Mandatory schmandatory

The ICC has mandatory release rules for associate teams that apply in certain matches, including World Cup qualifying matches and ODIs against full members. But you wouldn't know that looking at the Dutch squad for this week's Super League matches against Ireland.

Whilst they do have the services of county contracted pace bowlers Timm van Der Gugten, Fred Klaassen and Brandon Glover, the absences of Ryan ten Doeschate, Colin Ackermann and Roelof van der Merwe will be keenly felt. The Dutch batting line-up would be far stronger with those players in it. Shane Snater has also not been released.

These are amongst the most important matches in the history of Dutch cricket. For the first time they have regular ODIs against full members. Surely then they should be able to field their best team in every match? The ECB are responsible for enforcing the ICC's mandatory release rules, which raises the question of a conflict of interest given that England are also taking part in the competition. Seeing a full strength England side take on a Dutch team weakened by counties refusing to release players next year won't be a good look.

Of course technically the counties aren't refusing to release players, the players are making themselves unavailable. But all the county needs to do is a "friendly" reminder that their contract is up for renewal this year and there's a young lad in the seconds who's been in some good form recently. The KNCB could revoke no objection certificates but this may produce international retirements. It's a delicate tightrope being walked here.

This is a long-standing problem with associates when playing in such games. Notably in Ireland's first ever ODI they were unable to get Middlesex to release Eoin Morgan because he was needed to cover Ed Joyce, who was selected by England for that ODI.

The solution remains unclear. The ICC (and ECB) may say good things about international matches being the "lifeblood" of cricket, but without actions such as fines to back up these words the mandatory release rules aren't even worth the paper they're written on.

Dead rubbers

Whilst we're on the subject of the ODI Super League it was annoying this week to again see a match from it described in the media as a "dead rubber". The match in question was the third ODI between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Dhaka. The hosts had won the first two matches, but the third was anything other than a dead rubber. A defeat for Sri Lanka would have seen them pretty much dead and buried as far as direct qualification to the 2023 World Cup was concerned.

Sri Lanka won the match, though their position is such that they still have a very tricky road to the World Cup. There are unlikely to be any dead rubbers for Sri Lanka in the Super League.

Internationals that actually count for something are so unknown in the full member world that perhaps the media just doesn't know what to make of them. Those of us in the associate world are very used to them of course.

Even the ICC seemed to forget about the Super League during last years England v Ireland ODIs, whilst some of the England players seemed unaware they were playing in a World Cup qualifying tournament. Whilst it's unlikely to happen, the English cricket media getting apoplectic at England having to play in the main World Cup Qualifier because the ECB forgot that their ODIs were important now would be funny.

There will almost certainly be people - be they administrators, players or fans - puzzling as to why their team suddenly has to play a tournament in Zimbabwe to qualify for a World Cup they previously thought they had a god-given right to play in.

And I haven't even got to how fun it will be if a full member ends up getting relegated from the Super League...

Cricket resources in local languages

In a welcome development it was announced this week that the Netherlands v Ireland series will be broadcast on Dutch TV. This will be the first time that matches of the Dutch national team will be broadcast on local TV with Dutch commentary.

Having TV commentary and resources available in local languages can only be a boost to the development of cricket. Cricket's terminology can be confusing for native English speakers, never mind those for whom English is a second language at best.

Cricket has lagged behind in the provision of resources in other languages. The development budget is limited, but the return on investment for producing more resources in local languages in ICC members could well be incalculable.

The publication of the laws of cricket in French in 2017 was lauded, but when you consider that France had been an ICC member for 30 years at that point (and a country with French as an official language had been a member for a year short of half a century) it raises the question of why it hadn't happened sooner.

Many associate social media accounts still post almost exclusively in English. There are notable exceptions such as Cricket Mexico and Cricket Argentina - the latter of whom recently won an ICC award for their Spanish language cricket courses. Commentary on the live streams of the European Cricket Series, which lists promoting cricket in Europe as one of its goals, is entirely in English.

Cricket needs to shake off its image as a relic of the British Empire and of being a game for elites or expats in the developing cricket world. Starting to speak in the local language can only help.

Rivalries resuming

I've written before in this column of my desire to see the traditional rivalries of associate cricket continue. So whilst the planned return of the Auty Cup this year looks to be off I was delighted to read yesterday that the inter-insular match between Guernsey and Jersey is back on this year after skipping 2020 due to the pandemic.

Be it the Auty Cup between USA and Canada, the Saudara Cup between Malaysia and Singapore, the inter-port matches that were brought back early last year or other long time rivalries, it is important for these matches to continue even amongst the various ICC tournaments that the teams play in these days.

The expansion of T20I status raises the possibility of rivalries that are currently no longer played resuming as with the inter-port matches. A return of the old East African Championship between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania would be welcome, as would a resumption of regular matches between the Netherlands and Denmark.

The pandemic and ICC tournament commitments may mean that the resumption of these rivalries are a few years off, but any efforts to resume them will certainly be welcomed by this writer.