Missing the Intercontinental Cup

St Patrick's Day was this past week and for those of us who follow associate cricket it will always bring back memories of Ireland's famous win over Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup. However the day was followed by the sad news that Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer had been found dead in his hotel room.

I was reminded of Woolmer's contribution to associate cricket after watching the excellent second Test match from Abu Dhabi between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe with the African side staging one of the all time best fight backs before finally succumbing on the final day.

One of the less well known facts about Woolmer is that he was one of the main instigators of the Intercontinental Cup, the first-class competition for the leading associates that began in 2004 and ended in 2017. One of Woolmer's reasons for wanting a first-class competition for associates was his opinion that some of the skills required for the 50 over game (the focus of ICC development at the time) were counter-intuitively developed in the longest form of the game.

Whilst the rise of Afghanistan happened after Woolmer's death, the Intercontinental Cup was a key part of the development of the team from a group of limited overs sloggers into a team capable of scoring over 500 in a Test match as they did last week. Woolmer would have been proud to see them - and Ireland - develop into Test playing nations though he would no doubt wish to see them getting more opportunities to play Test matches.

With Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland currently on the outside of the World Test Championship, perhaps it is time for a return of the Intercontinental Cup, with those three full members being joined by a handful of associates - maybe Scotland, Nepal, Namibia, Netherlands and UAE - in a sort of second division to the championship. With four-day matches now allowed in Test cricket again, all matches could be given Test status.

Sadly though, with the ICC firmly focussed on T20 as their main development tool (and this is understandable in many contexts) I don't seem them finding the funding for such an event. The ICC also seem to be unwilling to develop women's Test cricket, leading this writer to wonder just whether they see any future for the longest form of the game? I do like T20 and one-day cricket, but there is something special about first-class and Test cricket and its decline in associate cricket has been sad to see.

The Dwayne Leverock catch

Another anniversary from the 2007 World Cup this week (how interesting that the moments involving associates are what people mostly remember from that World Cup) was the catch that Dwayne Leverock took off the bowling of then 17 year old Malachi Jones to dismiss Robin Uthappa. Diving to his right it was a wonderful piece of fielding, even more so given Leverock's size.

But in the years since I've come to have mixed feelings about the catch. It's often presented not as a great moment of cricket, but as something to laugh at. Something to show how "unprofessional" associate cricket is. It's notable that it's the clip of associate cricket the ICC's social media team seem to share most often.

But seeing a tweet about it from Craig White - the secretary of Cricket Mexico, not the former England player - this week has made me reconsider my feelings on it. Perhaps it is time to reclaim the footage as an example of what associate players can do when given the opportunity. As a reminder of the last time the World Cup truly felt like a celebration of cricket and its diversity. It's a great catch. End of story.

Stamping out corruption

UAE players Mohammed Naveed and Shaiman Anwar were this week banned from all cricket for eight years following a guilty verdict by the ICC's Anti-Corruption Tribunal.

The semi-professional status of associate cricket can leave it vulnerable to corruption, especially as it becomes ever more visible. Hopefully the lengthy bans issues to these two players will serve as a warning to everybody else involved in associate cricket and cause them to think twice before becoming involved in any form of corruption.

The battle against the scourge of corruption has been going on for a long time now, and it's not over yet. The last thing associate cricket needs just as it's on the verge of wider coverage through the recently announced ICC streaming deal is any sort of corruption scandal.

Traditions in US cricket

Cricket is a game of long standing traditions, and these even exist in the USA. I reported on one of those traditions in this column last week with the return of the Auty Cup series against Canada set for this summer. Another traditional part of US cricket cropped up again this past week - comical administration.

The short version of the story is that two USA Cricket directors have filed a lawsuit against five other USA Cricket directors, claiming that a decision to temporarily change voting rights for members was not valid. US cricket writer Peter Della Penna has covered the story in some depth on his social media accounts and it seems from the outside that this - as is often the case in the US - of board members wanting to look after themselves and not pulling together for the wider US cricket community.

USA Cricket themselves have implied that the cost of the lawsuits may seem them cancel some of their development activity they planned for this year. Comical administration causing the US governing body to shoot themselves in the foot? As The Who sang, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".