Overlooking associate players

The Hundred may be a controversial competition but one positive from the point of view of those of us who follow associate cricket is just how many associate players will be involved. The men’s completion will see players from the Netherlands, Nepal and Bermuda, whilst the women’s competition will see players from the Netherlands and Scotland.

With the exception of Lamicchane, who is taking advantage of a change in visa endorsement rules that allow a small number of associates to play as overseas players in England, all are playing as locals and are already well known on the county circuit. But it puts The Hundred in a position of having more associate representation than is usual for a T20 franchise league.

Even when associates are picked up in franchise leagues, they can often end up as bench warmers - Sandeep Lamichhane missing the whole IPL season last year for the Delhi Capitals probably being the most egregious.

There are many more associate players who would be a good selection for a T20 franchise league. The big hitting of Scotland’s George Munsey and Namibia’s JJ Smit are two options that immediately spring to mind.

That associate players are under valued - even sometimes in their own countries - isn’t news. But the franchise era is one where cricket is becoming more open. Associate players tend not to attract high prices when they do get picked up - players like Munsey and Smit could quite literally provide more bang for the franchise buck.

Perhaps there’s still some of the old assumptions hanging around about associates being plucky amateurs. It’s also the case that some of the advanced analytics being used in franchise cricket are woefully inadequate when it comes to their coverage of associate cricket. Things are changing, but if the Hundred can help put some more associate players in the franchise shop window, then it gets a thumbs up from me.

The World Cup Super League

As I write this I am watching the third ODI in the England v Sri Lanka series. I have heard Mark Butcher describe it as a dead rubber and Kumar Sangakkara suggest that Sri Lanka will have an eye on preparation for the T20 World Cup. Earlier I saw a Cricinfo writer suggest that England may choose to experiment given that they have already “secured the spoils”.

These people are being paid to talk about this game but seem to have no idea that it’s part of the Cricket World Cup Super League and as such is an important World Cup qualifying contest, especially for Sri Lanka who are firmly rooted at the foot of the table and in serious risk of relegation if they don’t improve quickly.

Just the other day I read an article on the Wisden website written as if England had already qualified for the World Cup. There are whole swathes of cricket people unaware of the World Cup Super League. And this goes for the players too - Sri Lanka’s players at times seem completely unaware of just how bad a situation they currently find themselves in.

The ICC haven’t helped matters - at first their social media and web teams didn’t seem to be aware of their own tournament (though this can be par for the course) and were referring to dead rubbers, consolation wins and the like. Things have improved but that first impression seems to have lasted.

There’s going to be at least one team that’s going to be wondering why they’re suddenly having to play in the World Cup Qualifier whenever that may be. Whilst the funniest team for this to happen to would obviously be England, the smart money will be on Sri Lanka.

Part of the problem is that the full members have led a privileged position for so long. Even associates led a largely charmed life without much jeopardy in their international cricket until the introduction of the World Cricket League. They’re simply not used to there being context - and more importantly consequences - to their international matches. They’re going to have to learn quickly.

More internationals on the way in Europe

The Sofia T20 concluded last weekend with a Romania win in the final. Series are also on the way in Malta, Belgium and Germany over the next few weeks. As Europe begins to open up, we’re hopefully going to see more international matches announced soon.

This sudden glut of internationals in Europe raises a question though - was the decision to cancel the sub-regional qualifiers for next year’s T20 World Cup taken too soon? It seems to me that some form of qualifying for the regional final later this year could well have taken place had the ICC waited a bit longer.

There’s also the possibility that any ICC requirements for Covid-secure protocols are beyond associate members in Europe. It wouldn’t be the first time that the ICC have put unfair expectations on associates. We’ll likely never get answers to these questions of course, so I’ll just have to enjoy the cricket we are getting, even if it isn’t quite what we expected.

Whatever happened to the Global T20?

Thursday was Canada Day and the Global T20 twitter account took the opportunity to wish their followers a happy Canada Day. They also tweeted about the ongoing season which has been moved to Kuala Lumpur.

Only they didn’t do the second thing. Having announced back in April that the season would be moved to the Malaysian capital due to the pandemic and will start in June, they have been silent on the issue. No season appears to be underway.

They have been instead sending out random birthday greetings to various players, something that followers of the Euro T20 Slam twitter account will have been used to before that account largely stopped tweeting.

The two leagues have the same parent companies, and the European one was recently “postponed” for the third time. I’m at the stage where reading that the Euro T20 Slam going ahead would be like reading that the Pope is a Protestant or that bears do their business outside of the woods.

Will either of these leagues ever take place? I wouldn’t bet on it.