In this week’s #HotTaeks, Jack Howes asserts there may be no organisation worse than the ICC, updates us on Karmichael Hunt and introduces 17-year-old women’s golf number one, Lydia Ko.
Is there anyone who hates the sport they run as much as the ICC (International Cricket Council)?
It’s hard to believe.
But then, it’s not that FIFA hate soccer/football/whatever you want to call it, so much as they don’t care about the thousands of Nepali and Bangladeshi indentured slaves dying during the course of the construction of Qatari stadiums that will play host to the 2022 World Cup. That’s more just about casual and naked corruption though. What do a few deaths matter when executives can line their pockets with millions of dollars in bribes? They’re still going to be hosting the World Cup with 32 teams; they’re still going to let smaller nations play; they might even hope for an upset or two.
This, you might have heard already, is where the ICC loses the plot completely. Instead of the 14 teams we’ve seen in this edition, the 2019 Cricket World Cup will feature only ten. The ten will be comprised of the hosts, England, the top seven ranked teams, and two more teams who will have to play a qualifying tournament in Bangladesh.
It creates an enormous likelihood that only one, and possibly none, of the “Associate” nations will qualify. The Associates are essentially the second tier cricketing nations – Ireland, Afghanistan, UAE and Scotland.
The ICC are doing this for the same reason they’ve been doing anything for the last decade – to get as many teams playing India as possible. The 2007 World Cup was considered the worst of all time, not only because it was played under utterly joyless conditions but also because India failed to make it out of the group stages – television ratings plummeted. Since then the ICC have been desperately careful to keep them in the tournament for as long as possible. The new format for the ten-team 2019 World Cup all but ensures the other nine teams will play India.
If that sounds like wildly grubby short term money grabbing at the expense of genuine growth, it’s because it is. Even more so given the performance of the Associate teams in the world cup so far. Ireland beat the West Indies, Scotland pushed New Zealand, Ireland pipped the UAE in a blinder, Afghanistan almost did Sri Lanka in before registering their first win in a World Cup with a miraculous comeback against Scotland. By almost any measure they’ve provided the most entertainment, and, in Afghanistan’s case, the tournament cult hero.
Hamid Hassan is the ninth fastest bowler to 50 ODI wickets. He shares the top ten with players like Shane Warne, Dennis Lillee, Waqar Younis and Curtley Ambrose. He looks like an Afghan Rambo found the Karate Kid’s headband, picked up fast bowling instead of a belt-fed machine gun and then decided cartwheels were the only real way to celebrate. He’s absolutely glorious. I hope he gets picked up by an IPL team and earns an absolute shitload of money – he deserves it.
If you get a chance to go and see any of the Associates play, please do. A great bunch of guys playing the sport they love at the highest possible level in the face of enormous obstacles. Success in this tournament for them would be an absolute kick in the teeth for the ICC. A kick it richly, richly, deserves.
In other news, the Karmichael Hunt drug saga is rolling on with a number of other players being asked to appear before court. Betting has been suspended on the Brisbane Broncos for the season, and there are strong rumours that a recently retired State of Origin legend from that team might be finding himself in a bit of hot water.
It’s an interesting case in a lot of ways. Are Cambell Newman’s cronies in the CCC going after high-profile sports stars in order to justify their positions? If Hunt is found guilty, was he signed with the Reds at the time, or was he still technically a member of the AFL’s Gold Coast Suns? If he was with the Suns, then should the Reds really punish him for something he did as an employee of a separate organisation? If the lid is lifted on recreational drug use by sports stars, just how much are we going to see come out?
Oh and if you were starting to feel pretty good about your life, a quick reminder that Lydia Ko is 17 and comfortably the best in the world at her chosen profession. She is, how you say, awesome. By becoming the number one player in women’s golf earlier this month, she became the youngest person of either gender to reach that milestone. The closest challenger, some scrub called Tiger Woods, was a virtually geriatric 21-years-old when he got there. She celebrated the milestone by going out and winning the Australian Open by two shots at Royal Melbourne. She’s a Kiwi, but unlike Russell Crowe, Phar Lap, and pavlova, I don’t think we’re going to be poaching her any time soon.
It’s not too often generational athletes show up.
She just might be one.