Yesterday I had a look at what in my opinion were the ten best things in associate cricket during the 2010s. Today, I'm going to look at the ten worst. They're in no particular order but I'm going to start with what I think will unanimously be considered the worst.
The ten team World Cup
Much has been said, here and elsewhere, about how bad the ten team World Cup is for associates. I'm not going to list all the reasons again here. It was first announced after the 2011 World Cup and originally planned for 2015 with no qualifying process before it was canned amid murmurs of legal action. The 14 team World Cup in 2015 was a repeat of the 2011 format - the first time two consecutive tournaments had the same format since 1983 and 1987 - but the ten team World Cup was brought back for 2019.
The tournament itself had an exciting - if controversial - conclusion which made everybody forget the long and drawn out group stage. It wasn't shorter, it didn't have fewer matches and there were still one-sided matches. It's set to stay for 2023 and the immediate future.
Current players such as Nitesh Kumar of Canada and Kyle Coetzer of Scotland have spoken about being inspired by seeing their countries in the World Cup in 2003 and 1999 respectively. Their counterparts in Canada, Scotland and beyond in the wider associate world don't get to be inspired. The ICC will no doubt point to the T20 World Cup and say that is a 16 team tournament that can inspire people, but...
The T20 World Cup "first round"
It's not really a 16 team tournament is it? A 16 team tournament should be four groups of four (though the ICC would probably prefer two groups of eight given their propensity for choosing terrible tournament formats) so what we have is actually a ten (twelve from next year) team tournament with an extra qualifier tacked on the front of it.
First put in place for the 2014 tournament, a commentator gave the game away when he introduced it as "the qualifier, which we are calling the first round". Zing bails were missing for this first round and introduced for the Super 10 stage. Warm-up matches involving the "big teams" were scheduled and broadcast during the "first round". The TV production was improved for the Super 10 stage. Similar happened in the 2018 tournament and no doubt will again in the 2020 tournament. Only the incredibly naive are being fooled by this scam.
The demise of the Intercontinental Cup
Whilst I referred to myself as a non-traditionalist in the ten best article yesterday, there is still something aesthetically pleasing about cricket played in whites with a red ball. It may not have been the highest profile associate tournament in the wider cricketing landscape, but it was my - any many other people's - favourite.
It provided associate players with experience in the longest form of the game, helping them develop a solid technique. It was meant to provide a route to Test cricket. Whilst Ireland and Afghanistan are now full members, this particular route now seems to be closed. The first-class match the MCC played against Nepal on their recent tour was a welcome return to red ball cricket for an associate, but it doesn't make up for the loss of the only regular first-class cricket for associates.
They may now be a thing of the past with the ICC finally having enough after three suspensions and kicking them out in 2017, but USACA left a mark on the decade that will not be soon forgotten. Be it a constant failure to launch a T20 league despite several efforts with ICC support or comedy administrators USACA were rarely out of the news until their eventual expulsion. They still technically exist and occasionally threaten legal action against the ICC or USA Cricket, and the future for cricket in the USA isn't 100% certain, but at least they're not in charge any more. Speaking of failing to launch a T20 league...
The Euro T20 Slam
A late entrant for the worst things of the decade, and one that whilst it does primarily involve a full member in Ireland, does also involve the Netherlands and Scotland. The launch of the event was a bizarre experience to watch, and the draft with Darren Gough struggling to pronounce player names correctly didn't exactly lift expectations. When the Canada Global T20, organised by the same group, saw players at one point refuse to play due to not being paid the writing was on the wall and the inaugural season was postponed until 2020.
The league's Twitter account now just spends its time running spot the ball competitions and sending birthday wishes to random players who have nothing to do with the league. Parts of the website look like they've been run through Google Translate to obtain something approaching English and even after the postponement the organisers were e-mailing English league administrators asking them to buy a franchise. One can only hope that Cricket Ireland aren't relying on the league going ahead in 2020 to get them out of their current financial woes.
ICC barely acknowledging records set in associate matches
In yesterday's ten best things article I listed Uganda women's record T20I total of 314-2. However if you get your cricket news only from the ICC's social media channels or their website, you won't have heard about it. Same goes for Anjali Chand's 6-0 for Nepal against the Maldives earlier this month or the previous two record bowling performances in Women's T20Is. It's not just women's cricket either - they've barely mentioned the Czech Republic equalling the highest men's T20I total or Sudesh Wickramasekara equalling the fastest T20I century in the same match.
A couple of those did get mentioned on the T20 World Cup twitter account, but the main ICC channels have completely ignored them. The ICC said that granting T20I status to all associates would help raise awareness of cricket as a global game - so why aren't they doing that?
They do acknowledge full member records though. When Meg Lanning set a new record for the highest women's T20I innings with 133 against England - since surpassed by her teammate Alyssa Healy - the ICC tweeted about it in minutes. Notably it was described as her beating her own record, not beating the record she shared with an associate player in the shape of Sterre Kalis of the Netherlands.
No DRS at the 2018 World Cup Qualifier
Scotland fans will feel this more than most. A dodgy lbw decision that would have been overturned had DRS been available essentially cost them their place in the World Cup. This is the ICC's second most important ODI tournament - why on earth isn't DRS being used? Which brings us nicely to...
Not every game being televised at the 2018 WCQ or 2019 T20 WCQ
TV coverage of associate cricket is undoubtedly better at the end of the decade than it was at the start. But in a world where earlier this year I could watch every game from an Under-18 fourth tier women's ice hockey tournament or from the Under-12s baseball World Cup why isn't every game from the ICC's second most important ODI/T20I tournament's being televised?
Commentators not researching associate players
There are some commentators who are experts when it comes to associate cricket - Andrew Leonard and Peter Della Penna come immediately to mind. But they're often only used on live streams. When it comes to mainstream broadcasts, the usual suspects tend to crop up. And with some exceptions - Ian Bishop to name just one - their research can often leave a lot to be desired. A player's birthplace - which is largely irrelevant these days - is the extent of their knowledge about players. When your job is literally talking about these players, is finding something else about them really too much to ask?
Cricket still not being in the Olympics
A phrase kept cropping up in media releases about ICC meetings in the 2010s. Something along the lines of "The ICC board discussed matters relating to cricket's participation in the Olympics". Nothing ever comes of it. Crazy ideas like beach cricket or indoor cricket have been seriously proposed, even though the International Olympic Committee have been clear in wanting T20 cricket with the best players.
Even a small tournament that doesn't involve associates could do wonders for global cricket development. Many governments base funding for sports on what is and isn't in the Olympics. Olympic participation would put extra money into development at no cost to the ICC. The ECB's objections seem to be a thing of the past, but the BCCI still object to the whereabouts parts of the WADA doping code that cricket will need to sign up to if it's in the Olympics.
Changes to the rules on participating sports have led to the possibility of a one-off cricket tournament, as is happening with baseball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.USA Cricket officials were at one point hopeful of a spot in the 2028 games in Los Angeles, but it seems likely they'll be competing with baseball for that spot.
The most recent media release about an ICC meeting didn't mention the Olympics. The ICC are behind the inclusion of a women's tournament in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, so hopefully they're still pushing for the Olympics. But it doesn't seem closer now than it did ten years ago.
So there's the ten worst things about associate cricket in the 2010s. Associate cricket has taken many steps forward during the decade but there's been almost as many steps back. What will the 2020s bring us?