CWC shoved SA cricket deeper into margins

Faf du Plessis (Getty Images)
Faf du Plessis (Getty Images)

Cape Town - It went beyond just the Proteas' rather dismal subsidence into a seventh-placed finish at the 2019 World Cup.

The conclusion of the tournament in England recently only seemed to stiffen the belief - certainly to my mind but among others, I think - that a dangerously elitist "big three" increasingly, arrogantly rule the roost in global cricket matters ... and that the International Cricket Council is just fine with that, thank you.

England (later to be crowned champions), India and Australia duly cracked the semi-finals at the latest edition of the tournament, having made up all of the top three positions on the log after the round-robin phase, with gutsy, eventual losing finalists New Zealand the odd one out in the group ... flag-carriers for an altogether more impoverished "rest of the planet" in several senses.

Well, why wouldn't it be like that? To a burgeoning extent, with cricket-economics powerhouse India to the fore and the other two not terribly far behind, it seems the rich will only continue to get richer and the remainder of the supposedly co-frontline countries increasingly scrabble around for crumbs.

A greater monopoly than ever before of the major tournaments - now virtually beyond dispute, yes? - across the white-ball international formats is being crudely enjoyed by the big three in hosting terms, bringing associated advantages in familiarity of conditions and crowd-support terms, and effectively helping to swell their already robust coffers.

There was a time, of course, when South Africa's consistent, general presence as a top-four power in the international landscape also translated into at least reasonably generous acknowledgement in event-hosting terms.

That was evidenced in the country hosting the maiden edition of the ICC World Twenty20 back in 2007, having a Champions Trophy in 2009, and also putting on the World Cup itself in 2003.

But after that relative glut of confidence in the country over a period spanning only six years, South Africa has, in a subsequent decade, not had a further sniff - nor is anything planned for them on the ICC's short- to medium-term roster for future top-tier limited-overs tournaments.

Since 2009, there has been an ever-strengthening emphasis on the big three hogging the lucrative spoils.

Although his role by nature required a large dose of impartiality, South Africans seldom had any special reason to feel that the presence of former national team wicketkeeper Dave Richardson as ICC general manager (2002-12) and then chief executive (2012 to his very recent stepdown) was especially helpful to holding the nation's ground, as it were, as an influential global factor.

In the last 10 years in question, England has had a World Cup (its fifth overall, since the slightly more humble beginnings of it in 1975), consecutive Champions Trophies in 2013 and 2017, and the World Twenty20 of 2009.

Even better, and perhaps not surprisingly, India (and its booming voice in the ICC corridors via the domineering, assertive domestic BCCI) has basked in a World Cup (2011) and with another to follow just a dozen years onward in 2023.

It has also staged the 2016 World Twenty20 (henceforth named the ICC T20 World Cup) and has in the bag another in 2021.

The Aussies, meanwhile, still with fresh memories of CWC 2015 - which at least featured a bit of action for neighbours New Zealand - look forward to the next T20 World Cup in October next year.

If all this sounds a bit "same old, same old" ... well, it is.

The ICC now too clearly fishes almost exclusively where, with apologies for any mixed metaphor, the big bucks are - even if it is to the detriment of much-needed shots in the arm, exposure-wise, for cricket in less fashionable or impoverished parts of the world.

Just how sustainable, or damaging, that policy may be will become evident down the line.

But here's a suggestion for at least some sort of compromise, one creating potential for a few others, further down the supposed top table of global cricket, to come back into their own for big tournaments: the resurrection (yes, again!) of the under-rated but supposedly now permanently banished Champions Trophy, the shorter, sharper occasional version of the World Cup.

After all, a number of high-profile pundits spoke enthusiastically in the immediate wake of CWC 2019 about the ongoing health of 50-overs cricket.

Our own Shaun Pollock waxed lyrical over the "mini Test-match" feel to many World Cup matches, suggesting that certain pitches during the tournament helped create a pleasing balance to the contest between bat and ball, bringing in elements of five-day guile and patience to soften ODIs' previously swelling reputation for too often favouring stroke-playing exploits on proverbial "national roads".

So if ODIs look in ruder shape than some might have anticipated, perhaps the Champions Trophy has potential for another reprieve from the mortuary?

While the ever-expanding footprint of T20 franchise competitions worldwide means the international calendar is increasingly claustrophobic and difficult to structure, one good reason for reviving the Champs Trophy is that it could serve as some sort of partial appeasement for the batch of now notably less popular countries in the bidding-rights process for jamborees.

Even if hell-bent on keeping the biggest duo, the World Cup and T20 World Cup, primarily among the trio of superpowers in future (for all the moral arguments that will rightly rage around such an approach), the ICC could placate the likes of South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and others by offering them more priority-geared Champions Trophy hosting possibilities as opportunities for not feeling too obscenely far behind the modern, rather lop-sided eight ball ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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