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After football, cricket is the most widely followed game in the world. The first era of recognized international cricket under the umbrella of the Imperial Cricket Council started in 1909. Pakistan joined the club in 1952 when England, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand, India, and South Africa were already members of international circuit.
The first limited-overs international match took place in 1971. First ODI world cup was played back in 1975 and that gained a lot of success. After that, the world cup became a part of the cricket calendar and is played after every four years. The T20 cricket started in 2004 and the first T20 world cup was played in 2007.
Cricket has a huge fan base of around 2.5 billion. It is most popular in the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and Australia. But the recent years have seen international cricket facing a number of obstacles including Franchise cricket in leagues, Politics, decreasing quality of International teams, and the Inadequacy of ICC.
Here, we will try to dissect all these elements that are challenging the future of international cricket.
Almost all of the countries in which international cricket is played have their own cricket leagues, such as IPL, PSL, BBL, BPL, LPL, APL, etc. No doubt that there are some gains of franchise cricket such as it promotes the new talent and boosts the confidence of players that ultimately helps them in international cricket. But the consequences on the other side are far more immense.
Players’ priorities are changing drastically as the preference seems to be league cricket rather than playing for their country. A huge sum of money offered by franchises compels the players to give an upper hand to leagues rather than international Cricket. Any resistance from boards in such scenarios results in players taking premature international retirement. There are a number of examples in recent times where players have backstabbed national duty due to this very reason.
Recent developments are far more horrifying for international cricket. As boards have opted for second-string teams in bilateral series with their main players participating in league cricket at the same time. An open insult to all the cricket fanatics within those countries.
Politics in International Cricket
A thankless relationship exists between cricket & politics. Cricket has always played a positive role in building political ties between countries. On the contrary, Politics has mostly deteriorated the beautiful game of cricket.
Prominent precedent is the involvement of politics in bilateral cricketing ties between the arch-rivals India & Pakistan. The two heavyweights of international cricket have not met each other in any bilateral series since 2012. Efforts have been made from both boards to somehow pursue the phenomenally anticipated encounters but politics, unfortunately, has played the spoilsport.
Recent cancellations of New Zealand & England tours to Pakistan are also believed to have political linkages. More particularly seems the case with the last-minute pull out of Kiwis under the alert issued by Five Eyes. An alliance consisting of the USA, New Zealand, England, Australia & Canada was particularly active after the changing political dynamics within the region surrounding Pakistan.
Lack of Quality International Cricket Teams & Inadequacy of ICC
In a world composed of 195 sovereign countries. Only 12 are test-playing nations. A crystal clear indication that the Global cricket entity has thoroughly failed in spreading the game over the years. As their ultimate objective only seems to generate heavy revenues and bow before the revenue-generating Boards.
The problem worsens after thorough introspection leads to the conclusion that among these 12 nations, only 4 to 5 can be termed as quality international cricket teams.
When players are rather mocked for scoring against test-playing nations like Zimbabwe, you know that the problem is deeply rooted. And the enigma is ceaselessly dipping the quality of international cricket teams around the globe.
All these elements combined pose serious threats to the future of international cricket. Timely realization of these ill-directed activities within the beautiful sport of cricket is indeed the need of the hour.
No doubt attempts like Test Championship and Revival of Champions Trophy are appreciable on ICC’s part. But international cricket with all the hurdles in its pathway demands far more effort in this regard.
Written by M Zunair Rasheed and Auns Amin