ICC gives Test status to a non-existent team

The ICC this week gave Test and ODI status to two new women's teams. The Netherlands, who have previously had such status? No. Thailand, who have been moving up the rankings and played in last year's T20 World Cup? No again. Scotland who have consistently been up the top of the associate women's rankings in recent years? Again, the answer is no.

Instead the ICC have given Test and ODI status to Zimbabwe, who have never qualified for a women's World Cup in either the 50 over or T20 formats and only got close once, and Afghanistan, who have never even fielded a women's team. That's right, the ICC gave Test and ODI status to a team that doesn't exist.

Since the ICC took over the running of women's cricket in 2005, Test and ODI status was awarded on a merit based system (although Test status was only nominal given the scarcity of women's cricket since the ICC took over) with the top ten teams automatically having it. The Netherlands had Test and ODI status in women's cricket until 2011 when they were replaced in the top 10 by Bangladesh.

However now the ICC have decided to give Test and ODI status to the women's teams of all full members irrespective of their ranking. This means that whilst Thailand women can't play ODIs unless they qualify for the ODI World Cup, Afghanistan could form a team of 11 random players and play one tomorrow if they wished.

For all the ICC's talk of meritocratic pathways - and they have done a lot of work to move towards them in recent years - this represents a step backwards from that progress. I'm of the opinion that Test and ODI status shouldn't exist and all teams should be allowed to play, but if Test/ODI status is something that the Zimbabwe and the non-existent Afghanistan women's teams "deserve", surely there's a lot of other teams that deserve it too?

USA Franchise Shenanigans

I covered the traditional US cricket administrative comedy in this column two weeks ago. Another tradition in US cricket is someone coming along and launching an unapproved franchise T20 competition in rather bombastic fashion.

Into this arena steps Jay Mir with his American Premiere League. Or rather resteps, as Mir had attempted to launch the league back in 2009 only to fail. This time, he means business as he identified the problem with all previous attempts to launch a cricket league in the US - naming teams after cities, which he says is an idea that "will never fly in North America".

As Mir hopes to represent the USA's diversity and inclusiveness, he will be dividing the players on national lines. The teams will be called Team Americans, Team Indians, Team Windees (sic), Team Aussees (sic), Team English, Team Paks and Team Bengalees (sic). Or at least that's what they're called on the menu on the website. On the logos, they're Premium Americans, Premium Indians, Premium Windees (I'll leave out the sic now, you get the idea), Premium English, Premium Aussies (spelt correctly this time), Premium Paks and Premium Bengalees. The text under the logos gives their names as Team USA, US Indians, US Windees, US English, Australasia, US Pakistan and US Bangladesh.

That confusion over team names suggests a lack of organisation but he appears to have been convincing enough to secure a three year deal with Yogi Berra Stadium in New Jersey, home of the New Jersey Jackals (a team named after a state, which will never fly in North America) independent minor league baseball team.

If you want to play for the league you can go to their website, give them your full legal name, phone number and email address. You'll also need to pay US$50. You too can play alongside the multiple (so far unnamed) international players in an event that Mir claims will become as big as the Super Bowl - the second most watched annual sporting event.

You can also buy a team, which Mir says have been made available to buy to "regular hard-working Americans" at the bargain price of US$250,000.

If you've got this far into this section you may have spotted my cynicism. When it comes to proposed leagues in the US, I will bow to the advice of US cricket journalist Peter Della Penna - don't believe it until a ball is bowled.

Potential World Cup Expansion

Tim Wigmore, co-author of the excellent book on associate cricket "Second XIs", reported the other day in the Daily Telegraph that plans are afoot to re-expand the ODI World Cup to 14 teams from 2027 and to expand the T20 World Cup to 20 teams within the 2023-31 cycle.

Whilst obviously any expansion away from the terrible ten-team format is welcome, 14 teams doesn't quite undo the damage when the ICC decided to move away from a 16 team format in 2007 when they failed to recognise that big teams being eliminated early is good for cricket and sided with the broadcasters who lost their planned India v Pakistan match. The best you can hope for from a 14-team format is that it isn't terrible. A good format is nigh-on impossible.

The plans for a 20 team T20 World Cup are also very welcome as long as it is a genuine 20 team tournament, not the 12 team event currently masquerading as a 16 team tournament. Still a lot of time before these things are decided of course, and they're all likely to be mired in the usual ICC politics. Still though, it would be a move in the right direction.

Year-round ODIs in Europe?

News came out the other day that the Desert Springs cricket ground in Almeria, Spain has been given accreditation by the ICC to host one-day internationals. It is the first ground in continental Europe to be given ODI accreditation outside of the Netherlands. Whilst Spain obviously doesn't have ODI status, it gives European teams a potential base for out of season fixtures.

Almeria features a climate that allows for cricket year-round, meaning that the likes of Scotland and the Netherlands could use it to host ODIs out of their usual (short!) seasons, which would have the bonus of meaning that they don't have to negotiate with county sides for access to certain players.

It also gives some extra wiggle room for European qualification for the T20 World Cup should Covid continue to impact on ICC pathway events.