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‘Unequals’ battle for equal status

If cricket has to grow and become a global game, it is in the interest of the exclusive, elite club to open its doors to smaller nations, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Mar 12, 2007 13:40 IST

The meek shall inherit the world. Ricky Ponting does not believe in this aphorism, nor does Michael Holding. And there are millions across the world who do believe that only a finished and chiselled product has the right to live on equal terms with the best.

The 2007 edition of the World Cup has already drawn a lot of criticism, not only over the long and tedious scheduling of the event but also for having too many weak teams in the fray. For many, this devalues the event and makes a mockery of the notion of a true, serious competition.

On the eve of the opening ceremony, captains from 10 of the competing teams were showcased to the international media.

Of the 10, only two were from the Test-playing nations — India and the West Indies. The rest were unheard of names, captains of nations not really associated with the game called cricket.

The sports pages across cricketing nations, particularly India, must have splashed Rahul Dravid's comment that "he is not backing a Joe Blog" — a statement made in defence of his backing of Virender Sehwag — or that of Brian Lara, that, for him, the West Indies winning the Cup mattered more than his scoring runs.

But do spare a thought for those who "also serve who stand and wait."

Out of the 16 teams participating in this World Cup, nine have the tag ‘Test-playing nation’ attached to them. The rest — like Bermuda, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Canada — are just numbers, whose role is only to extend tournament time and make cricket-watching boring for the paying public — or so would Ponting, by his strident criticism of the ICC for including these teams, imply.

But there are also those who do not believe in shunning the minnows and want them to be welcomed with open arms. Dravid, for one, is a staunch supporter of the theory of letting in more nations and lending them a helping hand.

And Dravid, a man with a sense of history, knows that not too long ago, even India were in an almost similar situation and could grow as a cricketing nation only due to the support of the "big brothers".

Lara has similar thoughts. "People should remember that in 1928, the West Indies were nowhere as a competing nation, or that even Sri Lanka would never have become a strong side had they not been allowed to participate against stronger nations," said Lara.

These are words that should be music to the ears of Luuk van Troost, the Netherlands captain, who, tongue firmly in his cheek, remarked, "Every day I wake up and think, I am one day closer to lifting the World Cup."

On a serious note, van Troost did talk about the difficulties teams like his face.

A school headmaster by profession, van Troost leads a bunch who mostly have smaller jobs and are here after taking "unpaid" leave from their employers.

They hardly get to play against stronger teams, yet, they have the desire and the will to improve and only want support from the ICC. Needless to say perhaps but they obviously hate the derisive attitude of the "superiors".

A confident Ireland skipper, Brent Johnston, was more outspoken. "We don't care what Ponting has said as we know the ICC is serious about this (our development)," he said.

He went on to add that the minnows want to live the same experience as other teams. "We want to live in the same hotels, address press conferences and move around with the big names," Johnston said, rather refreshingly.

All the captains from these nations where cricket is not a major player, spoke in one voice when they said: "Don't shun us, welcome us, lend us support. We may be filling numbers today, tomorrow we could be a champion side."

If cricket has to grow and become a global game, it is in the interest of the exclusive, elite club to open its doors to these smaller nations and welcome them with open arms.

Email author: pmagazine@hindustantimes.com