate nation players to gain the respect they truly deserve. Whilst there are factors identified to aid in the development of respect, the difficulty of outsiders implementing these changes is near on impossible. Instead, there are changes required throughout the cricketing world from a variety of different stakeholders to ensure that players are remembered for what they have given to the game.
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